Who you gonna call??

I read recently on one of those free magazines you pick up in a supermarket a brief note about children’s holidays and the ever so important “me time” for the parents.

“Me time” it is the most important thing you can ask for particularly when you are a parent and / or carer of a child ; “me time” is necessary if you want to keep your sanity and don’t lose all your marbles not only over the holidays but daily.

I am all up for “me time” and If I don’t make the time for “me” no one else will. I cannot see my son quietly retreating himself to some sort of mischief to give me “me time”.

Anyways, before going into a tangent, this article suggest to call another adult as soon as you have 10 minutes to yourself to catch up and talk about adult things and perhaps vent out your frustration because the child went to bed late because he / she would not put the “iPad” down.

All well, it is true, part of that “me time” involves heavily to contact another adult and talk about adult things instead of Legos, toys and the latest trend on teen fashion. The bit that I do not agree is the one about “vent out about the iPad” and your child not going to bed on time. First, why the child has the “iPad” until that late?

A myriad of reasons spring to my mind and believe me, I can easily back up many of them. But it does not mean I justify them.

“I just came from work and I have to prepare dinner”

“I’m on the phone trying to sort something out for work”

“I need 5 minutes”

“He will not settle if he does not watch TV…modern kids, hey!”

“She has to watch some tv so she can relax after school whilst she has some snacks”

“I don’t want my kid to miss out on tv or technology and be left behind by his peers”

“I have to work”

And the list goes on. And on. And it gets so ingrained into routines, into habits that they are categorised as “normal”. Ask any child and technology (call it phone, iPad, TV, Xbox, etc) will be a part of their routine and when these are missing from this routine, havoc begins until the pacifier in some sort of techie shape comes along.

To clear the air: I am as guilty as charged for my little one relationship with technology. Once I found out about the damage I was provoking to my son with technology, I manage to decrease it and take it to a sort of reasonable 20 to 30 minutes per day; a weekend treat of a movie or following up a series about nature on rainy days. These last two activities are done as a family.

The time that was once used and abused by screen time was changed slowly by my change of attitude towards it. Instead of coming from work and go in a rampant to prepare tea sort out the house and deal with everything else I decided to approach it differently. I made a routine out of coming back home from work.

This routine involves his screen time, play time, homework time (if any) helping around time, bath time, teatime, story time and bedtime. And only after bedtime it was the time for “me time” in between getting ready for the next day, feeding the cat, finishing a thing or two from work and chatting with another adult besides my partner.

Was it easy? NO.

Is it paying off? Yes.

Most importantly, do I still get some “me time”? Yes. And more than 10 minutes…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A quién vas a llamar?

Hace poco, agarré una de esas revistas gratuitas que los supermercados dan de forma gratuita y encontré en ella una nota acerca de como hacer para tener el famoso “me time” (tiempo personal)durante las vacaciones de los niños.

El “tiempo personal” es la cosa mas importante que un adulto que cuida de niños puede tener si quiere preservar su sanidad y no perder la cordura no solo durante el período de vacaciones, sino también en el dia a dia.

Estoy totalmente de acuerdo con el tiempo personal. Si yo no me hago tiempo para mi tiempo personal nadie lo hará por mi. No puedo imaginar a mi hijo retirándose silenciosamente a hacer alguna travesura con tal de que yo tenga mi tiempo personal.

En fin, antes de irme por una tangente, vuelvo al punto de inicio, el famoso artículo donde se menciona que cuando se dispone de unos 10 minutos sin los niños, llamar a otro adulto para mantener una conversación adulta y hablar de otros temas y desahogar el malestar que le ha provocado el niño en cuestión por haberse ido a la cama tarde por haberse quedado con el “iPad” hasta cualquier hora…

No hay que negar que parte de ese tiempo personal involucra el contacto con otro adulto y conversar acerca de temas que no sean Legos, juguetes y la última moda para dolescentes. Lo que no me termina de cerrar es la parte de que el niño/a se quedó con el “iPad” hasta cualquier hora. Qué hacía el niño/a en cuestión con un “iPad” hasta tan tarde?

