Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Literary Reflections Selected Short


In March, we asked the question:

Where has technology intersected with your parenting? Has technology impacted your child's literary experience? Where does the value of books and electronic media rank in your household? Why?
Sara Graefe wrote:

Confession: my son was conceived in the middle of an on-line graduate class. A class I was teaching, no less, in mid-discussion. Or rather, discussions, as the internet enables me to teach two classes simultaneously. At that fateful moment when egg met sperm, I was actually in three places at once -- virtually speaking, anyway.

Confused? I sure was, the year I moved from a live classroom to a virtual one. My internet workshops are the on-line equivalent of the same, two-hour courses offered in a seminar room on campus, except mine stretch over forty-eight hours. We use a bulletin board format -- no web cam, no live-chat, meaning I can show up in my pajamas. It's distance education in the truest sense: students in disparate time zones with complex family/work schedules can drop in and out any time over the two days, posting comments on the class forum. As the instructor, I'm expected to be ever-present, guiding and monitoring both classes, heated, dynamic conversations that run in tandem. I take breaks to eat and sleep, of course -- and, on this particular occasion, make a baby.

And no, we weren't going at it under the desk, or even in the next room. Modern lesbian couple that we are, our act of conception involved ducking out of work mid-afternoon and driving to the fertility clinic where, thanks to the wonders of reproductive technology, previously frozen donor sperm was inserted into my cervix by intrauterine insemination as my partner stood by and held my hand. I lay on the examining table, feet up in stirrups, thinking how strange it was my students were carrying on without me at that very moment, without an inkling of what I was up to.

Given the way my son came into being, it's little wonder that even at two, he has a very different relationship to technology than I did as a kid. Technology surrounds him and he accepts it as a given, embracing and engaging with it without hesitation. Our house is littered with "interactive" toys -- plastic, battery-guzzling monstrosities with their over-stimulating beeping and flashing lights. Even my son's "trike" and alphabet-fridge magnets sing little ditties. His tiny fingers fly expertly over the controls of a brand new toy, which he then flips over to figure out how the device actually works. Treehouse Channel beams out programming 24/7, just a remote click away. "Watch TV?" has become his favorite refrain, ever since that month my partner was away and I desperately needed to keep him occupied while I showered and made dinner. He knows you can visit, interact even, with the likes of Thomas the Tank Engine and Igglepiggle on-line, something my partner showed him in a similar moment of weakness. I worry sometimes that it's all too much, that technology will consume him. I forget that he still loves nothing better than to curl up and read a book with me -- and that my own embracing of technology made his little life possible in the first place.

Sara Graefe can be reached at sgraefe(at)shaw(dot)ca

Merle Huerta, an army chaplain’s wife, is the mother of a blended family of thirteen children. During her husband’s combat deployments, she co-authored articles appearing in the Jerusalem Post and National Review. She has a Master�s from Columbia University in Instructional Media and Technology and a Certificate in Nonfiction from The Writers Institute at CUNY. She lives at the U.S. Military Academy in New York. “Tuesday Mornings” is her first solo publication.

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As a child the only thing I remember watching on TV was Sesame Street and Mister Rogers. My parents were very strict about TV watching. When my first son was born I had read plenty about the evils of TV on a growing mind, but then I had to do the laundry, make dinner, take a shower so I turned to the TV for help. It did and not only that, it has taught my kids all sorts of things. My oldest can count to 10 in spanish (thanks Dora!) and my youngest who is only 19 months knows the difference between a dump truck and a semi-truck (thanks Mightly Machines),something I would not have thought to explain. I also take comfort in the fact that as soon as I ask if they would like me to read a book, the TV goes off and they are happy to cuddle up and listen to me read. Thank you for the little snipit into your life, I loved it!
I struggle with TV watching (and movies and computers) every day, wondering whether my boundaries will be effective in creating creative children. I get all sorts of looks from people who find out I use TV as a regular babysitter...whether it's to work, make a phone call or do the laundry. But I don't feel like I have much choice. I have to get stuff done and it won't get done if they're at my heels whining...and they are 5 and 8! It's a challenge every day to figure out what feels right and it keeps changing. Thanks for such an inspiring story, Sara!
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