Back to the future

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In honour of last week being the date that Marty McFly went into the future, we watched the triology of the Back to the Future movies with our kids.

The predictions made with what technology we would have embraced by now were a mixed bag. We don’t have hover boards or flying cars, we do have drone cameras but we certainly don’t have faxes in every room of our house – this technology that was deemed cutting edge in the 1980s is now redundant.

Back in the 1980s, little did they know that we would all walk around with smart phones so that all the information in the world would be available at our fingertips or that we could be in contact with all our cyber friends around the clock.

Our kids are growing up overloaded with information. They will never experience the effort required to complete an assignment by going to the library, finding an encyclopedia and researching information from a book.

I have noticed a correlation between the amount of time our kids spend on technology and a sense of lethargy as well as a decline in their behaviour. A few weeks ago my husband ‘forced’ our son to go for a bike ride with him. Our son whined about wanting to just relax and watch tv and was adamant that he didn’t want to go riding. The more he lay around doing nothing, the more his behaviour deteriorated. Eventually my husband told him that he didn’t have a choice and within a few minutes of them riding together, our son had broken free of his foul mood and was enjoying doing exercise outside in the fresh air.

As much as technology is enriching our lives, it is also trapping us by keeping us glued to screens when we could be doing things that are more productive.

I wonder what technology will be adopted in the next thirty years and whether future generations will adapt to have stooped necks and calloused fingers from continual use of their phones?

What’s your prediction?

(Photo courtesy of kdshutterman, freedigitalphotos.net)

Quality over quantity

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Our teenagers are growing up in a world quite different to the one that we encountered at the same age. With the invention of social media, I’ve seen the worrying trend of my teenage daughters and their friends, judging their worth based upon the number of ‘friends’/followers that they have on social media. They are constantly assessing whether photos or comments posted are rating well, expecting them to reach an acceptable level of likes in a certain amount of time. That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself! As if being a teenager isn’t already fraught with insecurity, imagine getting instant results on how popular or likeable your posts are.

I once saw a girl on social media comment that a selfy with a sarcastic comment about her looks had got minimal likes while a picture of pizza had scored more highly. I commented to the girl that her perception was a bit skewed. If lots of people liked the photo where she basically called herself ugly then she would have thought that they agreed with her. I told her that obviously her friends wouldn’t agree with that comment, therefore wouldn’t have liked it, while everyone loves a good slice of pizza!

One of the incentives to have a large number of followers on social media seems to be the associated perks. My daughter’s friend has around 15,000 followers and is constantly being sent free clothing and merchandise, being asked to tag the retailers in her photos. As is to be expected, where there is love there is hate. Whilst the majority of people like her and are positive, there are the haters that are rude and mean in their comments. No person wants to hear cruel words aimed at them, particularly for doing something as mundane as posting a photo.

I’ve always told my kids to only accept requests on social media from people who are their friends. I think a good litmus test is to ask yourself whether you would cross the street to talk to a person – if you would, then accept their friendship request, if not then why would you want to invite them into your personal world? Unfortunately, although these are my beliefs, teens have a different perception. Their worth is linked to the number of followers, and in turn the number of likes their posts receive, so whether their mother has lectured them on safety in social media, they are more concerned with perceived popularity than cyber safety.

As a parent you can’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to changing technology, but rather you should try to embrace it. I’m an advocate of having your kids as friends on social media and having their log in details (although I’m not that naïve to know that if they choose to have privacy as they get older, it won’t take them much to change their passwords or block a parent). I don’t have any definitive answers as to what we can do to make sure our kids cherish their real friends and put less emphasis on social media, but I’m monitoring the kids to try to keep them safe and to try to let them know that a person’s worth can’t be accounted for by the number of likes on a photo.

Do you have any advice on managing social media?

(Image courtesy of master isolated images, freedigitalphotos.net)

Final Exams

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Nerves, trepidation and anxiety are all hallmarks of the students who have finished their senior schooling and are now faced with their final exams.

