Having just come back from Toronto where I stayed for a week while attending the incredible Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC 2012), I have had a fair amount of travel time to think and reflect on all manner of things.
Admittedly, most of this has centred around Microsoft and their technology and Mimecast and our partner ecosystem.
As usual, he rest of my thoughts have been focussed on my family and how they are getting on without me, when I will next speak to them and what surprises I will get them for letting me go away for so long.
On this train on the way from London to Swansea, I engaged in a text mesage string with Emma, letting her know which train I was on and my expected arrival times, while she filled me in on her movements for the day, typical logistical stuff. Typical that was until I received
“Opp”? I was more than a little flummuxed so I texted back saying “por que?” [side note: I know that por qué means 'why' but I have always used it in the 'what' context because its all Greek to me...]
A good few minutes later I got
Don ‘ t de silly Bazza it’s me griffin
Ok, so my 7 year old son has commandeered Mum’s iPhone. That makes sense… Not to be outdone by my son, I wrote back a little mood booster so that the next few hours with Mum pass without incident. I told him he was beautiful, clever and strong. I also said that I have lots of surprises for him.
I got back
Yay thank you and I can ‘ t wait for you. By Griffin . I roat my name so you would reemembir.
After I had finished laughing and beaming with pride, i got to thinking about what this means and I came up with a few thoughts about the development of mankind.
Firstly, it is no secret that children are losing their childhood faster than we as adults did. Much of this is attributed to the content so readily available to them on the Internet, television and cinema.
I have always largely agreed with this and tried to appropriately shelter Griffin from the horrors of the world and let him keep on being a happy and healthy child that develops at his own rate.
Today that changed.
Now I don’t claim this to be an original thought, nor have I researched it in any way, I have simply decided to capture my unfinished thoughts into this post and see hat others think.
After receiving that text I spent a little time reminiscing – with pride I might add – on the things that Griffin does to emulate me.
He idolizes me, he wants to be me, he wants me to be happy. Ok, most of the time he ants himself to be happy, I am just a by product of that
Griffin sees me working all day at my computer and heading off to London every week to work in the offices at Mimecast and he wants nothing more than to have his own computer and in fact a room in my flat in London of his very own so that he too can come and work at Mimecast. He has asked me on many an occasion to get him a job there, telling Mum that she must “look after the house while Bazz and I go to work”.
He has even gone as far as basically booting Mum off of her own desk in my office and claiming it as his own so that he too can “work” in “his office” – just like Dad…
He wants to drive cars like me, he wants to have a cell phone like me, he wants to have money like me and he wants to be able to make decisions like me. Granted, this is not all about me and me alone, much of this is also an emulation of Emma too, I am just looking at this from my perspective.
Griffin has already “owned” two laptops. He was a little too young for them and ended up breaking them through his lack of understanding of how to be careful with something as delicate as an old and falling apart laptop… He had Windows XP on one and an educational Linux distro on the other and both of them very slowly beaten into submission by his accidental knocks and drops.
Every time he sees another child with a mobile, he tries desperately to get Emma and I to give him one, using the fact that other children have got them as his justification for us to get him one. We have pseudo-capitulated and he now has an old Nolia feature phone that I have been keeping in my office as a backup in case of emergency…
Every night at bed time, Griffin asks us the same question
What time are you going to bed?
Every night we tell him that we are going to bed later as we have grown up things to do.
When he sees us looking at film previews and we say we want to watch them, so does he and he is very quick to tell us how unfair it is for us to be able to watch things that he isn’t allowed to simply because he is too young.
Anyway, are you seeing the pattern here?
He wants to be just like his parents, the people he knows the most, loves the most and idolizes more than anyone else he knows. This is perfectly natural.
It is also I believe the primary reason that children today are growing up so fast.
Lets take a look back at the past. My past specifically.
When I was a child, my parents both worked. They dropped my brother and I at nursery school in the mornings and collected us some time in the afternoon. We had sitters and nanny’s looking after us while they were at work.
When they came home, they did so without shiny gadgets and 24 hour availability, they came home and played with us, ate dinner and took part in family life.
Granted, my folks got divorced when I was about 4 years old, but that pattern continued with my mom. Work happened at work, play happened at home. If we weren’t playing at home, we were helping clean up the house, cook the food or doing homework.
I still wanted to be able to drive the car and in fact occasionally got the opportunity to steer the car sitting in my Mom’s lap, driving down the dirt roads on the way to Tante Hannah’s farm, where I would run around with the other kids chasing chickens, looking at tortoises and begging for rides on the tractor.
If I wanted to watch a movie, we had to travel all the way to Film Fanatix in Craighall Park to rent an 8mm reel with something or other on it, hang a sheet across a window and wait for it to get dark so we could actually watch the thing. We had a small slice of time available in the afternoons to watch children focussed broadcasts and a single five minute cartoon during the breakfast broadcast in the morning.
Television simply wasn’t a focal point.
We had the TV on while we ate our evening meal, but the kids sat with their back to the TV and the adults watched the news in the background.
I remember thinking that I wanted to be a cowboy, I wanted to be a fireman, I wanted to be a policeman. Later, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I don’t recall ever wanting to be an engineer like my dad?
Our parents had no ipads and smartphones, computers at home didn’t happen until we were signficantly older and talking on the telephone to someone in another country was a big deal.
These days, non of that holds true and I think it is this invasion of our homes by the technology and work practices that we as modern humans have been perpetuating that is causing our children to grow up faster than needs be.
Why should they settle for playing cowboys and indians when they can play on Mum’s iPhone? Mum plays on her iPhone ergo it is a suitable entertainment device.
Why should they stay little when they are trying so desperately to grow up – LIKE WE ALL DID – and are being given the tools to do so by their own parents?
I work from home all the time, Griffin sees me working from home and he wants to work. I never saw my parents working and so I never wanted to work like them. Not until much later in life anyway. I use a Windows Phone – Griffin wants a BlackBerry (I used to have one of those so its validated in his mind…) I stay up late, travel and watch whatever movies I want and he wants all of this and will fight tooth and claw to grow up.
Children get exposed to adult themed content accidentally all the time. They listen to what their parents are talking about and they apply their own context to what they hear. They see the news, the see the newspapers, they are exposed to humanity on a daily basis and let’s face it – that is probably the most “adult” theme of them all. We rape, burn, pillage and destroy without a care in the world.
On one hand we talk about cruelty to anumals being appaling and on the other we smile while we carve the flesh off of animals we have bought at the supermarket.
We tell them smoking is bad and come home reeking of smoke (well i used to – almost 5 months without a drag now) and we tell them booze is bad while sipping our chardonnay.
I propose that it is not television, cinema and the Internet that is causing our children to grow too fast but rather that it is societal change that is introducing work and technology to the home that was never there before.