Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Slow living experiment: Day 1

I'm trying something new!
I'm going without media for three days.
Usually I'm on and off Facebook and Blogger throughout the day, and most of the evening. My phone is never far away. The tv is on and off, the laptop shows a cartoon or movie or You Tube video, the radio plays for an hour or two, the record player for a while too. While I can happily go without any of these, the days I actually DO are few and far between, and usually because something's not charged / forgotten i.e. by default.

I was doing some reading late last night, and came across a lovely blog about simplifying your life. It says this is especially pertinent when you are parenting young children, as too much media exposure causes lower concentration levels, higher stress rates, more anxiety, we all know this to be true.
I am really impressed by friends who parent their children with no tv. I've often used the tv as a virtual babysitter, especially since Noah was born. Being alone in the house with a 3 year old who's clamouring for attention, alongside a needy new baby, it's too easy to suggest "cartoons" and three hours later you realise the whole morning's gone.

I've always loved watching Disney dvds with Charlie, and he enjoys the older, slower-paced ones almost as much as the new ones. We sing the songs together, we read the corresponding books, and they are a lovely fantasy world of safe fairytales for him. I haven't introduced him to the brothers Grimm ones I was raised on, as their gothic horror would surely give him nightmares. So far he hasn't had one bad dream about any mythical monster / character as we're careful to protect him from those ideas.

He doesn't see or hear the news, neither do I anymore. I don't read the paper anymore, except the Arts and Culture sections. We turn the channel over if the famine in Africa ads come on. I'm trying to protect him from the big, bad world, and at the same time he's asking me "What's a war?" "Are there soldiers in real life?" etc, so he's getting slowly conscious that there are "baddies" out there. Likewise when he sees us lock the car / hide the laptop from view of the window / talk about the house alarm, he's asking questions, and we're staving off giving the honest truth for as long as we can.

In school we were always urged to read the newspapers, to be au fait with current events. I see the merit in this, and teens can handle that, but a pre-schooler obviously needs to be kept innocent and safe from the horrible truths out there. Since becoming a mother my empathy levels are so high that I'm alternately sickened and reduced to tears at a mere glance at the headlines, so I don't put myself through that any more. I blogged before about being in a "mommy bubble", and I am proudly there still, just raising my babies, keeping an ear out at the larger world, but I have no head space to worry about things outside my control. (I still support causes that I believe in, see the recent Facebook protest for example, but I'm not going to go on a diatribe about the economy for example, though it impacts our life daily)

So, back to The Good Life! (reference to the 70s sitcom where two suburban hippies lived a self-sustaining life in the suburbs!)
I'm avoiding all media for my children's waking hours for the next few days. In the evenings I'll catch up with everything, but until they are in the Land of Nod, I am there with them too. Previous evenings have seen me tandem-feeding, Ipod touch in hand, checking Facebook updates for God's sake! Even I can see how ludicrous that is!

The weekend just gone was supposed to be restful and relaxing. Barry had been very ill last week, and without my right-hand-man I was tired and stressed. We should have taken it easy, especially with him beginning a full-time job this week. Instead Saturday saw us out all day visiting relatives, then Sunday I jumped in the car with Noah and hot-footed it around a whole shopping centre, complete with outlet malls. I was looking for nothing in particular, just seized by a consumeristic craze, needing to shop, now! That was followed by the intense online research of a simpler way of life, as I'd realised there was no method in my madness.

Luckily Barry needs the car this week (mine is unofficially on the scrapheap). I actually love being "stranded". In the old days of only having one child, I'd get Charlie on the back of my bike and go to a park / playground / the canal / IMMA, anywhere we wanted. Now we're a bit more confined to where we can walk to, but there's still the local cafes, library, even buses to town, Dundrum etc. We're not confined at all really, we're just used to being spoilt having a car. So this is the perfect week to do "nothing", I've nothing planned until Thursday, so that's a good three days to just chill with my homies.

Day One:
Today we woke up about 8.20am, Noah first, I took him to pee, then we woke Charlie. We all got dressed and went downstairs. I made banana wholewheat pancakes (50:50 white and wholemeal flour with banana mashed in) with chocolate spread and hot chocolate. Might as well start the week on a (sugar) high!
We played all morning until 12pm or so (don't have a watch/clock/phone to check time, another freedom I mean to blog about soon)

We played:
marbles, marbles in the round washing basket, whirling them around and bouncing them
travelling to Paris complete with Charlie drawing a map),
rock band (me on tin whistle, Noah banging electric guitar strings with a spoon, Charlie singing),
crafts (Charlie made a feather collection - glued feathers onto paper and "wrote" about them)
Villains (Batman and his arch nemeses got trapped in the washing basket mostly, Robin hanging on a ribbon saved them)
many other things too, that I can't remember. All led by Charlie.

