FIONA LOONEY

KITCHEN SINK DRAMA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

t is, ac­cord­ing to The Boy, ‘the worst thing that ever hap­pened this fam­ily’. The Teenager, sim­ply, isn’t hav­ing it: ‘ YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME!’ was her mea­sured re­sponse on day three. The Youngest, hav­ing ini­tially spotted an op­por­tu­nity to earn brownie points over the two op­po­nents, was briefly com­pli­ant, but by the sec­ond week, was also re­quest­ing lee­way and dream­ing up loop­holes. I am call­ing it a Tech­nol­ogy Break. Bizarrely, it has al­most in­stantly been re­named Tech­nol­ogy Time. And in­so­far as it is now the al­lo­cated two hours a day in which we fight over tech­nol­ogy, I sup­pose it is.

I have told them to blame their school. I got the idea, see, at the meet­ing for the par­ents of new first years a cou­ple of weeks back. It had started so well: me, third time around the block, walk­ing into the hall with a swag­ger, know­ing which box the wel­come pack would be in, tak­ing my fa­mil­iar place amongst the star­tled new­com­ers and lis­ten­ing to ad­vice and wise coun­sel that I’d al­ready heard twice be­fore.

And then it started creep­ing up on me: that some of the stuff the prin­ci­pal and deputy prin­ci­pal were ad­vis­ing didn’t re­ally hap­pen in our home. Oh, I long ago gave up try­ing to per­suade The Teenager to con­form with the uni­form code, and since she cur­rently fetches up there with green hair, with­out a tie, and with a collection of but­ton badges on her jumper — and then comes home again with­out a note — I gather the school has too. But there was other stuff: oblige them to read ev­ery day, they said, and I thought of The Boy, who has been read­ing Steven Ger­rard’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy for so long now that he’s es­sen­tially fol­low­ing the Liver­pool cap­tain’s life story in real time. Don’t al­low tele­vi­sions or com­put­ers in their bed­rooms — and while I’ve held fast on that, phones are now both tele­vi­sion and com­puter and two of mine ac­tu­ally sleep with them un­der their pil­lows. And I swear, in the cartoon they put on the screen about ex­ces­sive gam­ing, the cul­prit was the spit­ting im­age of The Boy.

And so I bounced home, full of re­solve, and broke the news: from now un­til the end of term, tech­nol­ogy is banned in our home be­tween seven and nine on school nights. Cue the

No bed­room TV? When phones are now both tele­vi­sion and com­puter, and two of mine sleep with them un­der their pil­lows

com­plete col­lapse of civ­i­liza­tion.

There are ex­emp­tions, of course. Oh, sud­denly, there are so many ex­emp­tions. If they need the com­puter for home­work, they can ask per­mis­sion and use it un­der su­per­vi­sion. The other evening, I no­ticed that The Teenager’s exam prepa­ra­tion seemed to in­volve Face­book (this was what prompted the whole YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME out­burst). The Youngest went di­rectly from a project on the so­lar sys­tem to an­other one on In­dia, with­out ei­ther pass­ing go or col­lect­ing a gold star, which struck me as odd. The Boy ex­plained that he suf­fers from a syn­drome that means his brain can be dam­aged by spend­ing too long in the com­pany of a maths book (to be fair, I sus­pect that might be ge­netic). When The Youngest asked if it was al­right to turn on the light dur­ing tech­nol­ogy time, I pointed out that a) it was broad day­light and there­fore aca­demic; and b) she is now as ex­as­per­at­ing as her sib­lings.

It wasn’t sup­posed to be like this. In my head, on the way home from that school meet­ing, I had imag­ined that they would all be­come smarter, hap­pier and bet­ter read — and that, in a week or two, we would go on The John Mur­ray Show in or­der that a grate­ful na­tion might con­grat­u­late me on my mag­nif­i­cent par­ent­ing.

In­stead, tech­nol­ogy time has be­come a bat­tle ground, with the only respite com­ing when The Boy has a match (fix­tures he might have skipped a fort­night ago have now be­come an ex­cuse to leave our tech­nol­ogy- de­prived home), when The Teenager has her singing les­son and when I go for a walk. Which I am do­ing a lot these evenings, en­sur­ing, of course, that the elec­tronic de­vices are all turned off be­fore I go. Then I leave the chil­dren on trust and in the care of a par­ent who is so sur­gi­cally at­tached to his mo­bile that he hasn’t even no­ticed that tech­nol­ogy time now of­fi­cially ex­ists. I’m find­ing, cu­ri­ously, that these walks of mine are last­ing about two hours. And ac­cord­ingly, ev­ery­one — in­clud­ing me — sud­denly seems a lot hap­pier. You can just email me the par­ent­ing award (though not, ob­vi­ously, be­tween the hours of seven and nine.)

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