Life on hold. Convincing kids they CAN survive without their phone.

January 22, 2013

The Teenager’s eye was twitching. Her beautiful face had become distorted.

She could see it. Almost close enough to touch. Connect. Send a message on.

It was her mobile phone. And she wasn’t with it. Daughter Two as well. Stripped of their most vital possessions.

A holiday rule had been introduced. Part of the day was to be phone-less. It was like I’d asked them to shave their heads.

My first suggestion was to leave the devices behind when we went to the beach. They gave me the look. The one that Dads everywhere know. The ‘Thanks, but that won’t be happening in this lifetime’ look.

They explained that they had to take i-phone photos. Hundreds of friends were waiting. There would be action shots in the surf, and glamour shots on the sand.

These images would be posted immediately onto social media sites including Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and WhoGivesaFlying. Ok, I made one of those up.

Everything is about photos and videos, being shared as quickly as possible. No phone, means no sharing.

With the beach off the negotiating table, I moved to meal time. Surely there was no need to have the phone during a holiday dinner?

No can do, they chorused. It’s prime-time to receive messages from friends. They’ll stay in our pockets. You won’t even know we have them with us. Promise. Because I was waiting for my own message, I didn’t push the issue. And yes, I see the irony there.

I wasn’t giving up. We were watching favourite DVDs each night before bed. It would be done without electrical devices.

It was an outrage, they cried. We HAVE to check stuff. You just DON’T understand.

We compromised, and they survived. With sneaky peeks, as I visited the fridge. And we all enjoyed the movies, fully focused.

My quest to reduce phone use was hard enough during a week of sun and surf on holidays. What chance do we have at home?

Parents everywhere are fighting the same battle. Our kids are addicted, to devices that were invented to promote talk. But they’re conversing less. It’s all about internet data, in the palm of a hand.

We’re not much better. My phone never leaves me. You’re probably the same. The constant link to work. Up-to-the-second info from around the world on Twitter. Monitoring the exploits of friends on Facebook. Do as I say, not as I do..

In the holiday tavern, I saw a couple sitting at a table near the bar. Both in their fifties I reckon. Both with i-pads. Their heads were buried in them. They’d gone to the trouble of going out together. Yet they could have been in different suburbs.

It’s hard to see us screen-saving our kids, when most of us are just as bad. If our phones are getting smarter, then we must be getting dumber.

Back to The Teenager’s twitching episode. It came late in the day, during a game of cards. We’d finally come to an agreement, that any activity on the balcony would be phone-free. Keen to hear the end of my campaign, they had agreed.

It meant that as we made up our own poker rules, and certain family members cheated, we were talking. And laughing. Without disruption.

There will be those of you without kids, or with children long gone, who will be scratching heads. Yes, we could ban the devices. Banish them to a mobile wasteland.

Trust me when I tell you it’s more complicated than that. Their phones are such a part of how they exist. The social fabric is so very different from when we were young.

For better or worse, we need to help them stay connected, without shutting everyone else out. And to save the sanity of parents all over.

For our part, we’ve working on sticking with our holiday plan at home. More phone-free time. Device-free zones. Baby steps, but it’s a start. No more living life on hold.

My video stars. The beauty of memories, when big girls weren’t so big.

September 4, 2012

Our home videos are carefully stored. In a box, somewhere. With labels that make little sense.

Golden memories, of less complicated times. Before young ladies knew how to text.

All gorgeous in their own way. Some funny, others emotional. Especially when my Mum bobs up, trying to avoid the camera.

Photos, too. Lots of albums. For too long, I didn’t appreciate the importance of recording the journey we’re all on. Now, every image reminds me of something magical.

I thought about those memories over the weekend. On the day Dads get to reflect about the things most important to them.

The girls were playing with some old photos. When they were younger, and I was lighter. The sort of snaps families take most weekends.

They ended up on one of those websites that I don’t understand. Where photos are shared, and friends make comment. I tried to have a look last night, but it wouldn’t let me in. Too old, probably.

There’s a video of the girls, taken a decade ago. It doesn’t go long, and my camerawork is anything but fancy.

I find myself thinking about those few minutes more and more. Such an insight into how the girls would develop. Enough to brighten the saddest hour.

It was at a park, across the road from where we were living. The Teenager was all of four. Daughter Two had only just started to walk.

It was chilly, and both were rugged up. Cute clothes made by their Mum. The Teenager in a groovy jacket. Her sister in warm tights, straining over her nappy.

As was her way at the time, The Teenager was in charge. From the swing, to the slippery dip, to the climbing castle. With a frenzied commentary to match. The chat was non-stop. I can hear that little voice in my head right now, and it makes my heart sing.

Her sister, still mastering this walking caper, followed her every step. If The Teenager went on something, she’d have a go too. A desire to get it right, way back then.

The afternoon was pain-free, until Daughter Two changed the script. Instead of following, she decided to lead the way. While The Teenager was busy getting tangled in the rope ladder, her younger sibling decided she would have another crack at their park favourite.

The camera joined in, as she toddled towards the smaller seat of the swing set.

I helped her up, and there she sat, proud as punch, despite doing very little swinging.

That lack of movement would be changed soon enough. Courtesy of her sister, charging into the shot from right of screen.

This would not do. Baby sisters did not set the agenda. Especially when the camera was involved.

Daughter Two had no idea the push was coming. There was no time to brace. Down she went, exchanging her comfy seat for a mouthful of bark and dust.

This was all done to the sound of The Teenager explaining to the cameraman what his next shot should be, as she took her rightful place on the swing. “Video camera me Daddy! Video camera me!”

It remains one of my favourite items on tape. My oldest daughter, refusing to allow the spotlight to be shifted. And Daughter Two’s cry. Not from pain or injury. A squeal of defiance. With the added note, that she wouldn’t always be a pushover.

I stopped the camera and brushed her off. The urgings of The Teenager continued. I fought back giggles, and explained that there would be no more video camera-ing, while family members were getting knocked down.

They made their peace, and moved on to the next activity. From memory, Daughter Two was sent down the slide head first by her loving sister not long after. To laughter, thankfully.

A tiny snippet of life, that says so much about us. A few wonderful, fun minutes. Things a Dad never forgets.

Confidence, laughter, determination, resilience and love of family. All on show, right there in that park. And the sweet, innocent voice of a four-year old, that I don’t get to hear anymore.

I bet you have similar memories tucked away, in boxes somewhere. Cherish them like I do now. Take more photos and videos. You never know when you might need cheering up.