Well it’s official, I survived the summer holidays….whoop whoop! I feel like I should be issued with a t-shirt to mark my achievement (similar to the one hubby gets when he takes on a hardcore physical challenge like Tough Mudder). Picture me now in the playground wearing said t-shirt and doing a little celebratory dance (anything but the floss as much to my children’s amusement I still haven’t mastered the art).
Much respect to those parents who tell me how quickly summer has flown by and how they wish they had more time with their little cherubs. After week two of smack down wrestling moves, taxi driving for my teen and hearing the words ‘I’m bored, there’s nothing to do’ (when we’d just got back from a full day out) I was losing the will to live! We are a family who thrive on routine, structure, and predictability; something the summer break swallows up like quick sand. Needless to say six weeks off can be a daunting prospect for some families.
Now this summer just gone I witnessed yet another birthday pass me by in a haze of cake and Prosecco and I’ve got to be honest I’m starting to feel a teensy bit middle aged. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not quite rocking the beige cardigan just yet, but I do feel like I’m not as ‘down with the kids’ as I used to be. Trends and technology are changing rapidly around me and during the hols it became increasingly clear that I’m not keeping up!
Take my daughter for instance aka ‘Miss selfie obsessed Insta queen’. Her mobile phone has been glued to her hand for six weeks, so much so I became fearful that we might have to have it surgically removed. On one of her days off, she decided to watch TV with her bestie (via FaceTime) on her phone! I feel like I should have had a Davina Mcall announcement when I walked into the room, you know the one where she says ‘Big Brother House this is Davina you are live on channel 4, please do not swear’. Of course I was totally oblivious to the fact that there was technically another child in my house as I started the naggy Mum routine of ‘have you washed today? How long have you been watching TV? Blah blah blah.
On the subject of TV, this year’s school holidays started with a corker when my daughter asked to watch the show Love Island. Seriously where have I been for the last three years that I’d not seen it and how could I possibly make an informed parenting decision without knowing what I was agreeing to?
So being the dutiful mother I am, I snuck off to watch a couple of episodes alone……..
Truth be told, I was totally exposed by my teenage daughter who caught me binge watching it (now five episodes in)! I’d actually made the decision very early on that it wasn’t something I wanted her to watch (this year anyway) but scarily and much to her entertainment I found myself hooked until the very end whilst at the same time she happily discovered the Friends box set instead.
So, you’re probably thinking ‘wow she’s pretty strict’ but just hear me out for a minute. My daughter is already sadly under the impression that she looks better with a filter at age thirteen than how she actually looks in real life. She reliably informed me of this at a friend’s party three pictures in, (three pictures of us both which clearly didn’t look good enough for the audience of her Instagram account). After the third attempt, she turns to me looking very frustrated and says ‘Mum I think we need a filter’. For a moment I felt a wave of sadness and admittedly a little bit hurt that visually she didn’t think we were good enough and maybe this showed in my response.
‘Listen up Pops, the only filter I need now and then is one for my mouth, this is what I look like and if people don’t like it they don’t have to look at me!’
The following day I dragged out a 90’s version of a selfie to show her and explained the rigmarole of the photo developing process and how we couldn’t delete them. There I was with mahoosive eyebrows desperately hiding my train track braces and rocking the dodgiest hair cut ever, ‘character building’ I can hear my Mum say!
At the sight of this picture my daughter laughs out loud ‘Mum, you looked terrible’
‘Yeah I suppose I did’ I admit ‘but everyone looked like that and I was really happy….look at that smile!’
For those of you who are blissfully unaware of what the Snap Chat filter is let me educate you. It’s this nifty…..(OMG did I just use the word nifty!!) little App which has the amazing ability to knock ten years off my face whilst bizarrely adding them to my daughter’s. Try on some accessories for size like some funky glasses or bunny ears and voila you’re in selfie heaven!
Confidence boosting for the ageing woman like myself but let’s be fair we all know that’s not what I look like in real life!! I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had to have with my teen about ‘keeping it real’ when posting pictures on her Instagram account.
