iParenting: The Positives, Negatives and i-don’t-know!

iPARENTING: The Positives, Negatives and i-don’t-know!

iSCARED

Note:  I would like to apologize upfront for any possible offences I may incur at what follows in my article—I only hope to help continue the necessary discussion on what is best for the future generation.  Also, I fully admit that I too am struggling on a daily basis to find what the right balanced approach is to using my mobile device and raising our children.  R.V.S.B.

I continue to write about the rising usage of iPhones or similar mobile devices by parents in front of their babies and young children because I am in the season of life where my children are under the age of 5 years.  It wouldn’t surprise me if as my children grow into teenagers and young adults that I may feel the same way I do now about parents heavily using their incredible gadgets in their offspring’s presence: confused and anxious!

My default emotional reaction to the general mob obsession with iPhones and the like devices is to boycott them and rule that they are completely negative and poisonous around our children.  However, I’m not ignorant to how these gadgets are becoming a mainstay in our society on a global scale.  As with most things in our human history, though, I do feel it is critical that we begin to focus our energies on how to balance the effect of these multi-use gadgets into our social lives—especially in terms of our family relationships, e.g. our children.

iNEED HOW MANY PHOTOS?

I am in full disclosure that I’m guilty many times of being without my perfectly good digital camera when I go somewhere special with my kids.  Aha! I have a Blackberry smart phone that allows me to whip it out and use the camera setting to capture that moment(s) as needed.  As it is so easy to just thumb-click to snap the photo (still cracks me up that we have a camera shutter-like sound to accompany the photo-taking), I end up getting a bit trigger-happy resulting in many more photo than I know what to do with later.  It turns out I’m a good 5-6 years behind on album/scrapbooking my family life and that’s counting the photos I’ve actually developed. Scary how many photos/video are still sitting on my memory chip in my phone and not in actual photo paper form or saved DVD format!

One day I was at a children’s museum and I made myself take just about 10 photos before I put the Blackberry away in my pocket to focus on spending time with my boys in the various interactive exhibits.  What amazed me more than the real time fun I was having playing with my sons was how I suddenly noticed all the parents around me in relations with their children or lack thereof.  It was a horrific site: I would have rather witnessed their children running around amok and unsupervised than what most parents looked like standing right beside their little ones.  There was a mom with her son who was continuously trying to get her attention and she showed little regard for him and no explanation as to why her iPhone was more important. There was the dad who was sitting opposite of his daughter fully engrossed in his respective mobile device and also unresponsive to his daughter who kept beckoning him to check out her construction. But I digress, what I especially noticed was how many other parents I looked like when they’re trying to frantically take as many photos as their thumbs/fingers can click off. Do we really need so many photos? Isn’t it more important to create memories with our children that they’ll remember carving through their early development with their parents right there interacting with them and not just making them pose or paparazzing them with our relentless photo clicks?

iPLAY WHILE YOU PLAY

I will continue to beat this drum until I see a change in the outside and indoor playground scene:  It really is a shame that many parents take the opportunity (except for odd situations like traveling and needing directions, urgent phone calls, etc) of being at a playground with their children as the green light to unabashedly indulge in their fix with their iPhone or like device.  In that case, if I am using parallel logic, I should feel free to pour myself an adult liquid concoction, play loud bootie music and get down and dirty with my dancing by the swings like I’m faux pole-dancing at the local Dr. Feel Good’s club.  See one of my prior blog shorts on a possible child reaction: https://ceoofthehome.net/2012/05/31/ipicture-this-what-does-your-child-see/

Where places like the museums, zoo and other educational outings are opportunities to engage and guide our children in intellectual pursuits and personal knowledge growth, playgrounds serve as the training grounds for our children’s social and physical development.  Why are we missing this obvious reality that by going into our own little worlds on a consistent basis we are losing the opportunity to be etched into the memory card of our children’s hearts?  When these years pass they are irrevocably written and what do you want your kid(s) to consistently remember about you when they were in your presence?  Again, this is NOT easy.   I have had to repeatedly discipline myself by putting my Blackberry away tightly in its case or even just leaving it a few steps away locked in the car.

