I used to make the best train tracks. I was determined to use every bit we had, all the little tricksy bits that created sidings and loops. I constructed endless monotonous machines out of Mobilo and my boys used to laugh heartily at my crazy lego cars adorned with flowers. I have loved my children to the moon and back more times than I can count, in between guessing how much we love each other. I can tell you the names of every character in any number of children’s TV programmes (including, shudder, Yo! Gabba Gabba!). I have endured live performances by Thomas and Friends (in a theatre), Bob the Builder (in a shopping centre) and High 5! (in a park, where the free-food tent proved more enticing for all of us).
I have felt as though I was risking frostbite in every park in a ten-mile radius, enjoying especially those lacking coffee shops and loos. I cheered and exclaimed when wobbly bridges were crossed, spider-web climbing frames scaled, slides slid down over and over again. I have pushed and pushed and pushed swing after swing.
And I had no idea how much I loved it all before the advent of the dreaded screens. It is all I can do to get my boys to come for a walk (boring!) or do a puzzle (cinch!). Once in a blue moon the train box gets opened but then the competition for pieces overwhelms and away it goes again. They read to themselves with the exception of the youngest who is intent on completing the entire Zac Power catalogue before Christmas which may well kill me with boredom at the sheer repetition.
But really, all they want to do is screen time. Apart from the odd game of soccer, which in our garden with its cliffs and drops is quite lethal, it is literally all they want to do. And I just can’t find the motivation to join in. They tell me long, elaborate stories of ravines, gems, gold dust, endermans (?), zombies. It takes all my self-control not to put my hands over my ears and yell “I just don’t care!”
Quite apart from the fighting that ensues when one feels hard done by in terms of time on one device or another, to me it just seems so bloody boring.
But am I losing something, some vital connection with my children, by not engaging in these games? I worry that I will be left behind to such an extent that they will tire of even telling me about what they are doing. I have always hoped to be the kind of mum that her sons feel they can talk to, but if I can’t show interest in this ‘hobby’, how can I expect them to want to share other aspects of their lives?
I know it is our job to be slightly out of touch, otherwise what would each generation have to moan about their boring old parents? But my husband has stolen a march on me by joining their clan (literally in a game), speaking their language. A crammer course in gaming would go down a treat, just in order for me to get my lingo right. Perhaps if I could teach myself some stock replies, I could have a chance at faking it till I make it and find I have sons who speak to me still in a few years time. Advice from parents ahead of me on the long road of technology gratefully received.