What’s that odd sensation, the feeling like something is missing, like you’ve left your phone at a mate’s house or forgotten to pick the cat up from the vets? Oh riiiiiight, the kids are back at school, and for a few brief, precious hours you are ALONE. That’s unless you have more kids, in which case I can’t help you, you’ve only done this to yourself.
Our summer was long and full of babysitters, playdates, picnics, boredom, work, boxsets and colouring-in. None of us were sad when September rolled around. This year our daughter has started year 2: she’s just turned 6 and is starting her SATS year where she will be tested and evaluated on her ability to jump through the hoops our government deems appropriate. She doesn’t care – she is a bright little thing and takes it all in her stride for now.
It’s a strange sensation to have your little girl suddenly so influenced by things other than you
The biggest change we’ve seen so far this year has been socially. She came home after her first day and coyly suggested that ‘all the other girls’ are still wearing short sleeves. She’s never really paid much attention to her appearance before, but now her hair must be done correctly in a style fitting with her classmates and her backpack must be from the shop in town where all the others buy theirs. It’s a strange sensation to have your little girl suddenly so influenced by things other than you and your partner It feels like they should have a few more years before the inevitable self-doubt and need for peer validation creeps in, but there we are.
The most jarring moment since she went back to school has been seeing her lose confidence in herself. She decorated a homework folder and it was a glorious, colourful, glittery mix of unicorns and clouds and we all loved and admired it. After taking it to school she came home disheartened after seeing the other kids’ efforts. Now she wishes she has done it differently, and watching her enthusiasm and pride in her work turn to indifference and worry is utterly horrid. How can I maintain her confidence when there are so many factors around her which knock the wind from her little sails?
The next few years of this kid’s life will only expose her to more social pressures and worries which as adults didn’t even exist when we were younger. The internet wasn’t around when I was growing up, and no one had a mobile phone until university. Hair straighteners didn’t exist, so everyone looked slightly feral in the 80s, whereas our kids will grow up with a sleekness unheard of until 1998. It’s a different set of rules, but as long as we maintain an unwavering confidence in our kids, we just have to trust that they will meet each worry with the knowledge that we are there to set limits and install filters which will sift out the rougher edges of their childhoods. If that fails and they still complain, I suggest showing them your childhood photos and explaining that things could be a heck of a lot worse. Although I do NOT regret my 1989 perm. That bad boy was awesome.
There can be little debate that parenting in 2017 is different to parenting 30 years ago. The advent of new technologies which are increasingly aimed at children have changed the landscape of ‘how to keep the kids entertained’ while also giving parents more options during their weekly 2 minute shower. Peppa Pig episodes on the iPad have replaced drawing in the coal dust with gout-addled fingers, and a phone gallery full of badly framed toddler selfies aren’t uncommon. ‘But how to harness them safely?’ I hear literally no one ask. Here’s my hard-won advice on life with kids in the digital age:
Get an ipod touch. They can’t make calls on it and run up a phone bill, as long as you never give them the password to download paying apps and add-ons. Fill it with their favourite cartoons and music and games, and sit back and enjoy approximately 4 minutes of peaceful respite. Also useful on car journeys and at boring weddings. Turn the sounds off for funerals.
Embrace the filter. Not the ones for the ends of your old-fashioned ciggies, but the snapchat/instagram/facebook camera filters which instantly take 10 years off your haggard face. Leave people’s disappointment and surprise at your premature aging for face to face interactions, which makes it harder for them to tell you that you look like death since having kids.
Use whatsapp to argue with your significant other. It’s free and instant, and doesn’t limit your lengthy explanations of why they are a useless imbecile. You don’t want to run out of data at the pivotal moment when you conclude your rant about staring at your neighbour’s slim, younger wife do you? No. Exactly.
Get a 2 player, age appropriate game for your console. We like anything with Lego, and it saves spending time playing with actual lego which can be dangerous if swallowed. Kids have fairly quick reactions, and their little fingers and inquisitive minds make finding hidden bonus levels a breeze. It’s what your ancestors would have wanted for them.
Encourage children to become multi-millionaires by creating a youtube channel which teaches teens how to apply make up with various household objects. They love stuff like that. 100 years ago we were all interested in the advancement of science, but these days if a 17 year old applies concealer with a dead rabbit’s paw or dyes their hair with their grandma’s ashes we lose our tiny minds with excitement. Grab a camera and talk utter drivel, it’s where the money is.
Raising kids in 2017 need not be as technologically risky as reports staring out from your iPhone tell you. Remember, that phone was most likely made by an orphaned child earning 2p a week. The clothes you are wearing were probably stitched by a 3 year old in noisy factory while they try to pay their way through night classes. Kids and technology mix well, so don’t be afraid to embrace the changes. Remember, it’s much safer to look at Google Earth than it is to go outside. You won’t get stung by a wasp on Google Earth, will you?