This morning, Teagan was very open with me about her feelings.
"Mom, I'm going to be jealous today."
The before and after care program at her school is run by the YMCA. As a fundraiser, the Y was letting kids bring in their favorite "electronic devices" if they donate $1.
My kids don't have any electronic devices. No iPod, no MP3 player, no electronic readers, no tablets, no handheld gaming systems.
Teagan asked to take my phone, Daddy's phone, our computers, Daddy's Kindle. Not going to happen, of course.
Part of me was sad for her- she knew she would be feeling jealous and she knew she would feel left out. She would be different.
Part of me was... kinda proud of my parenting.
Jeff and I talked about it- did we possibly have something she could take?
Nope. And we didn't spend time thinking about it. In our family, kids don't have their own electronics.
I explained to Teagan that in our family, kids don't have TV's in their bedrooms, kids don't have their own computers, and kids don't have electronics. In our family, kids entertain themselves by playing together, reading books, playing with toys. Yes, the adults have electronics. We're the adults. And we share our toys when it's appropriate but that truly doesn't happen often.
I know she's anxious about the day ahead of her. But this is one of those things where we stick to our guns. Because electronics and kids have never been a focus, even when electronic media is available, it doesn't hold attention for long. The biggest screen time my kids get is watching TV and we limit that to Nick Jr 90% of the time. On rare occasions, they will get on PBS.org and play various games together. On even more rare occasions, they have played a game on my phone when we've had a long wait somewhere. I will say that since getting my Droid 3, I haven't loaded any games for kids on my phone. Teagan has asked for a handheld game system for her birthday but I honestly don't know that it would hold her attention. Plus, having one would mean rules and restrictions on how often she can use it.
It's not that I am somehow completely opposed to kids having electronics. It's not that I'm a big advocate of limiting screen time. My kids are 4 and almost 7. I guess, in my mind, those kinds of entertainment things are for older kids, for teens, for adults. I'm not against the idea of getting Teagan a handheld game system for her birthday- I just truly think it would be a waste of money because I don't see it being something SHE is truly interested in. I think she wants one because other kids have one. She never pays attention to that stuff when we go to Target, for example.
She would, however, love to have her own e-reader with books and a few games on it. But we aren't going down that path just yet, either.
It's interesting to me that there was this little tug of wanting my kid to feel like she fit in. I went without so often as a kid that I can really identify with that feeling.
And I find great relief in knowing that I was able to tell my kid that this one isn't going to happen because of how we work as a family- not because we can't afford electronics, not because we can't afford a donation to the Y. But because we value our kids being kids that use their brains and bodies. Because we value reading and books and magazines and dolls and cars and balls and blankets and building forts and having a dance party and loving on our dogs and snuggling on the couch and telling stories and playing restaurant and going for walks and heading to the park and going out for sushi- all are higher priorities than having electronic devices in the hands of our kids.