Then I was getting antsy being stuck in the house, despite my earlier delight at being stranded, and tried getting us all dressed to go to the shops for nappies. Half an hour later Charlie and I were at logger-heads, both annoyed and frustrated. I was breastfeeding Noah in the sling, hanging out the washing at the same time, Charlie telling me he was going nowhere with me. I was really losing my patience, but got us out a few minutes later, a bag of Villains hanging off Charlie's handlebars as he cycled along beside me and Noah, breastfeeding in the sling.

We got a few minutes down the road, when one stabiliser came loose, and Charlie fell off his bike. We were too far to turn back, so I said we'd call into the local DIY shop to get it fixed. We played a game in the local "park" with the villains (Noah breastfeeding in the sling - running theme here), and then wheeled the bike to the shop, where they kindly fixed it. Then a round trip to two newsagents looking fruitlessly for Batman stickers, one supermarket for nappies and fruit, another for Juicy Fruit chewing gum ("It tastes just like my toothpaste!"), chewed our way home ("Mama, you have to chew like this" - chews with mouth wide open and lip-smacking noises, you'd never know it was his first time!) I paid for groceries with my nipple in full view of the queue to my left, thanks nosy Noah, looking around.

Got home at 2.30pm, I checked the time as I was starving, and hadn't a clue if it was 1.30 or 3.30pm. We made pizza dough according to The Bible (no, not Nigella, Jamie), Charlie loved it, and stood on his step stool stirring the tomato sauce, sniffing the steam "like Ratatouille". He desecrated chopped mushrooms, asking for the fifty-millionth time why my dad doesn't like mushrooms. He loved kneading and stretching the dough, made a little loaf in his child-sized loaf tin, and some star shaped bread rolls. We ate the bread with cheese for lunch, exclaiming throughout at how we'd made real bread (obviously my brown soda bread never counted!). Then we planted out our sprouted honey beans (cannellini? I'll google them) into pots we'd bought from the DIY shop, spooning compost into them with a tablespoon.  Noah grabbed a mouthful of compost when I wasn't looking, shoved it into his mouth and gagged. My hands were covered in it too, so I licked it out of his mouth. Then licked his face clean for good measure. That was a new one.

I watched a brilliant footballer do tricks with the ball ("like Doublepool"). Then we played bat ball. I hung out more washing, Noah in a baby walker for the first time, found it in the garage. Charlie watered the beans, has named them all "Mr. Bean" after his new favourite tv programme (see, no-media week really needed). Then we went in and made three pizzas out of the remaining dough, which had doubled in size. I haven't used yeast really ever, only throwing it into my breadmaker a few years ago, so was in awe of it today. Dada got home just as the pizzas were ready. Perfect housewife had also tidied the kitchen, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, "played" cleaning the cupboards with baby wipes, done two loads of laundry, sorted and put them away (dodgy moment carrying the two dry loads in my arms plus Noah upstairs, he protested a bit).

In doing all this, there wouldn't have been time to watch a minute of TV even if I'd wanted to. What usually happens is I watch the movie / play the games, cook, and leave the place in a state for Barry to clean that night. It felt really good to have dinner done, us all fed and happy, and the house looking reasonable (except for the blocked sink). I was even running after Charlie playing "tickle monster" when Barry arrived back, Noah on my left hip. This makes a change from the "Take the baby NOW, I've to go upstairs and get a half hour on my own" greeting he sometimes gets. Just having the pressure taken off me, not to have to be productive today, just to feed us all and keep the house going made it feel like a holiday. I have remained chilled all evening too.

This could be beginners luck, tomorrow may not be so rosy, but I'm happy right now.
Wow, this was a long one!
Niamh x


  1. It sounds like a blissful day Niamh. :)

  2. Looking back, it was! I have to stop beating myself up over what I'm not doing (like cleaning/exercising) and enjoy what I am doing (like keeping two kids alive and safe!)

  3. your post is very nice
    thank's for your information


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