This isn’t going to be a mom-rant about how kids spend too much time in front of screens, although they do. And I’m not finger-pointing at “other people’s kids.” My kids are the same way. They were born in the grand age of technology, for the love of Pete! I’m pretty convinced their hands will evolve into claw shapes from holding computer mice and video game controllers. They use technology in school, and many of the most promising careers require all sorts of high-tech skills. They can’t get away from it — and they shouldn’t … completely.
I’m not against technology — I write for a living, much of it online. Social media has become my BFF and I’m embarrassed to admit how many Words With Friends games I’m playing right now (22, but who’s counting, right?). Despite my seemingly hot-and-heavy affair with my MacBook Pro and iPhone, I am a big believer in balance. I’m far from perfect in consistently modeling it for my children, but it’s regularly top of mind.
You know who knows all about balance and truly enjoying the simplicity of life? Cats. Now I know they don’t have all the distractions of technology (except for our pal Mittens), but they sure know how to relax, be resourceful and enjoy whatever’s happening in the present moment. Kids and adults alike can learn oodles from their Zen spin on life.
When my son comes home from school, he rushes through homework and chores so he can hop online, spend time on the Xbox or watch TV. Now I know this isn’t just my child — friends tell me they have the same challenges. We set limits on the amount of time spent with these electronic devices, but that doesn’t stop the mania surrounding them. If we’d allow it, my son would probably sit in front of the Xbox until he passed out from sheer exhaustion. Meanwhile, our cats finds just as much joy sunning themselves or chasing a feathered toy.
It’s interesting how simple forms of entertainment can feel so fulfilling. When my kids are grounded or the electricity is off during a storm, it’s amazing how creative they get with their hours. They write stories, devise games and tell jokes. And when the Internet’s on the fritz, I pick up that book I’ve been meaning to read or initiate a family game. I love those times. I know we need to create more of them.
Our cats will play nonstop with found toys like milk jug rings and straws. They don’t need expensive toys. In fact, what happens when we buy them the newest, fanciest mechanical geegaw on the market? They want the box it arrived in, right? How often are we or our kids satisfied with what we already have? We always want more, bigger, better. When’s the next iPhone upgrade? How soon can my kids get the next version of the Nintendo DS? It’s can feel completely insane at times.
It’s OK to want nice things, but are we truly enjoying what we have? And are we balancing our time to embrace the simple pleasures that surround us every day? That don’t cost a penny? Instead of racing through homework to watch cartoons or chat with friends on Skype, what if our kids were excited to take a walk and look at the gorgeous fall leaves? Make brownies with a friend? Grab a wand toy and play with the cat? They don’t have to be grounded or electricity-free to enjoy such pleasures.
In a world where technology changes in the blink of an eye, it can be challenging to make sure our kids grow up learning to find joy and fulfillment in activities that don’t require Wi-Fi or batteries. Our cats have got it figured out. To them, a well-placed sunbeam is golden, a drippy faucet is a gift and nothing beats a nice box.
Although withholding technology doesn’t serve our children, we can certainly temper screen time with the possibility of creating their own fun. I know saying to our kids, “Turn off the TV! Look at the cat — they’re happy with a pile of laundry!” isn’t going to solve the problem, but we adults can look to our cats for inspiration and choose to model that balanced behavior. Once again, cats have got it all figured out.
Do you struggle with too much screen time in your house? What do your cats teach you and your kids? Share your thoughts in the comments!
About the Author: Angie Bailey is a goofy girl with freckles and giant smile who wants everyone to be her friend. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, and thinking about cats doing people things. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in comedy web series that may or may not offend people. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food.
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