What is the right amount of screen time in a pandemic? Does watching Bluey count? And do I get extra parent-credits for forcing my kid to play with a stick, in the rain, while I figure out how to resist the return of the old normal?
These are just some of the questions as we emerge from a time of extraordinary disruption to the patterns of our lives and square off to the prospect of school holidays 2020.
We don’t have categorical answers, I’m afraid. But we do have a few thoughts to share. The first of which is this; you deserve a break. You have just parented through a moment of historic uncertainty. So, be nice to yourself. Ignore anyone who brings a running hose to that well-spring of parental guilt we all contend with. And if your kids feel the need to spend a little more time in digital entertainment than normal, don’t worry.
Over this past few months of lock downs and zoom birthdays our relationship to technology has changed. That hard border between our ‘real life’ and ‘digital life’ has softened.
Technology has become a bigger part of our work and school-lives, our interactions with family and friends, and just about every other aspect of our lives. But at the same time as we have spent more time on screens, we have also spent more time outdoors with our kids.
In the heart of lockdown there were more family groups out riding bikes in Perth neighbourhoods than I have ever seen in my life. And then as the restrictions eased, trails became full, parks were overrun with kids and dogs and lattes, and now playgrounds are popping buttons.
By spending more time at home, inside, and on zoom calls to our in-laws we have become unavoidably aware of our deep need to move and to be outside. Ironically, the very increase in technology use has contributed to an increase in outdoor play.
The corona-storm has demonstrated that the greatest enemy of outdoor play is not technology. It is a lack of time. A good life for our kids, and for us, is not about counting out minutes on devices, but about recognising the things that are important to us and finding ways to secure time for them.
COVID-19 gave us that time. And now, as it retreats, our challenge is to quarantine that joyous time for play from our ever-complicating schedule.
As the arteries of our daily commute re-clog, our weekend commitments recommit, and our focus shifts from nurturing the kids we love through a dropped-cake of a year, that challenge grows.
We can do it. The corona-storm showed us that. If we value it, if we want to prioritise it, we will find ways to secure time for play. And along the way technology will weave its way in and out of our play, our work, and our family time, and that is ok.