iOFFSHORE MY PARENTING

Upfront I will admit that there was one time and one time only that I handed my mobile device to one of my children to hold without me and it was in a local urgent care center where I had to have my son’s eye examined for possible glass shards and the poor baby was hysterical and it was the only thing I had to hand over for a distraction to help the medical staff get him calm—that being said, I will not do it again and as my four year old son asked me recently if he could hold it I said no as it was mommy’s and he hasn’t asked again.  At the same time, I only use it when I need to and always inform my children as to why I am using it.  Example: “Mommy is calling Mama So-and-So so I can check where we are meeting her and her daughter for our play date this morning.”  I could go on and on as to how I conduct myself in front of my children when it comes to my phone and computer but it wouldn’t be to seem better than anyone.  It does require sacrifice, it’s not convenient sometimes and of course it would be easier to just put a child app or video on my device to pacify my energetic boys when I’m in difficult social situations like traveling with others or out to dinner, et cetera.

Yet, as hard as it can be to deal with being so fully engaged mentally with my children in their relentless conversations daily whether or not we are around others, I wouldn’t trade it for just handing off my mobile device to them to shut them up.  I’ve noticed that adults are amazed everywhere I go with my older son because they find it remarkable that he can initiate, conduct and even inject clever humor into conversation with them.  I started to get concerned about it because although it’s a nice compliment, I couldn’t understand why it was getting such special attention in a wide variety of audiences: family, friends, cashiers, new acquaintances, strangers in a store.  Except when you start to notice around you how young children are being satiated for their constant need to interact these days.  DVD players in car seats for just regular driving during the day, iPhone educational apps at their fingertips in the doctor’s waiting rooms, shows on the mobile device while sitting in their high chairs at the restaurants, getting into fights with their parents while playing with their iPhones in the register checkout lane at the supermarket and the combinations are seemingly endless.  What are our children learning in terms of human interaction in the mundane although necessary parts of our lives?  If the world seems like it is full of people struggling with feelings of loneliness and social isolation today, what does it mean for the adults of tomorrow who are growing up with lighted-up colorful moving wonders in a rectangular disc being thrust in their faces when they reach out for that human touch and instead get a cool, slippery metallic device?

iHOPE iPRAY iLOVE

It goes without saying that what matters most in our parenting is that we love our children and make sure we tell and show them so.  While I may rail in an anti-iPhone rant more times than I can click a photo in a minute, I also have hope that our humanity will prevail despite the numbing speed at which we are progressing when it comes to our mobile and computing devices.  As with the countless battles and wars we’ve endured, I do sense that we can overcome the drawbacks of our overconsumption of iPhone and like device usage and use them for positive things like motivating political and human rights change.

Most important, may our love for our children always win out so that they can pass that on to each other and  their own possible offspring one day.

R.V. Saridakis Bean

SAVE THE BUTTERFLIES: Why It Matters What You Do

SAVE THE BUTTERFLIES! : Why It Matters What You Do

INTRODUCTION: Just One of Nature’s Many Philosophy Lessons

It was another hectic day, one of those days that it seems there is no end to movement by vehicle or by foot.  As I exited off Interstate 95 I was held up at the red light and as I resigned to this unavoidable wait I looked to my left where the grassy field was alive with activity.  There were little yellow butterflies dancing in the air over the flowers that were some sort of weed by their appearance and random placement.  I chuckled to myself wondering why I was suddenly paying attention to this seemingly useless enterprise.  After a couple more moments, a lesson in life began to affect my mind as I noticed how the butterflies not only traveled in a dizzy flight to each flower, they also interacted with each other: sometimes just two, sometimes three or more and then they would go about their own business again.  How interesting that they would correspond not just to mate but to check in with each other as they went about their mundane grind to pollinate.  For more random facts by the experts: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/animals/butterflies.shtml

DOMESTIC: Where Are We Americans?

It seems like the past 15 years or more have been filled with anxiety concerning finances and national security.  We’ve been saturated with fast-success moments like the “dot.com” burgeoning era following the launch of the World Wide Web only to have the “tech bubble” burst.  Y2K was the big talk leading up to New Year’s 2000 and then by September 11, 2001 our secular society was shocked by the actions of people that truly made no sense.  With the stock market being too uncertain, the housing market became the new bargaining tool for quick riches and today most Americans are affected one way or another by the housing market bust of the mid-Aughts.

