Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

iDid it.

Posted on | March 6, 2012 | 10 Comments

The iPad is not so much a modern tool of technology as it is a wedge.  A simple old fashioned tool.  Used to pry apart every parent and their teenage children.

Ever since Big and Pretty saved up to buy an iPad they have lost all sense of the work ethic, diligence, and family connectedness that enabled them to buy it in the first place.  It used to be that if the house was too quiet I went looking for the kids because they were probably devouring mounds of Halloween candy they had been hiding under their bed.  Or frantically trying every form of household glue they could find to fix some valuable item that they had broken by playing ball in the house.  Or even using every towel in the linen closet to soak up a water experiment gone wrong in the bathroom.

But now, when it’s quiet, I know I will find all 4 of them them holed up in someone’s room, the curtains drawn for better viewing, playing endless rounds of video games.  Angry birds, Where’s My Water, and Pocket God.  Say whatever you want, but building fine motor control and hand-eye coordination was never really a problem for the generations of kids before video games.  And although there are educational games available on iPad, I promise you that your kids are not sneaking around upstairs to play educational games.  I mean, the iPad isn’t even spelled correctly.  Last time I checked, the capital letter goes at the beginning of a proper noun.  Although it’s unlikely that kids have noticed since in their world it is KWL to KIT by TXT, KWIM?

My kids aren’t even taking turns with the iPad.  No, the younger ones, who were deemed not old enough to purchase an iPad, sit in silence, afraid to speak for fear they will banished from the room and never get to see what lies on the Rattlesnake Gutter Level of Snuggle Truck.  Only in the rarest moments of largess, or perhaps when Big wants to keep Middle or Little from tattling that he shoved them when they were at the sink brushing their teeth in the morning, are they allowed to play.  We thought that by telling Middle and Little that they had to wait until they were older to save for an iPad, we would prevent them from an early gaming addiction.  Instead, we have given them an uncomfortable and up close view of tyranny, OPEC-type control of resources, and how only Spiderman actually believes that with great power comes great responsibility.  Siblings think that great power gives them an excuse to beat their younger housemates over the head with it.  Sometimes parenting can go horribly wrong.

All of this goes along with the fact that, OMG!, Wii sports is not actually equivalent exercise to playing a sport.  But I could write a whole other blog post about the evils of Wii.  I just choose not to because last month I bought them a new game for their Wii.  A shooting game.  Yes, with real rifles.  I am still dealing with the break in my psyche.  Obviously, I am truly a sick and conflicted person.

Regardless, I was determined to disconnect Big from the iPad for a few hours.  I had taken it away repeatedly for overuse but that only resulted in sulking and further petulant abuse of his siblings.  So, I assigned him to helping me with an outside chore.  Which also resulted in sulking.  But, of course, his siblings disappeared instantly at the mention of outside work so there was no chance they could be kicked or shoved as he stomped around in pursuit of his work boots.  Children with multiple siblings are survivalists at heart.

As we prepared to go outside, Big complained that he couldn’t find his work gloves because I moved them.  I countered that if he kept his room clean enough that I could vacuum the floor without having to move armloads of stuff, he’d know where they were.  He complained that he had outgrown his mud boots and now he’d have to wear his tennis shoes.  I countered that he never told anyone his mud boots no longer fit and I was not a mind reader.  He took forever finding a coat and going to the bathroom and filling a water bottle.  I told him the longer he took to get ready, the longer we’d be working outside.  Basically, I said everything that every parent all over the world has said to their teen.  And he retaliated with the heavy sighs, eye rolling, and disgusted shakes of the head that every teen all over the world has used in response.  Ah, the sacred rites of raising children.  Almost brings a sentimental tear to the eye.  Almost.

Having dutifully fulfilled our filial roles in life, we finally trudged out to the top of the driveway.

“We’re going to rake the leaves out of the ditches along the driveway and carry them to the chicken pasture,”  I announced.

“Why?” Big asked.

“So the water will run into the pond instead of overflowing the ditches and washing away the gravel in the driveway.”  Also,  this job will keep you off the iPad.

“Why can’t we just do the section of ditch up to the pond and leave the rest alone?”  Big asked.

“Gotta do the whole thing or else the leaves will just blow into the sections we raked.”  Also, the more raking, the more time off the iPad.

“Why do we have to carry the leaves up to the chicken pasture when we can just throw them over the fence into this pasture right here?” Big asked.

“Sorry, but the chicken pasture is getting muddy so we’re getting dirty eggs in the nest boxes.  We need all the leaves to freshen the pasture and keep the hens out of the mud.”  Also, the farther we carry the leaves, the longer you’ll be away from the iPad.

He sighed.  He spread out the tarp.  He sighed.  Then he began to rake.  He sighed.  Then he helped gather the sides of the tarp together to haul to the chicken pen.  He sighed.  Then he helped pour the leaves out of the tarp.  He sighed.  And walked back to the driveway.

I was amazed.  Don’t tell him, but sighing is way less annoying then when he was four.  When he was four, he never stopped asking “Why?” during a chore.  Never. By the time he was on his 35th “Why? I had to beg him to stop helping me and go inside and watch cartoons.  I just couldn’t take it anymore.  But, sighing?  Please.  What woman worthy of the name Mother would fold under the pressure of a sigh?

