Friday, 21 May 2010

Soapbox Friday

I don't want to sound like a 'Grumpy Old Woman' here, but this is something I've been noticing for a while and just want to share with you and hear your point of view. If you think I'm being harsh, that's absolutely fine, too.
The two boys that live on the farm (Seven and Ten) have a lovely little pony. Up until now they haven't been able to ride very much, largely because the winter weather was so bad, and because we haven't really had suitable facilities. We have what we call The Lunge Pen, but there is grass on the ground, and it's very difficult to teach young children to ride on a pony who just wants to eat the grass.
But now, of course, we have the school, so some real work can begin, and this is also where my rant begins. This rant really is about 'The Nintendo Generation'.
When my children were growing up, Nintendo was fairly new, but they still wanted most of the games that came out, and certainly every new console, (Nintendo 64, Playstation, Playstation II etc). We weren't made of money, so supply could not, and would not keep up with demand. They had plenty of games, though, and were deeply into the world of Zelda, Tetris and Buster Move 2 (Remember those?) and I didn't have a problem with it.
However, back to the horse riding lessons. Both Seven and Ten have a Nintendo DS each, a Wii system and a computer. They have learned that if you 'press a button' a great deal happens. Now my job is to teach them to ride. I have been teaching riding for years, to people of all ages and abilities. I can't help noticing that both boys ride as if they are playing a Nintendo game. They seem to think that they can put the minimum amount of effort in (and sometimes no effort whatsoever!) and something huge will happen as a result, as though the pony will know what to do by some form of osmosis or thought transference, or something. I asked Ten what you need to do to get the horse to trot. He said he had to squeeze. I thought, 'fine, he understands' and told him to go ahead, and he just sat there doing absolutely nothing. I was actually speechless, a rarity for me.
In the end I took both boys right back to basics. I decided to teach them to start, steer and stop. That's all. I put some poles on the floor parallel to the fence, but about four feet away to see if they could ride the pony down the long side of the school, between the poles and the fence. Otherwise the pony just walks round wherever he feels like it. It took Seven a long time to work out that the pony is not a machine, and that it would take real effort from him, involving his whole body, and movement from his arms and legs, to cause something to happen. The fact that this was a total revelation to him was written all over his face.
It really made me think what a lazy society we are becoming. I know it's wonderful to have all these new gadgets and inventions, but it makes you wonder where it will end. We love the fact that our TV now comes with a remote control, but why have we invented the remote control? So that we don't have to get up!
Have you seen the Pixar animation film Wall-E? If you haven't, it's well worth seeing. There is a big space station in it, and all the people are fat and lay on beds all day, and get propelled along and fed and entertained as they sit there, there's no need to move. I am really beginning to wonder if that's the way the world is going.
Before we moved to the farm I worked in an office. My desk was my ops centre. I had a head set for my phone, a keyboard in front of me and all my files arranged along my desk, stapler etc in front, handily positioned. I was like an octopus, if I wanted anything I could just reach out my arm, and there it was - no need to get up, just stay right there, answer the phone and type at the same time. I didn't need to leave my chair except to go to the loo and make a drink, and I'm sure the company would have preferred it if I could have abstained from both.
I am well aware that my two sons would quite happily sit at their computers all day and all night and play games, barely stopping to eat or sleep. My youngest son is now pale and very slim and arranges via the internet for someone to keep his game going while he is at work! For goodness sake, what is the world coming to? I totally understand that computer games were invented to fill a gap in the market. No child really wants to play hoopla and cup-and-ball for ever, do they? But what's wrong with going for a walk or playing mud pies in the garden (oh I forgot, children mustn't get dirty) or going out on their bikes for an hour's explore like we used to (oh, sorry, it isn't safe, is it?) It really makes me sad.
I guess that's my rant over. And I really am sad about it. Sad for this generation that has to get its excitement vicariously. This is why I really want the boys to learn to ride. At least it's one thing that teaches them that you only get out of life what you put in, that you can get hurt in real life, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and try again, and progress at something and have a lot of fun in the process. Only time will tell... *climbs reluctantly down from soapbox* but if I really am turning into a Grumpy Old Woman, I'll be climbing back on it again before too long!


  1. AAAAAAAaaaaHhhhhh!!!!!!!!!! My God! ....And I thought I was going Mad!....Its true, somone else out there has noticed. If ever there was a time for change,(now where did I hear that?)It was in the 80`s. And so it came to pass, that the Great Lady herself(NOT) allowd the invention of free enterprise. Then came the"I can sue you now because the telly says so!"
    And lo! Then came the computer, Raymond Baxter was right! Then came the? Well thats enough of that. Yes you are right!

    The world I grew up in, (OMG Here he goes!) was full of people having to go out to work, to earn acrust to pay for the chance to eat. As Monty Python said once,"Shoes? you were lucky, I used to tie a cabbage leaf to my feet!"etc. So where was I? Oh yes. Telly, was a very new thing, it sat in the corner, and had a blank screen, it came on, (you had to get out of your seat!) and took hours to warm up,(Valves you know!) and then it was only on for a few hours ay midday, then from about 5pm, to 11pm! It was awful! But in all honesty looking back, that was fine. Because now, we are all glued to the bloody machine!
    I for one hate it! My wife loves it, and the grand kids have it stuck to their hips! Together with, WII, Nintendo, PS Playstation, and the inevitable Mobile phone, bluetooth etc!!!!!!
    I am a grumpy bloke!(notice I didnt say old!" But truth is always there, we have progress for the convenience of our lives, but we sacrifice our lives for the convenience provided, by progress!....Did I say that? Must be getting a degree in Philosophy! (Not)

    In essence, your right. I do long for the past to the extent that, where the people spoke to each other, and friends existed where you could see them, and not on the blessed facebook!

  2. I too agree, and as a retired teacher I'd say that the video games were the finishing touch to destroying childhood imagination. TV started it and video games finished it. No child invents an imaginary world any more, they just use those furnished by Nintedo etc. So sad.

  3. Don't worry, we're not all like that, although I know a certain couple of ten year olds who could be taught a thing or two about using their brains while riding...
    Although I think they like odd movies more than Nintendo :)

  4. hiya- thanks for leaving your comment. . .yes, we can ride through the bluebell woods and it's especially nice very early in the morning.

    Hope you've calmed down by now enough to enjoy this wonderful weather- I've just given Bruce a bath and I think I'd better ride him quickly while he's clean- and before he rolls in the favourite dust patch!


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