As my eldest daughter sits her HSC (Higher School Certificate) I’m filled with pride at her tenacity but also worry about the pressure she is putting on herself to do well, which in all fairness is probably a manifestation of all the expectations her teachers, family, friends and peers have all put on her.

She told me that given her timetable, with her four hardest exams in the first three days, she worries that she can’t live up to everyone’s standards. Her head is swimming with information that realistically is probably irrelevant for her in the future.

As I’ve said to her time and again, as long as she tries her hardest, she can be proud of her effort.

What has surprised me is how exhausted she is from sitting her exams. She is truly fatigued from trying to remember and recall so much information.

There is so much weight given to these last exams, but they are not the be all and end all of the life she is planning. Even if she bombs out in these exams, there will be ways forward either through further education or work experience. Life has a way of working things out.

As each exam passes she gains relief by throwing out all her study notes and practice essays for that subject. It’s like a visual representation of the weight being lifted from her shoulders.

This time in three weeks she will be free of her exams and will have a chance to let down her hair and party. When she is at her most stressed I keep reminding her that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I remember being in her shoes and also stressing beyond belief but when I received my results it seemed an anticlimax because by then I had the clarity to realise that your results don’t define you nor do they limit your potential. Life is what you make it!

(Image courtesy of inus12345, freedigitalphotos.net)

New Parent

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Becoming a new parent is an exciting (and of course tiring) time in your life, however it can also be a time of feeling isolated.

I remember after my first child, once the frenzy of well-wishers had come to visit the baby, there was a lull in adult company. I knew people were respecting the fact that I needed to rest when the baby slept and that it was hard for them to know when that would be, but all the same I remember feeling very alone. I was also overwhelmed by the changes in my life – the responsibility for caring for a child 24 hours a day, a lack of sleep and the changes in hormones as my body adjusted from being pregnant into being a full-time milk bar.

Having moved house a few weeks prior to having the baby, I didn’t have any friends nearby and my old friends were not at the same stage in life, so they were busy with work commitments. I remember when my husband went back to work that I felt a bit lost. I could go all day without any adult conversation. Of course, I was besotted with our new baby, but I also felt that I had little purpose beyond caring for our daughter.

Being a first time parent, I was keen to ensure my baby was in a routine and so my life revolved around a strict regime that I inflicted upon myself. I also lacked the confidence to know that my baby would be okay unattended in her cot while I got on with chores – I would even take her into the bathroom with me when I showered, so I could keep an eye on her.

With experience came confidence to start going out and when I joined a mother’s group, I found a supportive network of new friends who were experiencing the same issues with their babies as I was with mine.

I laugh at the contrast of my first time parenting experience with that of my fourth child. My youngest child’s routine was to sleep in the car as I ferried his older sisters to and from school. He adapted to the family routine and I no longer feared leaving my baby unattended in the cot for a small amount of time to do chores. Furthermore, I no longer isolated myself at home, instead I continued with the social commitments for my other kids and to be frank I didn’t have time to feel lonely when surrounded by friends and our combined hoard of kids.

What did you find the hardest adjustment to being a new parent?

(Image courtesy of Danillo Razzuti, freedigitalphotos.net)

Dinghy Rally

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So often these days kids are drawn to screens to play in virtual worlds. That’s part of the reason we enjoy boating so much – they are forced to enjoy the great outdoors. These school holidays we were rafted up on our boat with another family and the familiar whine of the kids proclaiming they were bored led us to make up a rally.

My husband and I did a reconnaissance mission to work out clues for the kids, then we put them into cryptic clues.

There were three dinghies each with two kids; a driver and a clue solver. Once the item was found they had to take a photo on their phone. This provided hours of entertainment (particularly as one of the yachts we had given a clue to find had sailed away after we wrote the clues!)

It was great to see the teamwork with the kids out independently cruising around in their dinghy, having to use their brains to try to work out the clues. My favourite clue was that they needed to find a mooring with three yachts on it. They were all obviously looking for three yachts rafted up together, but the name ‘3 yachts’ was actually written on a mooring. They had to cruise around and look at every mooring in the bay before they found it.

