Gabriel lives with her family on the Island of Madeira, where a warm climate provides the perfect environment to enjoy the outdoor life.
I work mainly from home on my computer admittedly but I also work in my garden and on my small holding (chickens, ducks and a goat.) When I am not doing this I am swimming or walking: I am outside a lot. I don't care much for restaurants as I cook rather good to be honest which seeing as I am a chef it would be a little odd if I didn't. I also don't care much for shopping centres or supermarkets but I go when I've ran out of tomatoes or shampoo whichever comes first. Anyway why I am waffling? It is simply to explain my lack of human contact that recently proved rather exhausting while on my first holiday in many years.
I was persuaded I needed a holiday so after years of avoiding the inevitable I conceded and off we went: partner and daughter at the helm. We went to the sister Isle via a 2 hour ferry (no stress, no airport, meaning no lost luggage or being touched up by a burly security guard behind a see through curtain at the beeping expensive of the now very clear revelation that I still have too much mercury in my blood.)
A taxi to the hotel and hey presto our holiday had started. Straight to the bar for a drink me thinks. Sitting under a sun brolly sipping an ice cold beer I take in my surroundings (laptop has been confiscated and mobiles are in the room safe and I don't know the password).
I gaze towards the sand dunes in the distance and the swaying ferns. I look over the glistening swimming pools and brightly coloured sun-beds. The air is dryer than home but as it is July the heat is to be expected. My daughter is a fish (a shark out of water, I might add) and loves to swim and I watch her dive and practice her over arm with a smile on my face.
As I sip and gaze, I notice that while there are rather a few families (thankfully not mine as I didn't even say we were going, God forbid they tag along) there is very little noise of splashing water or in fact of laughter. I find myself curiously watching individual groups and rather slowly (I am on my second beer after all) it dawns on me: there are a number of electronic devises also on holiday, with iPads being the preference. I am surprised to see very young children wrapped in towels sitting under brollies playing (as they surely aren't doing their spreadsheets) on them. I can almost see the firefly twinkle hover above their heads. My first reaction rather ludicrously is to ask if I could borrow one, my finger tapping on the table is encouraging rather annoyed glances. I probably look like some demented pianist. Of course after I get over my jealously my reaction morphs into astonishment. My own daughter just turned 7 has showed a little interest in games and occasionally at the weekend she is permitted to indulge but to be very honest we as a family are usually chasing the goat away from the tomatoes or fixing the whole in the hen house which he keeps making. Our other repetitive tasks include feeding 50 chickens and goodness knows how many ducks and hunting down the bunny which keeps getting into the house (and leaving huge teeth marks in my shampoo bottle) when the kitchen window is left open. He has the run of a yard with a sea view I might add yet he wants to be inside. His own home is a two story wood maison with floor to ceiling mesh windows on each side. Anyway enough about Skipper (for now anyway).
Back to the tots on iPads brigade: I am astounded by this rather ridiculous indulgence and decide to take a walk around the complex. As well as numerous olive trees, an abundance of cactus and pale purple bougainvillea I spot more iPads. Enough, time for a swim.
Later that evening a pre dinner cocktail leads to more iPads and young children, muted young children. I am shocked to see a baby in her buggy with an iPad attached to the handle. Her eyes are wide open in an almost trance like state. I am aghast at this. I find myself with the same shocked expression directed at her parents (thankfully my partner advises me of this and I tear my star struck eyes away.) I ask my partner where our daughter has gone as I notice her empty seat and pineapple cocktail drink looking rather lonely. The answer: outside with her binoculars hunting for bunnies of course. I find it really hard to sit there and not stare at the babies parents. My eyes seem determined to betray me. Finally when a young couple sit opposite us with a tot of about 2 and plonk, yes you got it an iPad on the table I decide to join my daughter in the hunt for bunnies. It's a far saner thing to do and besides my eyes are hurting.
Having remarkably spotted an amazing number of bunnies running over the sand dunes we retreated to the dining room. My daughter was a bubble of excitement relating to her discovery and how perhaps there may be primas (cousins) belonging to Skipper out there. It was rather hilarious listening to her exaggerated account of how the one with the blue shirt must be his prima. My partner and I laughed heartily as she chatted away right through dinner. It was with rather less astonishment that I noticed more iPads and silent children and parents staring over each other into space. I looked at my partner, stroking our daughters hair and laughing delightedly at her funny chatter. I smiled and thought how lucky I am and lifted my wine glass and toasted them both with a Cheers Big Ears. My daughter laughed, cocked her head to one side and promptly asked if we closed the kitchen window.
Should these young children be using iPads? I don't know of the medical side of things having only read that there is no proof of related damage by using electronics, but surely constant use cannot be good for anyone let alone a developing child. The unusual silence of young families was rather unnerving and the babies staring eyes still give me nightmares. I can't help wondering what the lasting effects on a young mind will be if their introduction to the world is a colourful screen rather than watching the world go by. I strongly believe in conversation and interaction with children, my own daughter spoke fluently by the age of two and loves to engage in conversation with us and anyone that will listen. I also have a strong opinion on how children learn: by watching and interaction. If children are in a semi state of "bunny in the headlights syndrome" surely they are not watching and not learning. I found the constant usage of electronics on a holiday especially sad as surely parents should take this time to indulge their children: play, laugh, eat, joke have fun together not transfer their attention span to Bob The Builder or in the babies case neon balls with happy faces bouncing around the screen (a nightmare instigator although the balls aren't smiling.) I don't want to dictate to anyone but if you read this please think about how you use your electronics ultimately distracting your child so you can have a moments peace and quiet: perhaps take your kid for a swim, a walk or even bunny hunting. I fear for children in the future and how they will make friends and be part of society if in their early lives they are already so isolated by flickering screens. How will they make friends? How will they learn to be part of a group and play and have fun and be a child? And worryingly still how will they talk to their parents?
I know electronics are a part of all our lives and for the good in many cases too. But for goodness sake if you have a baby or a young tot don't put them in front of an iPad. Give them a soft book, a funny looking toy, the dogs (cleaned) squeaky ball. Talk to them and play with them, turn on the music and dance: be a parent. Childhood doesn't last for long and time flies by and before you know it they don't even want to go bunny hunting. Now if you don't mind I have a bunny to hunt, the kitchen window was left open and by the sound of giggles coming from behind the kitchen door me thinks someone about 7 years old left it open on purpose. The binoculars (sticking out from behind the door) are a dead giveaway.
© 2019 Gabriel Wilson