Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The View from the Outside

I was watching Good Morning America, or maybe it was the Today show, one morning last week. I was caused to halt, mid-towel-fold, while my mouth hung open and I groped for the T.V. clicker so I could amp up the volume. What I saw certainly could not be true. What I was watching MUST be a spoof or a terrible joke. I thought, am I really seeing what I THINK I'm seeing?

The footage I am referring to is a video of a two year old child from Indonesia who has a 2-pack-a-day smoking habit. Yes, TWO years old. And, yes, TWO packs a day.

I wondered, how in the hell did this child's mother not get run down by the mommy-comparison society? Certainly, she must be the poster child for "at least I'm not THAT mother." Many, many times I have talked to moms about giving their babies formula and said, "There is nothing wrong with formula. It's not as good as breastmilk but it's not like it's cigarettes." I can only imagine the irony if this child's mother breastfed her son.

However, after watching the CNN story about it, and hearing how smoking is such a huge part of the culture in Indonesia, I wondered if this woman even realized that smoking was bad for her child? Maybe, if she had any concerns at all, it was more of an inconvenience or a cost issue than a health concern. My thoughts gradually drifted to... maybe this woman isn't actually the worst mother of the year, by Indonesian standards; she only gets that award by American standards.

Which of course led me to think about our own parenting standards. By "our own" I mean America's. Now, the pendulum of American parenting practices swings pretty far in both directions from traditional to modern, from strict to permissive, from consistent to spontaneous. However, as societies all over the world are wont to do, we have adapted our own set of society norms. One of those norms is technology: PDA's (do people even use those anymore?), smart phones, netbooks, DSi, Wii, Bluetooth, etc. A recent memory I have, involving children and technology, is of going to a craft fair last summer. I saw a set of parents pushing a child in an umbrella stroller, who could not have been more than 4 years old, and he was engrossed in playing his Gameboy. He did not look up to see people or decorations or food. He made no eye contact with anyone, he did not speak, and he barely moved from the sitting position in the stroller (except for his two thumbs). If this moment had been caught on videotape and broadcast to Indonesia, would there be a flare of media attention about the American parenting choices? Maybe, to them, this is a health concern. And maybe, to them, we should see how seriously this will negatively affect our children. Maybe, they all would say to themselves, at least I'm not THAT parent.

Because, it's part of our society. Any negative effects of technology are quickly and quietly dismissed because we all LOVE our cell phones and laptops and GPS navigators. Everyone around us is using technology and it has morphed into a part of our culture that is synonymous with being American.

Yet, as much as we know about smoking, can we assume that Indonesian people have the same access to information that we do? If smoking is a huge part of their culture, maybe this child's mother is shocked at all the attention that has been drawn to her son.

I am IN NO WAY saying that it's okay for a 2-year-old to smoke. But, I *AM* saying that maybe we should ask ourselves, is it possible that WE are encouraging or exposing our children to smoking? (but when I say "smoking" what I really mean is "insert any activity here that doesn't actually help our child get smarter or healthier").

Trust me, the finger I'm pointing is directed at myself. Just wondering if anyone else has thought about this.

Texan Mama


misssrobin said...

Beautiful contrast/comparison.

Yes, I have often thought that we are doing our children in by wiring them to everything possible.

And I still have a PDA.

Gigi said...

I heard about that story too - it broke my heart.

I love that you took it further and bring up interesting points.

Yes, I think we are harming our children with technology. A child should be playing with other children and interacting with the world - not plugged into a GameBoy. I made my son wait to get his first GameBoy and though at first he was all into it, he quickly got bored with it and would then go play with his friends. I made him wait for his first cellphone - because really? What do middle-schooler's need with a phone? Now that he's more independent and I need to know where he's at, it's a different story. By actually wiring these kids up at a very young age, and giving them free reign, we are harming them. They are losing touch with reality and how to deal with people. And it's sad.

Maggie S said...

The technology thing is a disease. Your comparison to the smoking toddler is brilliant.

Does he light his own smokes or does someone do it for him?

BlessedMomof2 said...