Cientos de motivos se me vienen a la cabeza, y creanme cuando digo que las apoyo. Lo que no implica que las justifique.

“Recién llego de trabajar y tengo que preparar la comida”

“Estoy al teléfono solucionando un tema de trabajo”

“Necesito 5 minutos”

“Es que no se tranquiliza si no mira sus programas de TV…chicos de hoy, eh?”

“Es que tiene que mirar un poco de TV asi se relaja un poco después de la escuela, mientras toma una merienda”

“No quiero que mis hijos se pierdan algo que esta en TV y no estén a la par de sus compañeros”

“Tengo que trabajar”

Y la lista es interminable. Y está tan arraigado dentro de la rutina, de los hábitos y costumbres que han ganado la categoría de “normalidad”. Pregunten a cualquier niño y verán que la tecnología (llámese TV, teléfono móvil, iPad, XBox, etc cualquier cosa que tenga una pantalla ) forma parte de su rutina y cuando estas desaparecen de esta rutina, reina el caos hasta que el “chupete” tecnológico se hace presente en alguna de sus formas.

Dejo en claro: Soy tan culpable como cualquier otro padre/madre de la relación que mi hijo generó con la tecnología. Pero, una vez que me informé del tremendo daño que le estaba causando a mi hijo con la tecnología ( llámese TV, teléfono móvil, iPad, XBox, etc cualquier cosa que tenga una pantalla ) logré disminuir la cantidad de tiempo que el pasa frente a una pantalla y reducir ese tiempo a 20 o 30 minutos por día; durante los fines de semana nos damos el gusto de una peli; si afuera llueve demasiado, miramos alguna serie acerca de la naturaleza. Estas últimas dos actividades se hacen de forma familiar.

El tiempo que en su momento era usado (y abusado) con tecnología, lentamente se cambió, pero no por arte de magia sino por un cambio en mi actitud. En vez de llegar del trabajo y entrar en la vorágine de “todo lo que hay que hacer, preparar la cena, y todo lo demás” decidí tomarmelo de forma distinta. Hice del llegar a casa del trabajo, una rutina.

Esta rutina esta compuesta de tiempo de tecnología, seguido de tiempo de juego, tareas (si las hay) baño (mas tiempo de juego), cena, cuento y a la cama. Y recién después de que el niño está en la cama, ahi si, es mi tiempo personal, entre medio de preparar todo para el día siguiente, darle de comer a las mascotas, terminar algo del trabajo, hablar con otro adulto que no sea mi pareja, etc.

Fue fácil? NO.

Está dando resultado? SI.

Lo mas importante: Tengo “tiempo personal” (me time)? Si. Y son mas de 10 minutos….

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No mas que agregar… (nothing else to add)

Basically, it says on the first graphic (the one with the boy):

“This is Paquito, (You put the name you want in English, to make it easy) he spends all of his afternoons until the small hours playing with the console his parents gave him, or listening to youtubers with the mobile phone his parents gave to him as a present. From that moment on Paquito does not bother his parents any longer, and his parents are now happy.

The second graphic (the one with the woman):

And she is Lucia (Again, put the name you want in English, to make it easy), Paquito’s teacher, who spends many afternoons and sometimes until the small hours writing reports and filling in thousands of forms for the School Authorities and Inspectors, because teachers are being blamed because Paquito does not pass any single test and he does not learn anything.

Any coincidence with reality….

A, a, ants in my arm…

Some days ago, I was reading an article in a teacher’s magazine about singing and how through singing children can develop their vocabulary and learn phonics naturally.

The funny thing is, nowadays children do not sing in school as often as they should. Many mothers I have spoken to say the same. My son, if you ask him if he sang at school or if he had rhymes, he will tell you “no” but he will tell you about the latest hit in his nursery classroom: phonics.