When they returned they all received a small prize for participation (in order to soften the blow that there was only one winner), and a small cash prize went to the winning team. The photos that were offered up for some of the answers were a stretch of the imagination for the clue, but for the most part they all found the majority of the answers (except of course the missing yacht).

The kids all had fun and we had fun watching them head off on wild goose chases when they misinterpreted clues. If only we’d insisted they had to find everything on the list, we could have had hours of peace and quiet until the missing yacht returned from its sail!

We’ve told the kids that next time they can write the clues and the adults will try to find them. I can just imagine their clues will be referencing pokemon characters and minecraft instruments just to leave us as bewildered as they were with some of the cryptic clues we gave them.

(Image courtesy of Simon Howden, Freedigitialphotos.net)

Double Jinx

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I was delighted and relieved that we made it through our annual winter ski trip this year without the need for any x-rays. The past three years have resulted in injuries to our kids. I actually gloated to my husband that our family had survived unscathed and that bad luck comes in threes, so we were out of the woods.

Yesterday, wanting to fill in some time, I decided to take my youngest two kids to the local ice skating rink. My fateful last words were ‘have fun, but don’t break anything!’ My daughter and son were having great fun racing each other and creating challenges for one another. They even participated in games organized by the ice skating rink staff. My greatest concern was that as a spectator my extremities might require amputation as I felt like frostbite had well and truly kicked in – I guess hypothermia is the price of keeping your kids entertained in the school holidays.

With ten minutes left in the session, my daughter fell and instinctively put her arm out to break her fall. She came off the ice in pain and declared she thought she had broken her arm.

I rushed her to the closest GP who after a 30 second inspection sent us to the local hospital for an x-ray. Lo and behold the x-ray confirmed our suspicions of a fracture and my daughter now has her arm in plaster for a few weeks.

I take full responsibility for tempting fate – not only did I jinx the situation by boasting that we had survived a year without an x-ray, but then to verbalise that my kids shouldn’t break any bones was too much. Fate is sitting back sniggering at my naivety that we were out of the woods.

Sometimes you wish you could wrap your kids in cotton wool, but experiences like this are going to happen regardless of how protective you are! Actually, to be honest, I think my daughter may be secretly happy to have her first cast, as she took no time at all to bust out the permanent marker so we could all sign it!

Image courtesy of praisaeng, freedigitalphotos.net

End of an era

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Today my eldest daughter has started her last week of school. I feel a bit like I blinked and suddenly she is all grown up.

I still remember the little blonde haired girl who cried and clung to me as I dropped her off to preschool, the same little girl who a few years later bravely started school in her little uniform and wide brimmed hat that seemed so large that she resembled a little mushroom. Fast forward a few years and she moved schools. I think back to the bribe of a new outfit and dinner in a fancy restaurant as a reward for her bravery to start afresh at a new school where she didn’t know anyone.

I think of the countless sporting carnivals, music recitals and awards ceremonies we have attended, proud of the effort she was putting in to her education.

I recall the ups and downs of her being a tween who lived through the dramas of friendship changes and issues that at the time that seemed insurmountable, which today she would be hard pressed to remember in any detail.

I think back to the day she was inconsolable over missing out on a place on the exchange program at school, although she had gone above and beyond to do all she could do to qualify. The flip side was the amazing trip she went on to China and the friendship she formed with a Spanish girl that she met over there that led to them doing a small private exchange. In hindsight, I think she actually was better off the way things worked out.

And now she is going through the routine of school for just one last week. It is going to be a huge week with muck up day, leaver’s ceremony and then the formal dance to finish off the week. Within a few months all her exams will be done and then she can focus on the path she chooses to start her life.

Although I’ve looked forward to this time, I also can’t believe it is already here. My little shy girl has grown into a confident lady and I’m so proud of the woman she is becoming.

I’m not sure where the years have gone, but as they say, time flies when you’re having fun!

Photo courtesy of stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net