The Four to Eight Challenge

No, I am not challenging you to breastfeed from 4 years to 8 years. This post isn’t even about challenging to breastfeed from 4 months to 8 months…. This post isn’t about breastfeeding at all….This post is about technology and the way it has changed our lives.

I will be quick to say that I am indeed grateful in so many ways for the rapid advancement in technology and the availability of the world wide internet. It has been so helpful in my life, especially since I live on the other side of the world from my family and many friends. In the aftermath of the tsunami in 2011, it aided in my knowledge of the whereabouts of many of my dear loved ones and it also allowed me to contact my family to let them know that my family was still alive. I am thankful for the internet.

I am thankful that I can look up anything that starts to worry me as I raise my child, be it a normal mommy worry or a serious medical condition. There is literally an endless amount of information right at my fingertips whenever a question pops up into my mind.   “Should I teach my child to read before the age of three?”
“Is it normal to get a rash after a hot bath?”
“How long is too long to leave a cavity?”                                                                         “How do I treat my child’s cough naturally?”                                                                 If you have a question, it is highly likely that someone else had had that same question and there is a forum or a website with all the answers you were or weren’t hoping to find.

Another amazing thing about this infinite amount of information is that if my daughter asks me a question that I don’t have all the answers to I can say, “hold on, let’s look it up.”               “Why do birds have white poop?”                                                                                   “What exactly makes the wind blow?”                                                                           “Why does it rain?”                                                                                               You get the idea. Usually I try to give an answer that suits her age. For example when asked why it rains I usually reply, “so that the plants and trees can grow and to fill our lakes with more water.” But sometimes that is not enough for her. She really wants to know WHY. So I am thankful that I can look things up virtually anytime I like and I can find an answer or a video or a picture that can describe it in ways that I don’t have the ability to do. On the other hand…..

With this constant availability of information at our fingertips there is also a loss of wonder. My husband brought that point up. To wonder about something, to really wonder and ponder and mull it over in your mind can be such a beautiful and inspiring action. What will our future generations be missing out on because of the lack of the lack of an answer to every question. Or just merely having to wait until you could get your hands on the encyclopedia or a book from the library about it. We have constant access to information these days and though it is wonderful and I am truly thankful for it, I am also a little tired of it. I am not saying I want to do away with it and raise my daughter in the woods away from all technology (although that wouldn’t be terrible). I am saying though, that I want to teach her the importance of wonder and waiting and of being present to those around her.

So much can be lost by always reaching for a device to find the answer. I try hard not to do that but I am definitely guilty of doing it more than I would like.

And what about the life that is happening around you while you have your eyes glued to a screen? I am not here to shame anyone or judge anyone who uses their phone or tablet in the presence of their child. That is definitely not what this post is about. I am, rather, challenging myself and those who wish to accept the challenge to take a step back and try doing things without your device for a little bit each day. We lived without WiFi and constant access to the internet not so long ago and I know we can still do it today.

Most people who know me personally know that I’m not one to stay on my iPod texting or using the internet when I’m in their presence or my daughter’s presence. My rule for myself has always been that I generally don’t use social media or read blogs, answer email, etc. when my daughter is around. I usually do these things when she is in bed or during the day when she is at school. I have found myself from time to time though, reaching for my ipod to check my email or facebook and though it is a quick glance (perhaps while she is watching a Daniel Tiger episode on netflix that I have seen MANY times) it is still taking me out of the moment I could be sharing with my daughter and my husband.

Starting last Tuesday I gave myself a challenge. When I left my office for the day I turned of my WiFi on my ipod. I told myself I would not turn it back on until the next morning. I decided that there really is nothing so important to me that I need to be checking my email or facebook that couldn’t wait until morning. I left my cell phone on and if there had been an emergency someone could call me and skype was still signed in on my computer. Also if Violet had become ill and I needed to look up something medical, I could still look it up on my computer to find an answer.

That night as I played with my daughter, I felt so free. I felt untethered and alive. I felt fully present to my family in a way that I haven’t felt since we got the wireless router installed. It was wonderful.

I am not saying to unplug yourself completely.

Here is the challenge that I gave myself and that I have been doing for the last 4 days:

From the hours of 4pm – 8pm I switch my ipod to airplane mode. I haven’t actually been turning mine back on until morning. But the agreement is to have it off from at least 4-8. If I really truly need to know something I can look it up on my computer. And starting this weekend I am also going to be using airplane mode all day on Sunday. That is 4 hours a day and all day one day of the weekend.

If you are a stay at home parent perhaps challenge yourself to turn off the WiFi for 4 hours during the day when you can best engage with your children. And maybe even a certain amount in the evenings too so that you can connect with your spouse.

Another challenge could be switching to airplane mode when you are in the presence of others (out to dinner or visiting with a friend).

I hope that this will be a start for my family to teach by example the importance of respect for each other and those around you. Technology is here to stay and I am glad for it. But as long as we are allowed to live on this planet we also need to have the ability to communicate and connect with each other on a human level. I hope to teach my daughter how great technology can be but also to practice moderation in using it.

This is my hope and this is the 4-8 challenge. I hope you will join me!

4-8challenge

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