Unplugged!

On Saturday night, my husband and I brought our two boys to the airport. A suitcase each in hand, off they went on their adventure: ten days with their grandparents and a full week at a local camp in Switzerland. Fresh mountain air, stunning scenery, outdoor play, hikes, fishing, fresh berries, cherries and lots of chocolate awaits them! 

One thing they didn't pack is their phone nor iPad. When mentioning this to friends I get a puzzled look - "you are punishing them on holiday?" Quite the contrary - I am giving them a break - a well deserved break from all the information and from being constantly connected!

I strongly feel that they need some time to themselves. Time to let the noise, stimulus and information subside. 

The aim is for them to simply be - truly engage in face-to-face conversations, make personal connections with old and new friends and family. Think about it - how do you unwind? Reading a book? Taking an early morning yoga class? Going for a walk? Enjoying a nice meal with a friend? Flicking through Facebook or Instagram? Watching TV? The virtual world is always there, tempting you to learn more, see more, know more. I know how difficult it is to unplug and that's the reason I hope my kids take advantage to connect with the real world and allow their minds to wonder using their imagination - just for a couple of weeks, at least! 


So, Have you decided?

Earlier this month, all parents at my kids Uptown School were invited to participate in a career fair.The purpose of the event was to introduce students to their career fields of interest by meeting with career professionals from those chosen fields.

Seeing this as an opportunity to interact with students without receiving deadly “you’re embarrassing me” stares of from my own kids; I signed up.

The speakers and grade 9-11 students first attended a short general briefing then took part in informal group presentations they chose. 

Assembly before presentations

Assembly before presentations

It was a great event; there was a big turnout of parents with different career backgrounds; from medicine to aviation to zoology.  Students listened, watched and asked questions.  The smaller class group presentations allowed for a relaxed interactive setting. One could tell that some had a clearer direction of where they were headed. I have to say I felt the big burden of those who didn’t.

And so, from gathering student feedback collected, talking to the school counselor and some parents, it dawned on me the big amount of pressure some students must be feeling to make that “right choice”.

The fun and creative classroom I was assigned for the presentation ( right ) 

The fun and creative classroom I was assigned for the presentation ( right ) 

some of the collected feedback

some of the collected feedback

Snippets from what students liked about fair

Snippets from what students liked about fair

This is not to say that the parents themselves had not undergone similar pressure back then;  but it’s considerably different I think.

I mean, think about it.  Since their early years, students now undergo not only regular school tests; but other International standard tests; IBT, ISA, PISA.. etc. They are great tools that tell you where you stand amongst your school, regional and International peers. And then some more tests like CAT;  the Cognitive Abilities Test which defines the learning methods you are more receptive to and even what grades you are likely achieving now and “ if challenged”.

Add to that, almost every school has a higher education counselor, holds college/career fairs, brings in professional and motivational speakers ..etc;  the list goes on.

Some parents feel this is not enough and take it a step further; scatter college applications around the house;  “drop by” colleges while on family holidays; all unplanned, of course.  

Oh look! What a nice looking college.  let’s see that they have inside, shall we?

We don’t retweet much but when Bill Gates lately tweeted advice to college grads; good parents pass it on, I just did. 

So have you decided

 

I’ll be honest here; on career day I did set out with the “How lucky are they?” state of mind before I even got to school.

And yes I DO still see the advantages, privileges and open access to the great resources they have at hand.  But I also see that by offering them these; most parents expect them to be more decisive, much sooner than later.

We should all remember that even if ten career tests tell  you will be brilliant in the medical field; if there’s no fire in your belly for it; you’re not going there.  Ken Robinson talked about  "the element" as not only the natural aptitude to do things well but to have the desire and passion to do them well. 

And so what I'm saying is; in this overwhelming age;  remind them that they are not heading for doom or failure if they still don't know.  Finding that passion and drive will take more than a few tests and for some, a little or a lot more time. People are allowed to change their mind in college or work…. repeatedly.


Let Me Entertain You.

So this wasn’t my typical spring break. No hotel bookings to be made, no tours to be booked and not one Trip Advisor review read. Yup, I was going home to Jordan.

And no, it was not my first time to go there but it was different for a number of reasons.

For the most part, I was going there to spend time with my parents. Being an expat like many in Dubai, I try to make up for the missed times whenever I can.  

And so as beautiful as some places are; I have no plans nor the time to visit Petra, the Dead Sea or even downtown Amman.

Let Me Entertain You.

I’m also going sans Hubby with my three children.

Typically, my kids would be scattered around at my in laws and cousins homes and we would only meet to deliver clean socks or a missing shoe.  

Not this time; In laws are away in Turkey and all Jordanian cousins haven’t started their spring break.

Queue the panic.

How will the ten school and entertainment free days pass with minimum casualties?

For starters, and to their delight, I insisted they pack the PS4 and all available electronic devices. These were used on most days. But that’s not all they did.

My children played outside, climbed trees and were thrilled I let them walk up and down the streets unattended. They connected with their toddler cousins; uncles and aunts. Sure, they fought ...a lot . But I left them to it. Watching them throughout their uneventful holiday, I saw images from my own childhood. Memories from the holidays we lazed through without expecting much, yet making the most of.

I learnt something about my children and something about myself as a parent. Maybe it should have been obvious; but with all today’s hype and pressure about how to impress and entertain a child; we forget that they really are not that different.

Children are creative and resourceful, if given some free time and space; they should be able to entertain themselves. They should not be expected to complain about how bored they are if you don’t spend your time and fortune organizing their outings.

Let us not make them believe that it is our duty to entertain them. Always.

Maybe sometimes it is we who feel the pressure to impress and wow them every time? The need to get that instagram or snapchat worthy shot. The need to feel we are giving and loving parents.

I was skeptic until the last minute on how things went.

On our way back from the airport, their dad asked them how the holidays went ..After a three hour late midnight flight they all answered with a tiered but honest:…it was GREAT !