The Cyber-Free `80s

Life was better then….

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Cyberbullying didn’t exist in the `80s

Here I was, driving down the street one afternoon. It was in a residential area, so luckily, the street wasn’t extremely busy at the time. Suddenly and without warning, a teenager jumped off the curb to cross the street without stopping to check for oncoming vehicles, and no, there was no cross walk either. Lucky for me, I was quick to react and hit my brakes in time. The youth didn’t even look up but kept on walking. He didn’t even twitch a muscle. Why was this such a strange event? Well, that’s because he had his smartphone glued to the front of his nose and nothing was going to interrupt him from reading whatever was so interesting that he forgot to pay attention to basic pedestrian safety. Uhummm….

In today’s day and age, owning a smartphone, texting, chatting, taking pictures and sharing everything about your day-to-day is considered normal. Let’s face it, even the president sends tweets! But then I experience the negative issues involved in all of this. I watch my own kids  show the same behaviors; always reaching for their smartphone and wanting to read who wrote what about whom so they can reply or comment immediately. Not to mention all the cyberbullying going on resulting in depression and self-harm and suicide. Parents are overwhelmed, not knowing how to deal with these serious situations. I come across articles about this topic every day, in magazines, newspapers and the internet. The increased need for child and teen psychiatrists has exploded because of all the mental abuse and cyberbullying  taking place all over the world. It does not, in my opinion, make this a very safe and joyful time for our children to grow up in. Nothing is private anymore. Children, teens, and of course, also adults, prefer to pass their time in a cyber world with that little screen stuck to their noses. I always joke with my daughter, telling her it would be less strenuous for her arm and hand if she just glued that thing to her nose! She always replies, “Oh, mom.”

Growing up in the 80’s was so much more fun, carefree and interesting. We spent our free time doing sports, hobbies, playing instruments and just being outdoors. We’d go roller-skating or just ride our bicycles and hang out and meet with friends. Generally speaking, children and teens were under less stress at school and could concentrate totally on their studies. We didn’t need hundreds of tutoring institutes in our city, because we really paid attention at school and weren’t distracted by the ever-present “pinging” of incoming messages or the ever-present fear of what the “pinging” was about. When we got home from school we had peace and quiet. It was a real treat to go to the movies maybe once a month, or watch TV in the evening with our parents. Sadly, a lot of this doesn’t seem to happen anymore. Family life is not what it used to be.

I miss the 80’s. The music was better. Growing up was easier. Life was better without all that “pinging,” stress and lack of privacy. In those days, high school was very much just like the musical – and even in that movie they didn’t have smartphones glued to their noses!

But we had fun anyway.

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A place at home, just for Mom

 

Transform your children’s playroom into mom’s private hobby room and office.

Adapting your home to suit your family’s needs is essential in order maintain some form of organization in your home. Having children, for instance, does present a few challenges in room planning. Young children with bedrooms upstairs are often out of sight when moms are working in the kitchen or cleaning downstairs. Privacy is one thing, but when you go upstairs and find your five-year-old having a jigsaw puzzle throwing contest with her best friend and coloring the wall with crayons – that’s maybe a good time to consider turning that extra room adjacent to the livingroom into a children’s playroom. This would allow you to keep an eye on the kids now and then, and have shelves and cabinets to store all their toys and games so that you won’t trip over them in the middle of the livingroom. The kids would be able to build that huge tower of building blocks and have plenty of room to play without everyone tripping and falling over toys. And most importantly, you can keep a watchful eye on what they’re doing and allow them some privacy to play with their friends.

It’s a wonderful idea until they grow into their teens and begin using the “children’s playroom” as their very own “junk” room where they simply dump their school books, jackets, shoes and everything else they don’t want to put away. One day you crawl over all that mess on the floor and open the closet to find a mountain of toys, dirty old socks, empty water bottles, books, old chocolate bar and candy wrappers and other “unidentifiable objects” crashing down on top of you. That’s when it’s time to make a change.