Besides, I am a big fan of the long suffering sigh.  I use it freely throughout the day.  Like when people toss their shoes on the mudroom floor, right next to the shoe rack.  Or when someone spills their drink at the dinner table while attempting to make bubbles in their milk.  Or when I open the fridge to find an entire pot with a bit of leftover macaroni and cheese in it sitting on the shelf with a layer of plastic wrap over it.  With the serving spoon still in it.  As if Tupperware hasn’t even been invented yet.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Awwwwww, he still loves his mommy. 🙂

By the time we finished the 4th load he was telling me about how they have started badminton in gym.  And that it’s actually pretty fun for a girly sport.  I told him it wasn’t necessarily a sport for girls.  That sports are for everyone to enjoy and we shouldn’t assume gender relates to sports performance.  He said feminism isn’t taught in middle school but it was nice that I still believed in it—-even though I’m the only one who has cleaned under the oven burners in the 10 years that we’ve owned the stove.  Touche.  (And cleaning the oven will be our next iPad free project.)

As we watched the chickens breaking down their new leaf piles, he told me about the new series he was reading, Mortal Engines, where the cities attack and eat each other and we talked about our favorite books.  I insisted that a happy ending was important.  He shrugged and said a sad ending was more realistic.  Ah, the tortured soul of the spoiled, middle class, never-been-hungry-for-a-minute-in-his-life teenager.

By the time the entire pasture was filled and the roosters were guarding the hens as they foraged, we had moved on to a discussion of dependence on infrastructure and whether our farm could really provide for us if we had no other support.  I told him I was sure we’d do just fine.  But then I remembered how I haven’t been able to grow potatoes after 4 years of trying.  So I suggested there was no shame in stockpiling food ahead of a disaster.  You know, just in case.  Stupid potatoes.

When the driveway was finished, we stood at the top, admiring our work, and tried to figure out if the slope of the driveway was more instrumental in water flow down the driveway or the depth of the ditches.  I told him that we had spent lots of money grading the driveway and a lot of time digging the ditches deeper and the water still washed the driveway out in bad storms.  So we shouldn’t underestimate the will of the water.  He nodded and said I shouldn’t really talk about the will of inanimate objects or balancing energy fields or karmic resolutions outside of the family so much.  Just a helpful hint.

After that successful project, Big decided to stay outside with me and help find a good spot to anchor Papa Noel’s new automatic feeder.  And a way to fix his watering trough.  As we worked, we mulled over inscrutable issues like whether having hands enabled humans to learn, thereby increasing their brain power, or whether having good brains enabled them to learn how to use their hands. We decided that, no matter what what, having hands made us top of the food chain.

With a good day’s work behind us (and 6 hours without the iPad) we came out of Papa’s pasture and discovered that all the goats had escaped into the front yard through a gate we had not closed very tightly.  Somehow they managed to open the gate.  Without the use of hands.  It took us 20 minutes and a whole bucket of sweet feed to catch them.  Which made us doubt that whole “top of the food chain” thing.  And made us laugh until we cried.

Turns out that a wedge can only be used to drive you apart if you let it.  Which doesn’t mean that Big won’t be sucked back into the iPad tomorrow and I won’t be screaming at him to get off it.  Just means that I have plenty of tools to help keep us together.  And there isn’t a screen or video game in the world that can compete with what a bit of fresh air, good company, and some simple chores have to offer.  Try and upgrade that, Apple!


10 Responses to “iDid it.”

  1. Tanya
    March 7th, 2012 @ 4:51 am

    OMG. So well put!

  2. Jill
    March 7th, 2012 @ 5:33 am

    wonderful! I think even my cats are teenagers!! of course they don’t roll their eyes, but they do mew continuously as if saying “why?”. And my teenager has more gadgets than Bill Gates but when held hostage in the car for trips to and from school, etc., we get to talk about books and ack! girls and all the other important world topics… I love it. Of course, no siblings to kick around.. 🙂 Good for you!! Love your fortitude to overcome the iwedge…

  3. Christine
    March 7th, 2012 @ 11:33 am

    Love every word of it!!

  4. Lisa D
    March 7th, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

    Amen, Sister. I am so impressed!! Our girl gave her i-gadget up for Lent, and the transformation has been remarkable.

  5. Erin C
    March 8th, 2012 @ 7:07 am

    Way to go to temporarily overcome the i-addiction! Love your blog – keep ’em coming!

  6. Nancy
    March 9th, 2012 @ 4:10 am

    I’m so glad I didn’t have to deal with today’s technology when I was raising my two hooligans. I fear for our youth sometimes — they really are missing out on so many important life lessons because of being always plugged in.

    Great post and thoughts on the matter. 🙂

  7. Tina
    March 9th, 2012 @ 9:42 am

    Gosh Girl..I love this…love your kids…love your animals….You guys are great 🙂

  8. Katrina
    March 9th, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    You just saved me the cost of an iPad.

  9. Joey Balinski
    March 10th, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

    God Moves in Mysterious Ways!!!!So Does a Mom! Thanks for the GOOD Read

  10. Adri Fair
    March 22nd, 2012 @ 8:41 am

    Lovely post! It is good to know that I am not the only one trying to find inventive ways to help the kids balance technology and back to basics homesteading.

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