Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘absorbed’


After a brief hiatus, Alt.Mother returns, topically enough, with a blog post on technology…

I was stunned recently when Alt.D1 turned on my laptop, clicked on CBeebies and set her favourite programme going!  She’s been pressing the pause button for a while, but whoah, that took it to new extremes… parental controls here we come!

We’ve been TV free in the Alt.House for about a year and a half now, and we love it.  There weren’t really any ethical reasons behind it, it was just practical.  We came home from a trip away during which the analogue television signal had been switched off in our area.  A couple of weeks later we turned on the TV and it didn’t work… we’d totally missed the switchover, and to coin a phrase, we thought “meh” to TV anyway.  So we gave it away and I cancelled the TV licence.  The people who came to pick it up via Freegle were delighted [recycling, see!], as were we – wow, loads of free time in the evenings instead of watching TV.  

Some people thought we were bonkers:  “What will you do?” they said. Others were concerned about our interior design scheme: “What will you point the furniture at?”

They needn’t have worried though. We had tonnes of stuff to do, and the furniture just points at each other.  Most people don’t notice the lack of big black box in the corner.  Maybe they think we have a TV room somewhere else in the palace house.

Whilst our friends and family looked on in mild amusement, either waiting for us to cave in or cheering us on from the sidelines, the TV Licensing Authority were a different kettle of fish.  When I said earlier that I cancelled the TV Licence, it wasn’t quite that simple.  Oh no.  The thing is, they really don’t believe you when you click the box on the website that says something along the lines of “I don’t have a TV”.  Are you sure?  Are you absolutely sure?  Uh, yes, thanks, I am sure!  I would love one of their inspectors to come round – what are they going to do, look under the bed in case I’ve stashed a 60 inch flatscreen Panasonic Viera?

For those readers not in the UK, I should probably explain about the TV Licence.  Here we have the BBC, which is funded by the unique method of a licence fee collected from every household which has a television and uses it to watch live television.  I never really had a problem with the licence, and I really appreciate the fact that I can watch TV without any ad breaks, (yes, NO ad breaks at ALL!).  Going TV free saves us £145 a year, but that wasn’t really the reason behind it.

Eighteen months on, I’ve just had a letter from the Powers That Be asking me to check whether I might have forgotten that I do in fact have a TV and failed to mention it to them… well I have checked, and no, I still don’t have one!

The sense of incredulous wonder is sometimes amusing when I mention we’re Television Free.  The phone company rang me, trying to sell me their TV package.  As the agent started her spiel, she asked:
“What sort of things do you like to watch on TV?”
“Oh, I don’t have one…”
“Um… err… what do you do?”  The autocue didn’t cover that one, did it?!

Anyway, so we got rid of the TV.  No biggie.  Not really “turning into hippie types” (well no more than before, anyway!)


But I have been thinking a bit about whether television for kids is necessary at all.  In France, they have banned the broadcast of programmes aimed at children under three years of age.  The French authorities cite concerns for the children’s development.  It’s hard to tell really, but there are now at least three generations of people most of whom have grown up with a television in their home.  I’m not sure about stunting their development, but could it be stunting their creativity?  On days when Alt.D1 has been allowed unfettered access to the BBC catchup service, the house stays strangely and sadly tidy.  While I’ve been putting a crotchety baby Alt.D2 down for a nap, her big sister stays glued to the sofa.  It does make me a bit sad.

And yet, I do feel that it’s important that the cultural references do not pass my girls by.  A friend told me once she had met a lady at a dinner party who didn’t know who Winnie-the-Pooh was.  We couldn’t quite work out how a person could get to their mid twenties and not know at least one incarnation of AA Milne’s tubby little bear.  Even without a television, Alt.D1 knew who Iggle Piggle was as a child at nursery had a cuddly one… there’s no escaping, even if we want to.  I remember fondly my own childhood television favourites, some of which can be found in online archives and most of which look really dated and low-tech now!  (Fingermouse, anyone?).  It is a part of growing up, so Alt.Father and I are not planning to take that away from our children. 

We do tend to surround ourselves with technology, though, if not television in the Alt.House.  I know that in the early days of Alt.D2, I would settle on the sofa to feed the baby, and reach for the laptop, balancing it on one end of the sofa and catching up with friends on Facebook.  My mum looked at me once, and commented that she had never even read books when feeding us as babies; she thought she had to talk to us all the time.  Well there’s no argument that it helped me to become a good talker… I wonder if my babies will be good emailers in their turn?