I found out a few weeks back about them when my son was going about “a, a, ants in my arm”. He was repeating it with no rhythm, no melody. Just repeating the phrase and moving his fingers on his arm, up and down.

Me: “Where did you learn that?”

Him: “Miss told us. We watched it on the biiiiiig screen”

Me: “Ahh, I see. Do you like it?”

Him: “A, a, ants in my arm…”

The following day I took him to nursery and I asked one of the teachers and then she told me about a phonic programme they are using in the class room. She told me the three letters they were working on, and she insisted on not going any further than those letters. “Fair enough” was my answer.

Later that week, a letter came from the school, explaining that children in nursery were being taught phonics to “help them and prepare them for reception” and as a reinforcement they were asked to write their name; that it did not matter if they just made a line; they should write their name upon arrival instead of putting their picture up on a board.

You may think well, considering that 50% of the children in the classroom do not have English as the first language, the “ phonic programme” is a way to introduce them to the mysteries of English phonics so it does not hit them like a ton of bricks when they start reception. About writing their name, I suppose it introduces them to writing and literacy.

But let me focus on this phonics thing.

What is the difference between a youtube clip on phonics and sing? Yes, I know…youtube is there, a few clicks away. Whilst you watch the child(ren) with a corner of one eye you can get on preparing something else for the rest of the afternoon.

Voila’! Job done! Children are entertained and hey presto they learn. And you manage to get on with that something else that needs to be done.

I have worked alongside teachers from different schools who would not sing at all. I have been with teachers who would sing just for the sake of it. And children followed, happily as if it was the most natural thing, even those whose first language was not English. Hence, they were learning the mysteries of English phonics without any awareness of doing so. They were properly, not promptly, learning.

When children sing, they are learning to find the accents, the variations in sound, the tone, the beat. The rhymes and verses nourish their imaginations and help them develop they vocabulary. Not to mention that the repetition of these will give them security and confidence when speaking.

And this goes further: when you add movement to the singing, children start to learn about rhythm, timing, helping them to coordinate gross and fine motor skills which in turn will help them at a later stage in life.

You may say that children’s tv programmes do their fair share of teaching. Yes, in a metallic robotic sound (not to mention the accent), covered with songs and a paraphernalia of colours and flashing images. Where the rhythm and rhyme are accelerated, accentuated, and stripped of any natural timbre. Nothing can beat the human voice. Nothing.

And with the human voice comes one of the most beautiful, unique, most powerful by product: Singing. When you sing with will, with joy – even if you are like me that you cannot sing to save your life – children will follow suit. Because children can tell when you are making an effort, when you are confronted with something that takes you out of your depth, but you are doing it with joy. You are role modelling that nothing is impossible.

When you sing you pour your feelings into it, whether you notice it or not. Your mood changes, the way you do an activity whilst you sing changes. Try to sing when you do not want to. It will just not happen. I can tell you even when you are in a group situation and you do not want to sing, somehow the singing becomes contagious and you end up singing and craving more, with a warm feeling inside you. Singing does have a strong social side, unifies, makes you feel part of something. Just imagine how a child would feel, all warm and fuzzy after singing with his peers. An immense shared joy which sets the base for what a social gathering should, could, would be.

Which takes me back to teachers loading any phonic programme / song and leaving the children to listen and watch. What sort of social value would/could a child feel sharing images and sounds – short of calling them noises -? From my observations, children leave the screen either more agitated or confused; in a sort of “back to what we were doing” kind of look.

Which takes me back to the gesture, to the ever so important role modelling. If a teacher does sing, even when she cannot do so like Adele, at least she is role modelling that she is putting effort into it, to do it, to get it right. She is moving her lips and showing how the vowels, syllables and phonemes are done. Perhaps she will be moving hands, standing up right and smiling.

And children are learning. The gesture, the phonics, the nothing is impossible attitude. Naturally.

