I'm six months into this "mommyhood" gig but I really don't feel like I'm a PARENT yet because Natalie is still a little bitty and all she has needed up until this point is love, hugs and cuddles. Craig and I have talked.....okay, I have talked and he has listened......about different rules and expectations we have for our children in our home. Here are a few.
Technology: In my school district there is a new policy being instituted that allows all students to bring any sort of technology into the school building to use during the course of their day. I'm on the fence about this new policy because on one side having a laptop available to take notes on during a difficult lecture in high school is a great idea, but on the other hand I think that there is a greater risk of cyber abuse and bullying. In addition - what about those families who, as a family rule, limit the amount of time that a child can use technology or don't have iPads to send to school with their child or who don't trust their children (or the other children in the school) to handle high priced technology appropriately? Okay. Rant over. Luckily, my principal is not diving into this headfirst without testing the waters. He is proceeding slowly, carefully and deliberately by assessing the needs of the classroom, the expectations of the teachers and the concerns of the parents before making any major policy change regarding technology at our school. One thing that I know is that Natalie will definitely not be one of the students who will be bringing her iPad or whatever is the "cool" thing when she is in middle school. Now to the rules and expectations:
- No television in the bedrooms. In our current house although the spare bedrooms are on the small side, there is a huge loft/playroom area upstairs that will be perfect for slumber parties, movies and spreading out lots of toys. The best part about this room is that I can sit on my bed in the master bedroom and see what is showing on the television against the playroom wall. That way I know what my kids are watching AND if they turn off the television when they are supposed to. I had a tv in my room when I was in high school and nothing good came of it because every night I was up way too late watching Conan O'Brien.
- Cell phones spend the night in the my room. Teenagers text incessantly and nothing good every happens after bedtime, especially when you're in middle and high school. Our plan is to have our children's cell phone chargers stay in our room or bathroom and every night before bedtime they will turn them into us to be charged and then receive them back in the morning. And I'll be honest - if I suspect that something is amiss in my child's life, I will have no problem searching through her call and text records to see what is going on. When I was in high school I received my first cell phone and my parents paid the bill but if I were to go over my monthly minutes (this was way before unlimited plans and texting) I had to pay the extra. I have no problem instituting that with our children and I can assure you that they will have the most basic of phones - unless they want to pay for the cooler one themselves.
- All computer screens must be visible to the rest of the family. If we are to stay in our current house (which I don't see a reason why we would move - I love our house, our location and our neighborhood) once Natalie is in elementary school we will convert what is right now the baseball card selling room that should be the formal dining room into a study/library. I would love to paint the room, get a new light fixture, place a rug on the floor with a cozy lamp and chaise lounge as well as a computer desk or armoire. This room is right off the kitchen so I envision that this is where homework would be completed in the afternoons while I am cooking dinner so that I can monitor progress as well as help on any problems. I would like to have a stationary family computer in this room so that I could leave my school laptop at school and have all my family photos and documents in one place in our home. I don't believe that there is any need for a child to have a laptop or computer in their room where an adult can't monitor the content that the child is exploring. AND....if I hold my child to that standard, Craig and I as parents must set the example and hold ourselves to that standard as well.
- No handheld devices at the dinner table. A few years ago I accompanied Craig on a Team Texas basketball tournament trip to San Antonio and one night while we were there a large group of players and parents went out to dinner at a fun Mexican restaurant. Craig and I sat with another coach and his wife while next to us was a large table of parents at one end and their daughters at the other. One end of the table was full of laughter, chatter and storytelling while the other end was completely silent except for the occasional BEEP that signaled a new text message had been received. Guess which group sat at which end. It made me so sad to see teenagers unable to communicate with their peers face-to-face. How ridiculous that they can't manage to go an hour without texting or IMing one another. That is not the image I have of dinners with my family. Dinner is a time for sharing about everyone's day, telling stories and discussing important topics - even just with the two of us I still ask Craig every night at dinner "did anything interesting happen today?" That's the way it was when I was growing up - we almost always had dinner together and oftentimes all televisions were turned off and the general rule was that the phone was not answered during dinner. Of course this means that Craig and I will have to be diligent in ignoring our own technology devices while eating dinner with our kids which will be hard but at the same time, I think it will be what is best for our family as a unit.
Okay. I didn't think that I would have so much to expain and think about just with technology....and by the time that she is old enough to use technology, who knows what kind of stuff will be out there! I guess I'll have to continue on with rules regarding other aspects of our family life in a different post!