A friend of mine is not unusual in seeking a second career at the age of fiftysomething, but rather than become a teacher or take a jewellery-making course, he's taken the bolder step of buying 10 acres of land in Portugal on which he's going to build a holiday centre. He has a notion, and he may well be right, that there is a ready market of parents of his vintage who would like to take their children somewhere that eschews the technological temptations of the modern world and offers the possibility of enjoying a rustic, natural holiday like they themselves had when they were young, or at least believed they had.
So he will offer forest trails, swimming in ponds, tree climbing, and the like. He'll expect parents to confiscate their children's mobile phones, PlayStations and iPads as they arrive, and of course there will be no television or telephones in the cabins he is building. He may indeed be on to a winner, although my concern is not whether children will be able to withstand being separated from their electronic devices: it's the parents I'm worried about.
In an age when we feel so important that we can't be out of communication for even the shortest time, I simply don't know how we grown-ups will cope with the separation anxiety engendered by an absence of wi-fi. Many middle-aged commentators - and I certainly include myself in this category - are baffled by the way young people interact with the modern world.
We complain, among other things, of our children’s lack of engagement, interest and knowledge of nature, and an over-reliance on their mobiles, games consoles and TV. But aren't we the same people who sat their kids in front of the telly from a very early age so we could get on with their own, much more important, business? And it's not just kids who can't go five minutes without checking their phone to see if a text message has just landed. No, I think young people are unfairly given a tough time, something I felt particularly keenly on reading the National Trust's list of 50 things a child should have done by the age of 12.
This ranges from simple, relatively commonplace, activities like running around in the rain and climbing a tree to rather more specialised pursuits like finding some frogspawn, tracking wild animals and setting up a snail race. As I looked down the list, I realised how few of these things my own child - who is now in her twenties - has accomplished.
If it had been the ability to find her way around London's major department stores, or knowing how to get an upgrade for her phone, or having an innate understanding of what's cool or not, then she's your girl. But canoeing down a river or cooking on a campfire? No chance. But why is this her fault? Shouldn't I have taken her horse riding or kite flying? Shouldn't I have introduced her to the simple pleasure of catching fish with a net or star gazing? Instead, I felt I deserved a holiday doing nothing, rather than something. And, in any case, my mobile might ring at any time. Yes, I blame the parents...
- More about:
- Divorce And Separation
- Family And Parenting
- Life Expectancy
- Mobile Phones