The Voice of Experience

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:

https://justsayingmum.com/

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.

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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

If you enjoy my blog, I would be very grateful if you voted for me in the Mumsnet Blogging Awards: Best Writer and best Comic Writer categories. It is a quick one – takes seconds and here’s the link, thank you 🙂

http://www.mumsnet.com/events/blogging-awards/2016

28 thoughts on “The Voice of Experience”

  1. Love this!!! I totally appreciate what you’re saying here. As a selfie lover myself, I still can’t get over the world that the younger generation are growing up in these days. I was saying to my mum the other day, how I wonder with all these apps and filters on offer, will the kids of today have those days in years to come when they look back at photos of their younger years and grimace and cringe and what they wore or what their hair was like? Personally, I think not and that does make me sad!
    #stayclassy

    1. That’s a good point about the photos! Those dog ears they stick on cover a multitude of sins! Filters are such a bonus when you look a bit shit! Thank you so much for your comments.

  2. So true..smart phones etc are their world, they are natives and we just tourists (or whatever the saying is) Monitor it, yes, but to restrict it completely is to deny how the world has moved on! #stayclassy

  3. This is a really important point that you have made. The phone, iPad whatever their means of interacting with their peers is so important that they will do pretty much anything to avid of it being taken away. At an Internet safety briefing we were told that the most important thing we want from our children is that they come to us when they’ve messed up, when they’re in trouble, when they can’t cope. If our knee jerk reaction to everything is to take away the phone then they won’t ever come to us.

    1. Absolutely and that knee jerk reaction is explored in Helen’s second Vlog with the experts. They point out that communication is key. Thank you for commenting Anna.

  4. Oh I hear you. The voice of experience is worth hearing and listening to much more so than people who have never lived through this and don;t even know how to work a cell phone never mind a smart phone. Our children are growing up in a technological world and by taking the technology away we are solving nothing. For me you hit it on the head when you talked about communication. I strongly believe (as I mentioned in my post) that we have to communicate more, be more open and our kids need to trust that they can come to us with anything.

  5. Hi Alison, I think that people mean well when they say things, but the world changes and things move on. Somethings for the better, somethings not so, but they are changes we must accept, embrace and learn to live with. Or we could spend so much time living in the past and remembering how things used to be that we miss the here and now and that would be a shame.

    xx

    1. Yes Debbie, this is so true. Also, I know that, for example, I remember my daughters’ milestones incorrectly and so a lot of the advice I could give someone with a toddler now wouldn’t necessarily be much good. Also relevance changes, as new trends come in: the age to wean etc. So I really feel that, while all opinions are valid, to be listened to it needs to be someone else living those moments with you, or someone who has just got through the other side! Thank you so much for your comments as I really appreciate them X

  6. This is so important. Phones and technology are their world and you cannot hide them from it. Teaching them how to navigate that world while you can still monitor it is crucial. Also crucial -experience! When my husband’s childless uncle heard that my kids wouldn’t eat, he actually gave me advice that started, “I once had a cat that didn’t eat…” Thanks, Uncle, I think I’ll ask someone who has had a three-year-old human. #StayClassyMama

    1. I love this! That’s exactly what I mean. Everyone’s opinion is valid, however the only one that matters to the person in the moment is someone who is living that same moment . Thank you so much for your comments.

  7. This is such a refreshing post to read. I also loved those vlogs Helen did with her sister…it was her teenage sister right? 😉
    Part of my love-hate affair with technology has been strengthened through blogging…after all, technology moves forward, not backwards..and if we do not keep up with it, it will keep going on – leaving us way behind, in the dark.
    Thanks so much for linking up to #coolmumclub

    1. Mine too! I was terrified of Twitter 6 weeks ago and now I feel far more confident. I’m really enjoying Helen’s vlogs – she is so natural. Thank you for all your comments.

  8. I had all the same questions when we hit certain milestones with my girls.. yes, everyones opinions and thoughts are valid, but it by no way means you have to do it that way. We didn’t let the teen have a phone until she was 11 BUT once she had one we let the preteen have one too, 3years earlier than the teen (?!) It wasn’t that we thought they should have the same, it was just that these things happened at the same time in their lives regardless of the age difference… the person who said under 16’s shouldn’t have phones, has their opinion and thats fine, but yes I agree, they do NOT have a teenager! lol 😉 well written post, I love it! Congrats on your nomination, I’ll give you a vote! 🙂 #coolmumclub

    1. Thank you so much for your comments – always appreciated. I agree with you – you just have to react to things as they happen and not, as I feel this person did, give thoughts on something they are a long way off experiencing themselves. We can never, ever say for sure how we will respond to something until we’re pretty much knee deep in it!

  9. This is a great post. It all became very real to me at reception open day where they told us about how our 4 year old will have an online learning account and a kid friendly introduction to social media.

    This was not in our plan not because of any deep seated objection (although I am uneasy) but because it never occurred to me that this would start so early.

    But then why wouldn’t it? As you point out its part of the furniture now, it would be a huge disadvantage to not learn the skills on how to navigate this parallel digital life.

    #StayClassyMama

    1. Thank you for your comments – I find this really interesting. I actually think that current teenagers aren’t as tech savvy as we all think they are. However, your child’s age group as teenagers are going to be way ahead of all of us!

  10. Oh Alison thank you for my mention in this post – apologies for delay in reading but I’ve been in Paris. I love the way that you also reflect and value that our teens live in a different world to what we did and we have to respect that times have changed and work with that instead of putting our old fashioned views on them – everything is a balance but we have to recognise that the world today is so different – and my view is we should embrace it so that we keep up better relationships with our teens and also empathise with them – it’ not easy for them at times in a world of social media obsession so we have to try our best to parent them through that and banning the phone is not the way to help them get through the teenage years. Thank you so much for all of your support with my vlogs – so appreciated xx

    1. Thank you for your comments, Helen. I hope you had fun in Paris. I’m looking forward to your next Vlog.

  11. I totally get this! You can’t compare their teenage-hood to your own, its a different generation and a very different world. You sound like an excellent voice of experience and reason #stayclassymama

  12. A really great post. Of course those with experience rarely have experience! The thing with kids now is that they’re growing up in a world far different to the one we did. Technology has come on leaps and bounds and it’s incredibly scary and annoying with all these filters, but it’s our life today. I will be completely making a judgment call when the time comes as to whether my little ones receive a mobile phone and the type of phone they receive. I don’t want to stop them from living in the smart phone obsessed world we live in, but I also don’t want them released into the world of web. It’s every parents decision like you said and it’s their right to make. What’s right for one isn’t right for another and of course it should never be a decision that is judged or pressured on someone. Really enjoyed reading #coolmumclub

  13. This is such an important lesson – I think the best thing we can do as parents is listen. Whilst we do have experience it will always be different to that of our childrens because we have grown up in different times with different people. Helens vlogs are great arent they?!

    Thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Helen’s vlogs are great and I got my girls to watch her first one and they loved it. Her latest one had the idea of putting discussion points into a pot and I talked to my lot tonight about that and they love the idea! It’s so good to share advice and thoughts. Thank you for your comments.

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