So, just over one month since we became both the proud and permanently exhausted parents of two, I am finding that along with the fact that I seem to be constantly doing laundry (at some point you just have to be at one with baby vomit) technology has started to play a more prominent role in our family and fast becoming what feels like the third parent in our household.
Before having kids it’s easy to have all sorts of ideals of how you will raise them – home cooked meals (Ella’s Kitchen & HIPP have won that one), endless art and crafts (the day spent cleaning after seven minutes of painting cancels that one out) and most notably in the digital age we live in attempted limited screen time for their little eyes. I am sorry to say that Mr.Jobs has won that last battle. Since number two has come on the scene the trusty iPad has become my go to activity of choice as the most effective way to distract number one when number two requires mama’s undivided attention. I do believe it is a sad truth when technology becomes such an integral part of your life, and an even sadder one when one of your child’s first words is iPad. However, I have made my peace with fact that Apple has played a large role in my parenting – probably not something for their next advertising campaign – but right now I would be lost without that 12.9 inch LED screen.
Despite my best efforts on an average day within just one hour I can manage to turn on and off the iPad six or seven times through a series of pangs of guilt over lazy parenting and poopy nappies only to surrender when my toddler comes running up to his dishevelled mother grasping the iPad with a look that says ‘we both know how this is going to play out so let’s just skip to the good part and tap in the passcode and everybody is happy.’
As much as I would like to cut down the time spent with this electronic family member, the iPad use don’t stop at re-runs of Peppa Pig. In an increasingly cross-cultural world (despite what the recent months of global politics would have us believe) people choosing a life away from their homeland means that technology plays an essential part in connecting us with our loved ones. Then when kids come on the scene the grandparents you so carelessly ‘abandoned’ (I discovered guilt is part and parcel of moving abroad) naturally want to see your little cherubs in place of the real thing. Now this is where video calling (we opt for FaceTime because let’s not even go there with parents and Skype) becomes part of your daily routine – particularly when you are both away from your native land hence two sets of families to keep up with. With just one kid this was a joyful and easy process, but with two it is near impossible. The likelihood of both kids being ‘FaceTime ready’ (to coin a phrase) is miraculous on a good day. Combined with the fact that the soundtrack to my life currently is a harmony of crying (when one starts the other one joins in as if to let me know he can outcry the other one) and the 16th load of laundry that day is waiting to be done there is very little FaceTime opportunity so I must act fast.
So, in the rare moment that both my boys have stopped wailing and are momentarily gleeful I step away from the washing machine and pounce on the opportunity and it goes a little something like this… I begin with the archaic process of calling my parents landline to prep them for our video call. The chances they know the location of the phone and it is charged is already slim, but we persevere. As the phone rings I am conscious of the slim 5-50 second window we have closing in. 10 seconds later they answer and my mother beings to regale tales of her latest outing to Marks and Spencer or John Lewis when I cut her short to remind her of the nature of my call. 20 seconds has gone.
I anxiously wait for her to call back as agreed. Another 10 seconds is lost. Baby is still smiling.
I then try to call but no answer – how can this be – we just spoke? Happy baby starting to fade. We are running out of time.
A few seconds later the phone rings. Ah, finally we have lift-off. Noooo, it’s FaceTime audio! I answer only to hear my mother explaining to my father how they can hear us but not see us – all done at an unreasonably high volume. I’ve noticed parents have a way of thinking they need to scream on video calls to be heard. Side note to all grandparents out there who roll your eyes at something your child has said whilst on a video call – remember we can SEE you. I try to explain to my mother, for around the 50th time, the difference between audio and video but realise I am wasting precious seconds and so attempt to switch to video myself. By this point baby is screaming the older one has propelled himself onto the floor in a attention seeking move and just like that it’s ALL OVER.
The moment has passed and our window is up. As the video finally kicks in and my parents are greeted with screaming children and their frustrated daughter my mother kindly acknowledges it’s better that we go as it’s no fun seeing the kids in this state. Ready to join in the screaming myself I vehemently agree it’s best to end the call, but before she goes my mother prolongs this painful call for a few seconds longer to helpfully remind me of that Marks & Spencer voucher she’s going to send me. I choose to ignore the fact there is no Marks and Spencer where I live and won’t have time to shop for at least another five years and graciously thank her before ending the call. Once again, we thank you Mr. Jobs.