Not Just A Single Mom: Today I Had To Take The iPad Away
It’s not the first time the `screen fight’ has happened or the last time, but as a single mother, it bothers me to monitor my eleven-year-old daughter when I’ve tried to be a friend to her all these years.
When my husband and I got divorced eight years ago I vowed to be a cool friend to my child so she could talk about her feelings to me and share her world and her fears.
But today I learned I also need to be a mother. And sometimes being a mother is more important than being a child’s friend.
I don’t nag my child to study or play her piano (okay I do a little bit). I don’t stop her from eating anything, talking to anyone or having multiple extra-curricular activities, though everyone tells their kids to focus on only a few to succeed.
I truly don’t care about success or failure. Great marks or failing grades. Friends or being alienated. Over the years, I have even told my child that if she needs to hide things from me, I’m fine with that… except when she’s feeling depressed bullied or sick. I feel all of childhood should be a learning experience and it builds resilience!
But today I learned that childhood is a learning experience for parents as well. Single parenting takes resilience.
These screens that are the death of all parents today cause conflict, stress, irritation and lifestyle diseases. According to a CNN report, a child should not have more than two hours of screen time per day for all kids six years or below and no screen time at all till the child turns two. But it varies for older children as we live in an age of digital media.
Parents can’t always keep the child engaged, happy, and busy. We are humans with our own energy cycles. We need to give ourselves a break. Hence, we allow iPad’s, TV, etc to keep the child occupied instead of giving importance to boredom.
Today I came home from a long day of meetings and asked if she’d finished her homework. She was more eager to show me some yoga moves. “Mom I can do a backbend now!”
“Can we do this later please, ” I snapped. “I’m tired as well.”
She went back to her room and watched more iPad. Then after I had regained some energy, I went into her room and saw she’d not put her ironed clothes away.
Again, I snapped, “Why haven’t you put your clothes away? How many times do I need to tell you?”
“Mom I’ll do it before I go to bed,” she reasoned with me.
So, I used my only defense, “Why can’t things happen immediately? Why must they always happen according to your convenience and time? If I’m saying to do something, why is it a battle all the time? (One should never use all the time, forever, etc in conversation with children) How long have you been on the iPad?”
“Two hours,” she says and before she can say anything, I take it away muttering, “No more iPad for three days!”
Later, after she’d finished dinner, she put her clothes away. And was in bed on time.
Like she had said.
“I was listening to music on the iPad Mom. Why do you have screen fights with me? My grades are okay.”
“I don’t want you to be on social media and there are perverts out there. And blankly watching YouTube or Netflix isn’t going to make you smarter or better in school.”
“When I’m in school I concentrate on my studies. I go for all my extra-curricular classes. Even adults relax in front of devices. So why can’t I?”
I tucked her into bed, saying I will think about her argument, felt like a shitty mother for scolding her earlier and vowed to be better tomorrow.
Single parenting means you can’t complain to a spouse about helping out with your child, managing the house, looking after his/her homework or even playing the good cop if you’re the bad cop for a night. You need to be the good and bad cop ALL the time.
It can leave you conflicted because you just wanted to be their friend.
But being a parent means being a friend one day and a shitty irritating mom or dad another day. It also means you are the spiritual guide, a counselor, a confidante, a clown. You are the one they’ll love most in the world (or hate depending on how you treat them). They’ll look up to you. They’ll admire you. They’ll fight with you. They’ll detest you.
A Forbes survey showed that “parents recognized the social benefits that came from using screen technology. 79 percent said it increased their child’s creativity and 77 percent said it exposed the child to other cultures.”
The next day I gave her screen back to her with some rules.
“If you have five hours in a day at home between coming back from school and going to sleep, I need one hour of physical activity – dancing, playing a sport, etc. I need an hour of homework, reading or sudoku to stimulate your brain and I need one hour alone with me while we’re having dinner to talk about our day. And thirty minutes before you sleep the device needs to be switched off!”
“There’s no time left then!” she complained.
“If we watch a learning video together it counts as my time with you. But only allowed on some days.” She thought about it and agreed.
One can’t give something to a child and then monitor it. Imagine how you’d feel if you’re taken to a buffet lunch and told you can’t eat dessert. Or if you’ve won the lottery to go shopping, but told you can only buy two things in one colour. Feels restrictive, annoying and pointless. A child feels the same way when you buy them an iPad and then take it away.
Over the next few days I will be mindful of what she’s watching instead of how much. What more I can do with her instead of leaving her to do things alone. And when she’s bored, I’ll clap and say let’s get bored together and stare at the ceiling. Because if I get off my screen, I know she will too. I can only lead by example. After all who else can single parent’s kids look up to if it isn’t their mother?
A single parent‘s greatest gift is that no one can tell them how to raise their children. And if you forgive yourself and your child regularly for the fights you have and the mistakes both of you make, you’ll have a bond that can be better than any friendship they’ll ever have.
Image Credit: Pixabay
Madhuri is an author, film writer and single mother. She values her books, her friends and her freedom. The views expressed are the author’s own.