Very valid points. It's becoming increasing obvious to me as I say no over & over to my 6 yr old, who has friends with DSi's(he has a leapster - I'm not the worst mom!!) , tv in their rooms, & cell phones!! What?!?!? He's 6!

Jennifer said...

I like the parallel. I think it is kind of funny that we always compare everyone else to our standards when the rest of the world probably looks at us and wonders what we are thinking. Not just countries but person to person as well. It is always easier to judge someone else's actions than to view our own through those same eyes.

Draea Lael (Rose) said...

I have always felt this way about technology (the funny thing is that my geek hubby is even more strict with the kids about it than I am!) I have 4 kids, oldest is almost 15, youngest is 6. None of them have a cell phone, we have a 3rd cell for them to use if they are going somewhere and we need to be able to reach them or they need to be able to call us. (mostly the 14 yro)We have 1 tv in the house, in the living room. We have a DSi, a Wii and a 360. We have these things, but they have to earn them, and can't get on them until after 3pm, and only if they have done all of their chores and been outside playing for at least 2 hrs. My students think that I am a super strict crazy mom and always ask my daughter how does she manage...she's, its always been like that, its not that big of a deal. Society has definitly gone downhill in a lot of ways. Technology CAN be an amazing link to people but most ppl use it to hide or become anonymous. There is nothing worse in the world to watch than a couple on a date where one is paying more attn to their phone than their partner, or a family that has completely disconnected due to the numerous gadgets they all possess. It does truly make me sad.

Jack said...

Awareness and moderation are key elements of parenting.

Bridgett said...

We have a lot of tech in our house (husband in IT). But the things we own have a time and place. Car trips are boring when you don't read yet, and so we have a DVD player for the car--but not for trips under 3 hours. The DSI is for long trips, or the 9 year old "owner" can trade other screen time to play it. And she must share. Draea Lael's idea of a 3rd generic phone is brilliant and we will probably implement that later on.

I prefer technology time to TV time--TV is so passive and at least with a game system you are doing something. There is also no "screen time" for the 18 month old. I guess moderation is key, as in most things.

But not tobacco with small children. Not tobacco, alcohol, other addictive substances. Their brains (and lungs) are too young. I've taught too many drug-addicted children (born addicted, I mean).

Now let me go get another cup of coffee....

Jen said...

Wow, this is terrible. Really.

But I agree with the spin that you put on the story. I already see my kids picking up my bad habits.

Anna See said...

very interesting comparison. you know how i feel about the takeover of technology...and smoking too.

Sana said...

i think we do expose our children to smoking, the reason being that we go to places and see tv in which people are seen smoking. the best thing is to eradicate smoking

Jennifer said...

I love your comparison! We were in Applebees about a year ago and there was a young couple at the table with their (what appeared to be) three year old child. A small laptop was on the table in front of him playing cartoons and he was completely engrossed while the couple enjoyed themselves. Don't think I don't think of it for a moment while we are sitting in the restaurant and my almost three year old is throwing fits ( and objects), but I just think dinner time is together time- good or bad. And, what ever happened to good old crayons to keep 'em entertained?

Melani said...

I saw that video a few weeks ago or something like is horrible, just horrible and to think that mom won't take his cigs away because she doesn't want him to cry??? what the hell is that???

I tend to agree with you. In America, I am sure the technology has taken over. In our home, we are a gaming family. Period. BUT, and I really mean BUT, we limit the kids playing times as a rule. We all play our DS's which is a newer version of the Gameboy, that is our family time, some days. But only for a while and then we put them away and do something else. I think moderation is key to this.

Wendy said...

You raise a great point.

My 5-year-old niece has a $300 i-Pod. Her dad, after playing scrabble on his iPhone throughout his grandmother's funeral and ignoring the whole family for the next four hours till it was time to go while he played on his stupid phone, tried to tell all of us that video games are so interactive and require enough activity that it isn't really necessary for kids to go play outside anymore, or have friends over. They can just connect through their Wiis.

What he got was six people staring at him, dumbfounded. Trying not to laugh.

Mebbe we should have laughed. I think what they're doing is every bit as harmful (or has the potential to be) as 2 packs of cigarettes per day.

Side note: when his daughter comes to visit us, we confiscate that stupid thing. She doesn't even notice.