Saturday, 20 October 2012

Judgy McParents... Here you go... Have a field day!

Ok, I'm going to be very honest here. I have a confession. And, you are the first to know...

I. Am. A. Hypocrite.

There. I said it.

What ya gonna do about it?

Let me explain further?

2 years ago, when my eldest was the age my middle child is (3 and 1/4) at exactly this time of year (October) we (me and some other mums) were discussing possible Christmas present ideas for our kids who were all in the same class. I was absolutely horrified to discover a couple of them were buying their children a DS. And my face, bless its cotton socks, does not hide horror well. They justified it to me with "they have older siblings"/ "it's the only thing they want"/"blah blah blah"

I couldn't believe children as young as this were being given such expensive and anti-social items.

But a year later and my eldest had too become a computer fiend: they had access to i pads and i pod touches at school; his grandparents had a touch screen PC which he loved: he mastered the mouse on our laptop; and, begrudgingly, we had relented and downloaded some "educational" apps on our phone. Basically the digital world had crept up on us and now it had his virtual fingers around our necks. So, that Christmas we decided we would get him his own tablet style computer.

But we weren't irresponsible, frivolous parents. We researched this properly. We found the most educational and value-for-money tablet there was and that was the one he got. A Leap pad explorer. And he loved it. He could take pictures (me in the bath) video record (me breast feeding) and access educational math and phonic games as well as e-books.

The downside was that it turned out every app cost at least £7 each and any Disney or mainstream apps were around £20. But we set it up as reward system for doing well at school, so he earned a new app. (I know, evil aren't we?)

A few months later his younger brother threw it on the floor and smashed the screen. Game over. And with Leap Pad being an American company it seemed nowhere in the UK was able to repair it for us. There we go. Money well spent!

So this year all he does want is a new i pad (bless him, he really thinks it was one) and we have been wondering what to do.

We know if we had bought him a i pod touch or a DS last year and the screen had broken we could have got it fixed ANYWHERE. We also know that Android or apple tablets have thousands and thousands of free apps. Some educational too. and out of the ones you have to buy the most expensive is usually around £4. We also know that these hand held devices do last a lot longer in terms of "growing with your child" if they can mange not to break or lose them in that period.

But deciding the 5 year old ( most of his year group is 6) will get some sort of handheld computer device for Christmas was pretty definite.

But what about his 3 year old brother?

The one who is obsessed with anything digital: phones, laptops, ipads and beebies. The one who is throws terrible tantrums when it comes to sharing and taking turns. The one who has every toy suitable for his age group because his older brother already had it. The one who wouldn't want any of his own presents if he sees his brother with THAT. What do we get him?

The equivalent cost in plastic crap that he won't use or bother with past January?

A bike or scooter? Even though our shed is full of barely used ones?

Generally as parents, we are more sensible than most when it comes to Christmas spending. We can't afford to be anything else, we have three kids and one income!

So when I sat with my OH last night discussing digital Christmas presents and said "Do we get Jonty one too?" I then had to scramble around on the floor, pick up those dirty words and eat them! Because yes, I was THAT parent and I AM that parent, I'm a hypocrite.

The truth is I don't want my 3 year old to have an ipod touch, or a DS or similar. And the truth is he probably won't get one. But if he did, it would make my life a lot easier.

Yes, there would be no arguments, no fighting and no tantrums, yes it would keep him quiet whilst I was making dinner, or breastfeeding the baby or you know, blogging. But in reality what is that teaching him?

It's ok you never have to talk to us. You never have to share. Yes, the world does revolve around you.

And in buying him it am I not just giving in to this materialistic world of ours? Just giving in because it's easy. Giving in because I feel guilty about the world being such a shitty place. Do we all fill our homes with expensive crap for them because we are too scared to let them go outside on their own?

Of course, given a choice, I want them to have my childhood. Where a computer was what Dad borrowed from school in the 6 week holidays and was shared between three of us. The games were on 5 inch floppy discs which loaded up to the sound of a tractor revving its engine. On a good day the games loaded up, the rest of the time it just made the noise. I want them to spend the rest of their free time making dens in the woods, skateboarding in alleyways, staying out till they are near dehydrated and only returning to glug a litre of water and grab an apple. I want them to have all that rather than a computer. But sadly, today, the police are still searching for a 5 year old's body, and for now, my children are just too small and too precious to be let loose in that world without me.

Maybe I'll just get him one of these?

What do think blogging hemisphere? Do we put an age limit on digital gifts? Did you? How old were your kids when they got their first computer-esque gift?

I dunno what the answer is, maybe I'll just right a letter to some bearded bloke with a soft spot for the colour red and see what he thinks!


  1. Great piece on a real parenting headache. I've got two sons - one 14 and one seven.

    The seven year old wants to be able to join in with the things his big brother has - laptop... iPhone (a three year old hand-me-down), DS, etc etc.

    I wish I knew the answer!

    1. Thank you very much. It is a headache though!

  2. I know it is a real dilemma! In our house, we have an iPad and an iPod touch. Neither of them are my sons'. They are mine and hubs'. But, they get to download apps and play games on them for specific time slots. They have their own accounts on each so there is no "he ruined my game" drama (we learned that lesson pretty fast). Last year, my elder son was allowed to download $20 worth of games on both devices for his birthday present...he loved the idea and so did we!! ;)

    1. Once you show them what they can do they never leave it alone! But they are amazing bits of kit so I see why they love them as mucha s us.

    2. Hi! I liked your post so much, I promoted it:

  3. I teach in senior schools and so many kids can't function without their phones. Some have a clinically diagnosed separation disorder. Confiscation results in begging,crying,'s really worrying. Having said that, most aren't shown how to use the powerful tools they have for educational, organisational purposes or when it is healthy to step away.Having, with that education might lead to healthier teen behaviour. Xx

    1. Hi Rosie. I too once taught teenagers. And I have witnessed the scarily irrational behaviour of having something material confiscated. But yes, you're right, whatever my children have they must be taught how to use it responsibly, sensibly and healthily. What else can we do?