REMEMBER when mum and dad would drop you off at your grandparents for a night and you knew that was it until the following day?
You couldn’t text, phone, facetime, iMessage or email them. You just knew they couldn’t be contacted – or in modern lingo, they were out of range.
It was time out for the parents and helped the kids realise they could cope without hanging off mum’s apron strings.
My parents left their five cherubs for about 10 days when we were in primary school.
Off they went for a holiday abroad, knowing phone contact would be limited. Mum still has the letters we posted to her, and those she sent home to us – permanent reminders of our love for our folks, and how much we missed them.
Dad recalls mum crying in the spa every night because she missed us, but the holiday did her the world of good.
We weren’t constantly texting, emailing, or face timing. We knew they were coming back and that was it. We got through it and mum and dad got a break.
But those days have long gone. So too, have the letters of love and notes that can be looked at in years to come.
Contact is now electronic, instant and quickly deleted.
Our world has changed so much, and I’m not convinced it’s for the better.
Now, I can’t leave my house without my phone going off, as my daughters iPods are synced with my iPhone and iPad.
It would be a lie if I said I didn’t like it that way. At ages eight and 10, they are too young to have the freedom to communicate with others whenever they please, so when messages from the girls pop up it’s like an alarm bell to me that they’re using the iPods when they shouldn’t be.
And it’s comforting to know they can access me at any time when within wifi range.
But it’s a new type of parenting, all this electronic monitoring.
Our children have access to so many and so much, almost all of the time.
But monitoring them means parents are also on guard all of the time. And contactable!
You can’t drop them off and know your night out will be entirely child-free, because it’s: “Mum, are you there? Mum, is the dog okay? Mum, grandma said we can’t eat ice-cream – are we allowed? Mum, do I have to go to bed? Hey mum, can I get a new game on my iPod? Mum, mum, mum...’’.
I knew I should have prolonged the purchase of those gadgets for a bit longer – but then again, they would have found a way to email me saying something along the lines of “but mum, ALL of our friends have iPods’’.
Email. Texts. iMessages. Face time. Facebook. Twitter.
With instant access to all at their fingertips, they are growing up the impatient generation.
The generation that must get an answer when they ask the question. The generation that is so much smarter than us already, but have no idea how to sit and chill out without needing to contact everyone they know, or wonder what they’re missing out on.
The generation that needs to know everything – including what their parents are doing around the clock.
Every parent loves their children and wants them to stay connected but what have we created by giving our children access to so much?
I’m thinking it’s time to switch them all off for a while and get back to basics.
Then again, maybe I’m just getting old.