My head is spinning.
When my children were small, I did everything to make sure that they were not staring at a screen for hours at a time. I was shocked when a friend purchased a new van that actually included personal DVD screens for each child. Now, everywhere I look, children’s faces are lit up by the glow of a screen. It keeps them quiet and it’s less messy than say, painting or playing with play-do.
I have always been stubborn about embracing technology, adamantly saying , “I’d rather do something real… like brush a horse, than to sit and stare at a screen.” It’s the same stubborn feeling I get when summer comes to an end. I will not admit that the weather is changing, and that school is just around the corner. I think that if I just apply the brakes hard enough, I can actually prevent the dreaded event from happening; i.e. …FALL, followed by a long Wisconsin winter. It will just not happen, as if by my sheer stubbornness I can control the world’s weather patterns! Likewise, if I do all within my power to stay away from technology, it will not invade my world.
One of our family’s favorite books is, “The Fields of Home,” by Ralph Moody. In it, young Ralph is sent to live with his cantankerous grandfather who has been farming the land he inherited from his father , who had cleared the land in the 1700’s. When Ralph tries to introduce time-saving machinery to his grandfather’s farm in Maine, it angers the frustrated old man who then would destroy whatever “tarnal contraption” the young boy would invent, and build with the junk he could find on the farm. Once Grandfather discovered these inventions, he would carry on in a loud tirade, “What kind of fiddledeedee falderal’s going on around here?” Over and over, Ralph would see an opportunity to improve the farm and would come up with creative solutions in the form of what his grandfather termed, “lazy-man contraptions.” It is a dearly loved read-a-loud book in our home, but it is always a bit difficult for me to read because the grandfather is so frustrating. It is exasperating to us when we think of how unfair and at times, unkind he could be to his grandson who was only trying to help.
I now find myself in the same situation. I am the frustrated old farmer; suddenly surrounded by new technologies that I can’t understand. Like Grandfather in the “Fields of Home,” I long for the good old days when I could see how a typewriter’s metal typeset keys would stick together, and I could fix them easily with a flick of my finger. Now, in my head, I dig my heels in and want to keep any”tarnal contraptions” from entering my home, thinking I can somehow keep the world at bay if I do.
What can I learn from ” The Fields of Home?” Eventually, after much time and patience on Ralph’s part, Grandfather began to soften to the idea of some machinery used on his farm. He began to see the ”progress” that it allowed them, he and his grandson, and it opened up new opportunities to build relationships with his long estranged neighbors; people who had previously stayed away from such a frustrated, angry old man.
Maybe there is a way to embrace the new technology. I have dug my stubborn heels in and held my breath to get my way. I have ranted and raved and sounded a lot like the frustrated old farmer, and funny thing, it hasn’t made it go away. Maybe, I can look for the good in it; the opportunities to build relationships with people who have written off the cantankerous old lady, and I am currently learning how much technology can help my children that struggle with Dyslexia.
I am sure that today, that beautiful corner of the world that Ralph Moody affectionately called, “The Fields of Home” has either been turned into a large-scale agricultural enterprise or sadly enough, a shopping mall , but Grandfather isn’t here to see it. Maybe someday, because of all of this technological ” progress,” actual books will only be seen in museums, and no one will have to know how to hold a pen or how to spell correctly and hopefully, like Grandfather, I won’t be here to see it. However, while I’m still here, I’m going to walk in the balance, hoping that my children will do the same. After I finish sitting in front of this screen, being helped along with spell check and some magic thing-a-ma-gig that underlines my incorrect sentence structure, I think I’ll go outside, find a worn old curry comb and brush a horse.