Our political landscape has been entertaining to say the least, I have admitted more than once in my public writing that I was an employee of the former U.S. Representative Mark A. Foley.  I don’t regret it and I will always say that he was a great congressman for our Florida district 16 and his bipartisan way of working on the Hill kept me having faith in the system of government we have in place.  Nevertheless, the personal and ill-acted professional antics of many politicians have rocked the public’s conscience in the past several years.  We have triumphed in having the first biracial President of the United States that was elected in 2008.  Yet as we approach this year’s election our jaded multimedia is still focusing on subjects that are not important and petty.  It doesn’t help that we’ve also had unfortunate voting decisions like the recent one in North Carolina concerning gay marriage: really folks, it’s the year 2012 and we have kids coming out of college with degrees having extreme difficulty finding jobs they can enjoy and thrive in—in my humble opinion, whether homosexual or bisexual individuals decide to marry should literally be up to them, their families and their faiths.  I guess it’s just there’s such more critical issues for our American society to sort through like our undoubted rising debt, inflation and general lack of cohesive national strategy of what our country wants to better itself in like level of education, business direction (should we be more supportive of fair trade, environmentally friendly, innovative energy sources) and the list can go on nearly endlessly.

The butterflies reminded me that even you and I if we seem to be just the “little players” on this busy world stage, we still very much have a major effect on the flow of things in how we relate to others in our field of range.  When I go to the grocery store I do my best to engage with everyone I come in contact with-especially the cashier- you never know how that simple, genuine chat with another human being may bless the both of you.  The relationships you maintain with family and friends is an obvious example of how dynamic we can be with each other and how many times we don’t even see the true aftermath of those countless interactions.

So the economy here in America has us all repeating the same refrain: things are tough, the economy is hurting…but guess what? You do have the power to help those businesses down the road from you.  You can start your own little business with friends to follow a passion and serve a need in the demand for supply locally.  How about that person you know who makes something from hand and sells it?  What about that family restaurant that’s been on the corner forever? Truly if we all began to look at each other and pay a little more mind it would send a ripple effect through the American economy that may not send people into wealthy categories but at least encourage hearts and stoke more activity in business and progress.  As humans we crave and need each other and in America we are diverse and often decisive but we remain somewhat invincible when we really stick together UNITED.

INTERNATIONAL:  My Greece-Ellada Mou

I am not very well informed on the specifics of the political parties warring with each other in Greece at this moment as the Greek government and “powers that be” try to sort out what is the next elections plan for the country.  What I do understand is the general opinion of those in America who feel that Greece is a nation that was irresponsible in its fiscal policy and lacks direction in its own national strategy.  How very similar this sounds as the United States and many other countries around the globe are wrestling with these same issues.

Beyond the story told by video footage and photographs at Greek hotspots like Syntagma Square, it depends on who you speak with in Greece as to how violent and unruly things have become in everyday life there.  There is definitely no argument if you summed up the population as being emotionally drained and financially struggling.  What can we do?

If you’re Greek or American I think the answer is simple and powerful if everyone participates.  In Greece, this time of uncertainty and fiscal pain can be paralyzing but if could also be empowering in driving people to do something completely different.  The country is known for its tourism appeal but if you’ve gone to some of the shorelines, especially south and east of Athens, you’ll find a disgusting amount of garbage.  If there are no beach cleanups, why not start?  It would be great way to get young people involved, aware and build pride in the physical state of their nation.  When it comes to economy, why not start small with local business and build out with companies that can help provide exports like organic feta, olives and wine (a major fad in current foodies’ cycles)?  As for the Greeks abroad, we can help our mother nation by assisting friends and family in financial and emotional support. Again, the reality is even the smallest player can affect the general direction of a nation if we only start with each other, those around us whether or not we know them personally.

FINAL WORD:  Butterflies Live It Fully

There are many kinds of butterflies and they all have different average life spans: the common thread in truth is that on average their life spans are short in comparison to many other living beings and to us humans a mere blink of an eye.  The Monarch is a popular variety and in American can live from 2-6 weeks depending on their generation: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/animals/butterflies.shtml

Either way, these half-dancing, half-flying creatures live their life to the fullest regardless of how perilous or repetitive their respective journeys.  As people we are certainly much more complex in our composition but I think we have the tendency to over-complicate in our mind.  There is a shot at true happiness in our daily life if we only engage fully every step of the way—even on those boring or ruthless days when we wonder how we’ll make it to the end of the day.

The light turned green and I was on my way again to the next task, the next unexpected “checking-in” with whoever came in my path as I fulfilled my personal “flight”.

R.V.S.Bean

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"