Sometimes, something rattles my cage and I have to write about it. For selfish catharsis and the overwhelming desire to set the record straight – subjectively speaking, of course. I mean, everyone’s opinions are valid… and then there is the voice of experience.
Now, the voice of experience isn’t a know it all. It isn’t judgemental and it is certainly not saying it is a parenting guru. No, what the voice of experience is saying is that as much as we all have a way in which we want to parent, rules that we want to enforce and strict behaviours that we want our children to exhibit, we are all real people. We are all living in the real world. The world in which we are living is ever changing and if, as parents, we don’t keep our ears to the ground, observe, listen and be willing to change, then our relationship with our children and their development into mature, rational human beings will be compromised.
The pressure nearly kills me sometimes. The desperate want and need to get it right. We read books and listen to experts on the radio. We are terrified by newspaper headlines and articles and weighed down by our own parents’ expectations of us. Through all this, however, when all’s said and done, there is one thing that we should be listening out for: yes, the voice of experience. (Oh and by the way, just to make it clear that in my mind the ‘voice of experience’ is people who are living with the issue in the moment – not well meaning very old people who can’t necessarily remember what actually happened…)
You see, the thing that rattled my cage this morning was something that someone had written about teenagers and mobile phones. It’s a hot topic of conversation this one: do we let our primary school kid get a mobile phone because her friends have all got one – justifying it with the fact that she needs it to be safe? Do we allow our 12 year old to get a smartphone, in the knowledge that once we do we effectively are giving them a free, uncontrolled rein on the world wide web and all the shit that lies within? Do we happily relinquish control of everything that up until the moment we were faced with these dilemmas, we had a pretty good handle on? Do we let our teenagers have a smartphone, but take it away from them from 9pm-7am? Do we…oh, I could go on. Such is the mountain of issues we face as parents when our child utters those words: I want a mobile phone.
So what got my goat about what this person said, was that they were talking about not allowing kids under the age of 16 to have smartphones and I could just tell that it was clearly written by someone who does not parent a teenager. It was unquestionably written by someone who isn’t yet, on this matter at least: the voice of experience. You could actually say that their voice is only as valid as the voice of the very old person I mentioned above.
Talk to my fellow blogger Helen from JustSayingMum about teenagers and smartphones. Helen is the voice of experience. She has two teenage girls and a 12 year old son, one of whom she made a vlog with about what teenagers want and don’t want from their parents. In her vlog, her daughter tells her that the punishment you should never give a teenager, is taking away their mobile phone.
Now, you may well immediately say: ah ha! If that is the worst thing you can do, then let’s do it! Finally, I have a deterrent that is quick and fairly easy – a well-rehearsed lunge at the teenager and the offending article is in my grasp. However, what this says to me is that a teenager’s phone is quite literally, their life. Helen is the voice of experience, but she isn’t saying that she has the answers, in fact far from it – she has turned to parenting experts and is vlogging her conversations with them. She is the voice of experience because she has teenagers and she is observing their world. Check out the vlogs here:
Now, as parents we can all harp on about the fact that back in the day, we didn’t have mobile phones and we never got lost and we actually communicated with each other. We weren’t all narcissistic, selfie-obsessed snap chatters and we used Eye Spy books to get us through long car journeys.
But then you become the voice of experience.
I suddenly found myself with a teenage step daughter and I now have 3 teenagers and a 12 year old. Not a day goes by when I am not amazed by the amount of selfies they take. I honestly cannot fathom their obsession with snapchat and the compulsive need to keep streaks∗ going, even when they themselves have no access to their phone. Our house has turned into one huge vibration, as several smartphones buzz in every room, at any given moment, every day.
However, I also now know that this is their world. This is not the world that I was in as a teenager – it is their very real world.
And you know what? Parents are now bringing up their kids in this world with full access to this technology. Toddlers are handed smartphones to keep them quiet. Films are watched on I pads and apps downloaded on tablets. I read a blog yesterday, in which a mum felt guilty for not allowing her child to have access to technology as a toddler and now at nursery she is lagging behind her peers in her techy skills. We are laying the foundations for our teenagers and if we don’t, we are feeling guilty. Because suddenly that voice of experience kicks in and you realise that all the ideals you held when your child was an embryo are actually worth jack shit, because we are living in this world that we are creating now!
So my voice of experience doesn’t say to me: abandon all your ideals! It doesn’t say to me give up, nor give in and it certainly doesn’t tell me that I’m necessarily right. What it does tell me is to listen to your kids, observe them, communicate with them, learn with them and from them and ultimately remember that we are living in this world.
∗If you snapchat your friend day after day and you get a number at the side of their name then that means you are on a snapchat streak. The number means the amount of days the streak has been going
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