Mom’s rarely have the luxury of having a special room in the home where they can relax, work on their favorite hobby, read a book, perform their home office job or just simply surf on the internet undisturbed. So when the playroom becomes the junk room, it’s time to take the initiative and turn it into mom’s private space. Think back to the last time you had a room all to yourself? A place to read and keep your favorite books, do oil painting or crafts and have your very own private office space. It sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s heavenly!

Step one, everything has to be taken out of the closets and boxes. Sorting and boxing everything is the most time-consuming, so put plenty of time aside for this. The kid’s favorite toys and book collections that you can’t part with should be put into storage boxes and up into the attic to be passed down to future generations – if, whenever, or not, or just for our children as keepsakes. Then paint the walls with a fresh, light color and replace the old carpet with natural wood style laminated flooring. In our case, the carpeting was impossible to remove because it was glued to the floor, so we simply left it in and put the laminated floor panels over it – problem solved.

Plan an excursion to your local furniture or department store to purchase some great affordable bookcases, a small sofa, desk, lamps, a desk chair, knickknacks for the shelves and pictures for the walls. I bought everything for my special office at IKEA and it turned out great! What is it with men and their aversion to assembling furniture? Patience and teamwork is the key! Of course, it helps if you read the directions for assembly. It took us one week of our vacation time to complete the painting, put in the new flooring and assemble the bookcases and cupboards, but it was well worth the time and effort.

Now, it’s “mom’s private office,” my peaceful workplace, and it’s wonderful.

 

An Act of Kindness in Germany

One day my daughter,  who is 19 years old and has a slight physical handicap, came home from her work experience at a local senior citizen home and told me the most touching story…..

While standing at the bus stop in the pouring rain, a young man ran across the street and handed her his umbrella.  Then he turned around and ran back across the street, boarded his bus and disappeared without saying a word. It happened so quickly that she couldn’t even thank him for it before he quickly ran off. She said he was a refugee, new to this country and didn’t speak German. This act of kindness literally brought tears to my eyes.

Living in Germany, we hear and read reports about people and families in foreign lands having to flee their homes for safety almost daily. One can’t ignore the constant criticism and the political haggling about it all. People give them a place to live and then complain that they live there.  I try to avoid watching the news.  There are simply too many sad and depressing things going on in this world and I can’t help wondering if actual acts of “kindness”  have become a rarity. Why are people so negative and quick to judge and criticise people they don’t even know?

Ironic as it may seem, this act of kindness wasn’t performed by a native German resident but by a foreigner facing the hardships of being accepted by a new country, its people and its customs.

“Dear young man, wherever you are.  Thank you for being kind to my daughter.”

Goodbye Dolls and Trains

100_2087We all have these wonderful memories of our children at Christmas when they’re sitting under the Christmas tree opening their presents. The kids would tear off the beautiful wrapping paper and then they’d pass the boxes on to me to do the rest.  I couldn’t get the toys out of the original packaging fast enough!  This was no easy task, since I believe that toys are purposely packaged extremely well to make our lives more stressful on Christmas Day. Remember the dolls with their buggies and cool outfits? Or if you have boys, remember the cars and train sets?

What I didn’t know then was that one day the toys would be gone.

As my children got older they simply lost interest in their toys. They sat untouched, collecting dust in the cupboards and on the shelves.  My girls sprouted into their teen years and the dolls were forgotten. Instead, their interests changed to CDs, DVDs, mobile phones, gaming consoles, makeup, clothes and …… boys. Now that’s a scary thought, especially when you picture them running around the house in their little princess costumes at the age of four!

I guess as a parent, this must be the first stage in preparation of our children eventually leaving the nest. But what about all those beautiful and expensive toys and dolls sitting on the shelves?  Two options.  Box them and hide them away in the attic for almost forever or give them to children that would appreciate them NOW. I decided on the latter.

Today, a young family came to pick up the toys.  They searched through the boxes with eager looks of anticipation and wonder on their faces. They gave me looks of appreciation and embarrasement. I helped them load all the boxes of toys into their car and then sadly watched as they drove away.

I was glad, of course, that the toys would be cherished but never imagined I would be so sad to see them go. Our babies are no longer babies anymore.

They’re growing up.