With this in mind I can only describe Social Media as a minefield for Adoptive parents and their children. Some children come with an added layer of complexity due to low self-esteem, mental health difficulties and additional vulnerability linked to their past which can make them more susceptible to cyber bulling and online grooming. If left curious enough the temptation to track birth family members via this unconventional method can sadly become an all too familiar reality. In my eyes, the only way to diminish these risks are to discuss them with your child/ren and talk openly about their life stories.
My daughter has thankfully ‘opted out’ of Facebook mainly because it’s for ‘old people’ but for me it’s one less platform to worry about. She really doesn’t seem to be curious about it at all and I wonder if it’s because she knows that she can contact her birth family with our blessing and support at any time (via the appropriate channels) should she wish to. When it comes to protecting their identity online we have encouraged them not use their real names and have advised that their profile pictures should ideally not be of their face….or any other body parts of course that Mum wouldn’t be happy about!
As a modern day parent, I actually hold more concern for how image obsessed girls (in particular) are becoming and this was one of my main reasons for declining the ‘Love island’ request. Watching the line-up of skinny satsuma coloured women parade onto the screen with pumped up lips, hair extensions and breast implants my inner voice was screaming ‘where are the normal women’? Watching them parade around in their bikinis for weeks was enough to make me as a grown woman feel crap about myself and left me curious as to how the programme impacts on impressionable young girls when it comes to body confidence. All I can say is thank goodness my daughter has me around in my M&S big pants modelling the norm…absolutely no need for Doctor Bum Bum here I can tell you!
Don’t even get me started on my son aka ‘Recovering Fortnite junky’! He’d never really shown an interest in gaming until this particular one flossed its way into my house under the guise that ‘everyone was playing it’. For those of you who have been fortunate enough to avoid this craze, Fortnite is a third person shooter game that you can play online with multiple players and it’s free making it accessible for everyone.
Now, I’ve got to be honest I’m not really one for guns but hubby was a big gamer back in the day and he didn’t seem to share my concerns. Well at least he didn’t until he saw the dramatic effect it had on our son. After a few days of playing, it was as if nothing else existed in life. He would ask to play it at every opportunity he had and if he wasn’t playing it he was watching someone else on YouTube play it…. seriously what is that all about?
Initially I liked the fact that he had found an interest, however it didn’t take long before things started to become problematic at home. Our first stumbling block was when I realised that the game was live play and therefore couldn’t be paused. I cannot tell you how many meltdowns this caused when dinner was ready or I needed to leave the house midplay. After a while, our once sociable boy didn’t seem to want to go out and play anymore and even when presented with the opportunity to go out with friends his PlayStation and headset would win hands down. The final straw for me (and the one which saw me pulling the plug) was the sudden interest in guns and snipering people…mainly old ladies in the street!!! #GAME OVER
On a recent training course, my jaw literally dropped at the statitistics on the screen. One million children in the UK are suffering with some form of mental illness….yes one bloody million! There are only six hundred qualified registered psychotherapists (clearly not enough) and allegedly on average a child will wait ten years to address their mental health difficulties properly….wtf! In the tea break I stood with a woman who preached that technology was the root of all evil and believed that it is playing a significant role in this growing epidemic and I’m curious as to how true this is.
Working in a field where Children’s mental health services play a key role and having just boo’d my way through the Panorama special ‘kids in crisis’ I am fully aware that this is a complex matter related to a multitude of factors.
Now I am anything but a techspert, in fact quite the opposite as this summer has most definitely highlighted. The way I see it, I have two options as a parent….
Option 1 – Remain the way I am and succumb to the very appealing beige cardigan which is persuasively calling my name. Whilst choosing to remain oblivious to the world of technology around me…. For those of you who just how ‘untechy’ I am this option is very tempting and worked quite well for my Mum.
Option 2- Become an Online playing Insta Mum who learns and understands the risks first hand whilst imparting her newfound wisdom to anyone happily opting for Option 1 (who may be interested). #seriouslyscarey