You may have noticed that I’ve linked to Little Monster a lot lately. I first met the blog’s author, Lisa, when she was asked to answer the same “What’s the biggest chance you ever took?” question on Design Mom. Her response was funny and real—just like her blog. Little Monster is filled with gorgeous images and recipes and inspiration, but what draws me in most, I think, is that it takes me back to those early days when it was just me and Andrew and I was learning to be a mom. I was so overwhelmed and so in love.
And there’s also the books. I’ve only come across a few people my entire life who love Anne of Green Gables as much as I do. So when Lisa posted this, I knew she was a kindred spirit.
And that reminded me of Rachel Lynde and the catalogs.
In the fifth book of the series, Anne’s House of Dreams, the ladies are discussing the beautiful weather Anne has for her wedding day. Anne’s best friend, Diana, says that she couldn’t have had a finer day if she’d ordered it from Eaton’s. That sets Rachel Lynde (the crotchety old neighbor) off on a rant about the evils of catalogues.
“Well, [the Eaton’s catalogs] are splendid to amuse children with,” said Diana. “Fred and Small Anne look at the pictures by the hour.”
“I amused ten children without the aid of Eaton’s catalogue,” said Mrs. Rachel severely.
This made me laugh when I re-read it as a parent. In our world of iPods and YouTube and DVDs, the idea of children paging through catalogues for hours sounds wonderfully simple and creative. But to Rachel Lynde, it was lazy parenting.
I actually find this passage comforting. It reminds me that there is always going to be criticism of current parenting strategies. But we’re all doing the best we can with the information and resources we have.
Doesn’t it make you wonder what Rachel Lynde would make of life in our technology-infused world? I’m sure the poor woman would be horrified at the idea of children reading books on Nooks and Kindles. Sometimes I’m a little horrified, too, to be honest. (I always wonder if the oral tradition folks had a hard time of it when the printing press came along. “But it’s the same exact story every time you read it!”)
We parents are always being told to limit screen time and I do try, but I find it really challenging to determine “good” screen time vs. “bad.” When I see a kid sitting in front of a computer, my first instinct is to get him off of it because that’s what I’ve been told good parents do.
But what happens when Andrew or Lexie says, “I’m writing a story” or Lexie says “I’m making a stop-motion video of my American Girl dolls” or Will says “I’m researching World War II aircraft.” If they were just watching “Annoying Orange” videos on YouTube all day it’d be one thing, but when they’re using technology as part of the creative process, I think it’s a lot harder to police. Throw in the fact that their father is a computer programmer and their mother works and writes on a computer and it really gets confusing.
I certainly don’t have all the answers. What I do know is that there will always be Rachel Lyndes telling us that the way we’re doings things isn’t as good as the way they did (or do) them. And that kind of criticism can make you question everything you do, especially when it comes to something as sacred as parenting. We don’t want to mess this up.
But at the end of the day, the only thing any of us can rely on is our own sense of balance. I think Robert Fulghum puts it just about perfectly in his essay “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”: “Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.” That’s a plan I can handle.
So, how about you? Do you struggle with limiting technology—for yourself or your kids? Do you have firm rules in your house about “screen time”? Have you figured out how to balance “good” vs. “bad” screen time?