 

P.S.: During the last week, we managed to put some rhythm and melody to “A, a, ants in my arm” and sounds great. Even some movement and dynamic to it.

Everybody is wearing pyjamas

Few weeks back at the nursery my son goes to it was dress up day and the theme was “Super Heroes”. The children were to go dressed up as their favourite Super Heroes. In our household, “heroes” is a subject taught by father since I cannot recall a hero in the same way he does.

Hence it was my partners job to think on which Super Hero our little one was going to be dress like since I never put too much of a thought on heroes to be honest. Heroes for me were Gandalf; in an awkward sort of way the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland and whilst in my twenties and doing all-nighters for uni with the television as companion I discovered amongst the cartoons two “Superheroes”: “Dangermouse” and “Speedracer”.

Only when I got older – and I got to read more books – I got to know some real women who did amazing things, real heroines (not to be confused with heroin!) like Hypatia, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, and many others – I could be all day trying to draw a rough list! – and these women gave me the inspiration I needed at the time. They did not chase white rabbits, speak with dragons, climb walls using webs or destroy any villains with powerful glances. On second thought: they did: in the real world, giving hard stares, chasing their dreams and speaking their mind.

Although it does not escape to me the magic of the superheroes represented by cartoons: imposing justice left right and centre, smashing evils and restoring peace and order after all the chaos, with a glimmering smile and a shining outfit. And for the cartoon heroines, those as well, pose a fabulous figure enrobed with a shining outfit and the perfect smile – not to mention no hair out of place (not even one!) after imprisoning a villain and rerouting a convoy of trucks to avoid a family of ducks crossing the road at that exact time.

I am unsure how these superheroes and superheroines may affect the child and the adult it will become in the future and I am unsure if children realise that superheroes are human beings – take Wonder Woman for example – who transform themselves into something extraordinarily powerful to fight injustice. I am sure though there are many studies about this subject all going for it or all against it.

As for my partner, Spiderman and Batman have a special place in his heart and he already gave our little one enough outfits branded with both characters. He cannot tell me why those two are so special to him. But they are. My partner always tells me how singular it was to sit down to watch the cartoon in the afternoons and enjoy every second of it.

As for me, I find Superheroes cartoons very graphic and violent – not to mention that nowadays the resolution on any device is simply amazing – and the path such characters embark upon to bring peace and justice is one of destruction galore which in my humble opinion, is just not good and sets a really bad example for a child and I find it very upsetting that all the good characteristics you want to find in a superhero are just obscured – if not obliterated – by the level of destruction caused to eradicate evil.

And it is my suspicion that obliteration is what remains in the memories of children today thanks to the high definition and fine detail (and extent) on the destruction, fights and damage provoked; the end message of good goes above evil, team work and good moral values are lost amidst ruins, fires, explosions, cars flying and kicks.

I am all up for good old costumes: a skirt that can be a tunic or a long dress; a blanket that can become a cape or a portable tent and a pair of swimming goggles that magically allows to see further away over the hills. Let’s not diminish the power of a stick and a cardboard box; or a belt (oversized) with a hat which transforms a mundane child into the most impervious pirate.

One word: magic. I feel the cartoons raid the magic and slash the imagination and feeds the child from a very early age with ideas – note, I am not saying ideals – situations and results which are far from real. If you think it is not socially acceptable to go around kicking and destroying to get something (although as a society we do. Look at all the wars and fighting going on as I type this) particularly if that behaviour comes from a child.

Yes, you got it. Most likely the child will be labelled. And those labels will damp the ideals we try so hard to imprint on them either from home or school.

How did the story of the costume ended, you may wonder? Well, my partner found a pyjama with “Batman” embodied. So, my little one wore his Batman pj’s over layers of thermals plus a Batman coat with a hoodie that worked as a mask.

No need to say that he never understood how could he possibly be wearing his pj’s to go to school (he tried to have a say on the matter) and when I went to pick him up and asked him how did his day go, he shrunk his shoulders and say “everybody was wearing pyjamas”.