I recently took a break from Facebook, deactivating my account for a week so I could concentrate on preparing for a family event.  It was an odd sensation, something definitely missing.  Friends rang me, some texted “What’s wrong, hope you’re ok?”.  Strangely, I just felt relieved.  I have since gone back online, but I find I’m spending less time there, definitely for the good.

Which brings me to share with you the excellent blog of Rachel at Hands Free Mama.  I read her blog and felt ashamed of myself for sometimes shushing my children as I checked my online messages.  We live in a communication age these days, but maybe we could all just do with communicating a bit more with the people who are close to us.  And maybe that should be by talking to them!

It may be incongruous, but Ctrl.Alt.Parent is now on Twitter.  Follow me by searching for Alt Mother or #ctrlaltparent



Since becoming a parent, I sometimes worry that the range of my topics of conversation has narrowed a little.  I can chat for ages about the merits of one kind of nappy over another, but since I can’t even remember the last time I went to the cinema, let alone what it was I saw, there is little chance I’ll be discussing the latest blockbusters.  As for bands I’ve been to see in concert or clubs I’ve been to… sadly these are distant memories at the moment.  So I have been transformed into some kind of “nappy head” who can only concentrate for short periods before being distracted by my children.
The other thing that has happened is my short term memory has been blasted into pieces.  House keys?  Not quite sure where they are.  Paid the milk bill?  How about the car tax? Um…
Baby brain has well and truly set in.
Two things in particular have happened to me to confirm without doubt that “baby brain” exists.  One is amusing, one less so and far more expensive:
Before Alt.D2 was born (about 48 hours before she was born in fact) I managed to drive the new car, less than two weeks old, into a carpark bollard.  Said bollard was, somewhat ironically for a baby brain induced incident, in the carpark of the local maternity unit.  Alt.D1 said “don’t cry, mummy” and Alt.Father said “that’s what insurance was invented for…”.  That was the expensive one.
In a former life I worked in an office, and often had to collate papers, stapling, hole punching and filing.  One afternoon shortly before I went on maternity leave with Alt.D1, I had a big stack of papers to sort.  I dropped into a rhythm of clip, punch, file, clip, punch, file, when the stapler came to a stop.  Having sought out new staples and re-filled, I picked it up to start again.  “Oh hang on…” I thought, “best check there are enough holes in the hole-punch…”  Luckily, as soon as the thought entered my head, the one that immediately followed it pointed out that I was obviously losing my marbles!
A great friend of my dad’s used to claim that mothers give half of their brain to their first child, and half of what is left to the next, and so on with each subsequent baby.  That doesn’t hold much hope for mums of large families, does it?  I did wonder whether there was a good reason for this apparent deterioration of our intelligence, and apparently there is.  Our baby brains are supposed to make us better mothers!
While women are pregnant, according to research by Professor Laura Glynn, our brains start to filter out the unimportant stuff, so that we can focus on our new baby.  This makes sense to me.  A child’s reliance on its parents is so important that it seems logical that we should evolve some way of ensuring we concentrate on their needs first.  Of course as parents we want to put the children first, but this goes beyond conscious decisions about who gets the last piece of cake or who wins at Snap.  This is something much deeper.
I haven’t been able to find out whether it’s true or not, but I was once told that film makers use the sound of a newborn baby’s piercing cry as a subliminal sound effect in scary movies.  This is designed to make us feel on edge, nervous and anxious.  If their cries are being used to this effect by others, it stands to reason that new babies are pretty good at drawing our attention.  “Look at me,” they are saying, “I have requirements that need to be met!”

All of this seems to be telling me that being a parent is so much more than a full time job.  We are meant to become totally absorbed, and keeping conversations going on other subject matter, sometimes on any subject matter goes way down the list of priorities. Maybe that’s how it should be.  Babies are little for such a short space of time that a few months of fuddle-headedness seems a small price to pay.  Perhaps we should step back and take time out to just listen and be there, learining about our babies and how they fit into our world.  

I’m pleased to say that the garage did an excellent repair job on the car – you would never know!  In the meantime, I think I shall invest in a notice board and rediscover my love of to-do lists  If only I could remember where I left my pen…

I’d love to hear about any of your baby-brain related incidents.  Please do click on the comments link below and leave me a message!

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