Not that long ago, I admired the simple lifestyle and cheerful dispositions of the Ingalls family of Little House on the Prairie. I still do, when I feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks I need to complete on a busy day. But then my family reminds me of the monster that emerged from me last winter when we lost our electricity for five days. Nothing about me resembled sweet Caroline Ingalls.
After one day, I missed my cup of coffee, my charged cell phone, and real lights, (Candle light is charming for only so long). After a couple of days, I even missed the sound of the dishwasher and washing machine.
Thanksgiving is just a few days away. I have been asking my teens what they are thankful for. Their answers please me. I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for food, for a house to live in, for heat, for good grades, for my friends.
My adult list is slightly different: I am thankful for our overall good health, for our jobs that let us pay our mortgage, bills, and for dozens of other items each week. I’m thankful for the time we can all spend together as a family – I’ll take what I can get. I’m thankful for my extended family and for good friends. And I’m also thankful for the latest technology. Wait, what? (to mimic my kids).
Don’t get me wrong. My teens know there are aspects of computers and cell phones that irritate me. I am not a fan of teens sitting in the same room while all are peering at their cell phones. I cringe when I hear that cell phones are being used (covertly) during class. And I really don’t like hearing about cyber-bullying and passive-aggressive behavior used on social media which can do some serious emotional damage to kids.
But technology can also be so helpful. My kids and I have access to their grades daily, online. Like an itemized sales receipt, each homework assignment, quiz, test and project is there to admire (or dread). Many students find the system motivating. I got a 79, but if I study really hard for this next test, I can get that up to a B minus! There are certainly no surprises at report card time.
Do my kids realize how fortunate they are to be able to do research papers from the comfort of our home? (I remind them). No trip to the library is necessary to search the card catalogue and then the shelves, for a book that is not always there. No sitting down at a typewriter with correction tape or correction fluid to type a paper only to discover a whole paragraph has been accidentally omitted.
College applications can be completed online. Sports and activity registrations can be done online. Products can be ordered online. Songs can be downloaded from online. Books can be downloaded online. Recipes can be researched and selected from online. Shows can be recorded and watched later. Nearly any movie can be found and watched with the click of a button.
But despite my fascination with technology – including crockpots, curling irons, printers/scanners, iPods, iPads, iPhones and GPS’s — I do think we all need a break from some of it from time to time. Last year, I gave up Facebook for Lent. I knew it would be a good thing to do since I occasionally think back to a time when my youngest child felt neglected by me.
A few years ago, while browsing through my Facebook page, vaguely aware of my daughter’s voice, I suddenly heard “Facebook is a family wrecker!” It stopped me in my tracks. I remember chuckling at the sound of this statement until I thought more about it. I truly did not spend a lot of time on Facebook (although I enjoyed the time I did). What my daughter was missing was simply an answer to her question which probably received a Just a minute from me. In her young mind, Facebook was wrecking an interaction with her mother.
And it is those face to face interactions and conversations that are so desperately needed these days. Those are the first few hours without electricity during a storm (not the fifth day), when we play Monopoly or Life together by candlelight.
But it doesn’t need to be during a storm that we appreciate the attention we give each other. We can get it by sitting down to dinner without a t.v. on or a cell phone in sight. Or playing ping pong, taking a hike, even watching a movie or football or hockey together in the same room.
Yes, I am grateful for technology almost as much as I am grateful for my time with my teens. We are no Ingalls family and that’s okay. But winter is coming…. I really should stock up on some new board games.