“How many places does the River Slaney pass through?”
I have one eye on the rear-view mirror watching an oncoming truck as it thunders down the hill towards me while the other eye, deranged chameleon-like, is looking for a gap in the oncoming traffic so that I can turn off the busy road.
“I don’t know.”
“Does it go to Dublin?”
“That’s the Liffey,” Big Brother replies.
Meanwhile, loud medley of young voices piping out enthusiastic variations of the latest by Mr Sheeran or Ms Swift etc. etc. ad nauseum.
“Yes?” I gear down to enter a roundabout.
“What was the first dog to ever chase a fox?”
“??? – I don’t know”.
“Probably a wolf”, says Big Brother again.
I wonder to myself: What is the opposite to Google? An eejitty eejit? A mother manoeuvring her people carrier filled with her noisy little people through life’s activities at rush hour? I’m definitely not feeling like the sharpest knife in the mental block in this moment of parenting.
We’re not used to this anymore, not knowing. It’s so easy having our questions answered after a few online clicks, there’s little room for frustration. Recently B.B. was swotting for an interschools general knowledge contest and discovered some important facts, like, did you know that a polar bear is actually black? It has black skin and see-through hair – fancy that! And did you know that you have more chance of dying on the way to buying a lottery ticket than winning the lottery? See I told you gambling is a bad idea. More worryingly though they say it only takes three clicks before your child sees something online in your own home you’d rather they hadn’t. Once it’s seen it can’t be unseen.
So what is in store for them? There’s no way of telling yet. We debate with other parents about screen time and internet access to try and gauge what’s normal or best, feeling as if we are just muddling along and hoping we make the right choices for them. We criticise others who are more permissive about how much time they allow their kids to be sitting on the couch. We scold our children for constantly pushing the boundaries that we have deemed safe or sensible. We agonise over what they might be exposed to.
Maybe our kids are missing out on learning social cues, healthy physical development, the ability to communicate in a crowd or even one on one, what it is like to ponder and imagine, to live with the quiet of their own thoughts, to be frustrated and learn how to deal with that. How often do our children experience real prolonged boredom, the type that spurs them into creativity and invention?
The peaceful pondering definitely doesn’t happen much in my car anyway, I’d love a London cab with a sliding soundproof screen behind the driver but they don’t have many for sale in Ireland. I could allow them to bring their screens to keep them quiet, for just a minute or two…but is that a good idea? I just don’t know.
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