Dinner was almost ready last night and nobody came to the table. They were all glued to a gadget.
Despite ringing a bell and yelling like a lunatic, not one member of the family heard me calling.
They all sat cross-eyed, fixated on screens big and small. When I was a teenager, I would be the first to the dinner table every night. It was because there was nothing to do at six in the evening but eat.
I lived in a small village with little else but a hedge and a hill for company. My own children would rather look at pictures of a hill on Google Earth or create a virtual hedge on the Ipad than look at the real thing.
“Is Facebook really more important than eating? Is Angry Birds really more fun than HUNGER?” I ranted, forgetting that I was at a critical stage in the stirring of my risotto.
The ranting and yelling distracted me and meant that the labour intensiveRisotto alla Milanese burnt.
It was the final straw. There was only one thing for it. I went for a screwdriver and the internet box. Silently I attacked the plug. The internet went off.
The effect was instantaneous. All five came running into the kitchen.
They shot past their dinner, past me, past the ruined risotto and to the internet box where they landed on top of one other in a heap.
Then the fighting. “WHY DID YOU SWITCH IT OFF?” they shouted, blaming each other. There was no chance of any of them turning it back on either. I had taken the fuse out.
Occasionally I yearn to be transported back to the 1950s where I would lead a much simpler life. I would spend all day cleaning the house with a feather duster in one hand and a gin and tonic in the other.
I’d wear a pretty apron, curlers in my hair and all my friends would look a bit like Imelda May.
After a busy day of housework, the evening meal would be a wholesome affair as the family would gather around a big table with a gingham tablecloth upon it, talking to each other and eating a lovely (not burnt) dinner.
I imagine a time before laptops when if anyone asked for a ‘Wii’ they’d be sent to the smallest room in the house.
Our home, which should be a lovely relaxing sanctuary from the outside world, is fast turning into the Pentagon. Technology has taken over.
My daughter is preparing for her Junior Cert, but her room looks more like FBI headquarters than a place of study. I stepped into it last week.
A book was open in front of her but beside it, the house phone, her own mobile phone, an ITouch, her father’s IPad and a PC. That’s FIVE gadgets.
“I need the phone” was my simple request. “Well you can’t have it.” She was waiting for a friend to call who was on a train and bored.
Suddenly, a buzz and vibrating noise as her mobile phone shimmied across the desk and on to the floor.
She picked it up, read the message, laughed and tapped back a reply without even looking at the buttons once. This is an incredible skill (rather like braille when you think about it) and most teenagers today can do it.
I can’t text without reading glasses, always spell things wrong and I’m aware that in my children’s eyes that classifies me as an old fogey. “Who are you texting?” I asked, “A friend.” She was texting the friend who was on a train.
Next I went in to retrieve the IPad.
“DON’T TAKE IT!” she shouted like I was about to cut off her leg. “My friend’s going to Facetime me”.
Let’s reflect on this for a moment. This is not an emergency situation; the train has not derailed.
Neither has she accidentally got on a train to Peru.
She is on a train from Dublin to Newbridge. This friend on the train was going to be alone for a maximum of forty-five minutes.
She did use Facetime. Then she sent a text, they came through every five minutes or so.
She finally phoned the land line which I always answer.
These teenage friends are always very polite and we could talk for hours if only my daughter didn’t wrestle me to the ground and fight to get the phone from my hand when they do. I am never quite sure what I say wrong, but apparently every time I speak, it’s cripplingly embarrassing.
This addiction to technology worries me.
This need to communicate every waking minute of the day.
What’s wrong with a bit of old fashioned boredom? It’s an important part of growing up.
That hedge and hill kept me and my siblings occupied for years. Out of boredom came all sorts of creativity.
In today’s world, gadgets mean everyone is now contactable twenty-four hours a day. We are all ‘on call’.
Like my daughter who at that moment was supposed to be studying. I decided that we needed to be a little more 1950s so the internet stayed off for the rest of the night.
The result? We sat around the dinner table, ate burnt risotto and talked. Just like the old days.
We talked about why the internet wasn’t working. About switching providers. About upgrading the software on the computer and Spotify.
The teenager was the only quiet one. She looked like she was listening but I knew by her eyes and one hand in her pocket that she was tapping away at her phone.
“Who are you texting?” I asked. “My friend”. “Why?” “Telling her that I am eating my dinner.”
I turned round and saw her sister taking a photo of the burnt risotto. “Don’t worry Mum. I’m not going to put this on Facebook or anything”. She was too late. I had already uploaded it on to Twitter.
Follow local mum Annie on Twitter @DesperateAnnie