Chopping Vegetables

We got home from the beach this afternoon. It was all action stations, unpacking, tidying, dinner preparation. I managed to find half an hour where I was inside, alone, chopping vegetables for dinner (with an empty fridge an a kitchen full of bags, tonight it was roast veggies and tuna for the kids and tofu red curry for the grownups). The kids were playing happily in the backyard and there was a brief moment of blissful quiet.

I poured a glass of wine and, out of habit, I set my laptop up and went to youtube, to check the channels I like to watch and see which had updated while we were away. This habit of watching a screen while I’m cooking, using it as a reward, has become such a compulsion I whipped my laptop out before the third child had closed the back door on their way out. I realised how slow it had made me at dinner time, forever stopping to search for the next clip to watch, pausing to listen to whatever was being shown or said, forgetting where I was up to with my cooking.

Clogging my mind with more: more junk, more thoughts, more noise.

I thought of my 2018 intentions and I closed the laptop. I put on some classical music, this, and was amazed by the beauty of it, by the way my thoughts – actual real-time thoughts – flowed, by the way my thumb whipped and curled around the curves of the potatoes as I peeled and chopped, grit collecting underneath my nails and noise releasing from my head, dissolving into the air around me.

Over the years I have slowly but incessantly become reliant on screens to entertain me, to fill me up, to add bulk to moments of natural quiet throughout my day. Sometimes I enjoy it, but I am increasingly feeling frustrated at losing my train of thought, at turning on a screen before I even realise what I am doing, at feeling foggy-headed and full, just so full of other people’s thoughts and lives and details. Sometimes by the end of the day I feel so overstimulated I can barely think. It’s something I’m trying to be mindful of, to be aware of what is happening for me when I’m reaching for my phone, for entertainment, for external stimuli. It’s time I thought about my own screen time, not just that of the girls.

Dinner was served at 6pm. The hoards came inside. The next wave of the day began.

I survived

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So it turns out I am perfectly capable of living a normal life outside of social media, without turning into Gollum searching for The Ring. After the first few days, I actually didn’t miss it at all!

The other day I downloaded Instagram onto my phone again. I’ve clicked the app maybe five times in the last three or four days, as opposed to five times in an hour that I was capable of previously.

I can now sit down and think, my mind feels clear, my feet are on the ground.

I was sitting at the traffic lights during the week and I looked into the window of the car next to me. I saw a two year old in his seat, tapping away eagerly on a screen of some sort. This time spent away from social media has really made me think (again) about the place screens play in our lives. How seamlessly they slip, unassuming, into the fabric of our homes.

We bought an iPad last Christmas for KB’s work. I have used it a handful of times and actually forgot we had it until about six weeks ago, when the girls asked if they could watch ABC KIDS on it. They sometimes have a go on one at their Nan and Pa’s place, and surprisingly (or not?) they knew how to use it better than I did. Since that day they have asked to use it constantly, and being so bedraggled I started to say yes. Before I knew it they were having iPad time every afternoon and started to cry if I said no.

What have I done!?

I think it’s unrealistic while I’ve got such a small baby that I ban screens altogether (I’m actually just not willing to put myself through that right now… for better or worse) but I am so conscious and conflicted as their world is saturated with technology, unlike my own childhood… it just doesn’t feel right.

We’ve got some thinking to do, that’s for certain.

our generation

I was watching Baby reading tonight. Prince Charming and I were finishing off our dinner and having a chat at the table. The little tot took herself off to the bookshelf, threw a few books around before selecting the one she wanted. She walked over to the couch, climbed up, hauled a teddy up behind her and preceded to flick through the pages. This occupied her for a few minutes, after which she brought the book over to show us.

We were talking about her children, and wondering if they would ever be sitting on the couch reading books, or throwing books around in piles. Feeling the texture of the pages, the weight of the cover. Flipping through and looking at the pictures. Getting a paper cut. And does it really matter? Does it add to the experience of reading? Is it part of reading, to feel the slightly rough surface of a page beneath your fingertips?

We imagined the same scene, Baby on the couch, skimming her finger across an iPad or kindle, reading a book she had chosen from a list of pictures on a screen. I don’t mean to sound old fashioned (or do I…), but it just didn’t seem to hold the same magic.