Embracing life-shaping balance between lo-tech and hi-tech

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January 31, 2019

Left to right: Al Toms cradles three-month-old son Peregrine “Pip” while singing lullaby; 20-month-old Pip nestles in his mother Naomi’s lap while showing book to friend Mila, as his great-grandma Mary Anna looks on; the next day, Pip shares my smartphone photo of him, Mila and book with guests at a reception. Photos (left and centre) by Warren Harbeck, (right) by Naomi Toms

So, what can a young child teach us about bonding through lullabies, books and technology? Stay tuned. But first, a few more responses to our past three columns on cuddled encounters with life in an increasingly hi-tech world:

Marlis McDouall, whose praise for lullabies and their value for parental bonding prompted this series (my Jan. 10 column), adds: “The bonding that has not taken place between an infant and his or her parents within the child’s very early life, can hardly, if ever, be recaptured.”

But that special bonding is in jeopardy, says aero-space leader Sandy McLeod who has witnessed first-hand in the workplace “the counterproductive influences” of preoccupation with electronic devices without exposure to other, more people-bonding forms of communication. “I hope parents truly take note,” he says.

Similarly, Elaine Phillips, a lecturer in English literature, laments the dramatic decline in reading books among her college students. “Part of the problem,” she says, “is that this new generation of students is addicted to their tech devices and this is affecting how and what they read. There needs to be a balance between old-school reading, singing, and other bonding behaviours, and the enjoyment of our hi-tech world.”

And finding that balance requires an upfront acknowledgement of the reality of hi-tech. Why? As my computer systems consultant son Reg Harbeck says, “It works. And it works vastly better than anything that came before it, or we wouldn’t be using it.”

Well, it appears that Reg’s grandson Peregrine, “Pip,” and his amazing parents, Naomi and Al Toms, of Langley, BC, have clued into that bonding balance.

From birth, Naomi and Al cradled Pip to the rhythm of beautiful lullabies. I remember vividly the time when Pip, three months old, was visiting us in our garden. He had been a bit restless. Al cuddled him close to his heart and began softly singing one of those classic childhood lullabies. Almost immediately Pip calmed down and was soon fast asleep.

Then there was the time just this past December when we were visiting then-20-month-old Pip and his parents. It was at a St. Nick’s party with a few friends, including Pip’s young friend Mila. At one point I looked across the room and saw Pip, cuddled in his mother’s arms, showing Mila one of his favourite books, while his great-grandma Mary Anna, glowing with delight, looked on. I couldn’t resist snapping a photo on my iPhone.

Then the next day at another social gathering, when Pip walked over to where I was seated, I showed him the photo. He immediately reached for my iPhone and, walking around the room to the other guests, showed them the photo.

For Pip there was no conflict among lullabies, books and hi-tech devices. With one he bonded with his parents through music, with another he bonded with family and a close friend through story, and with the other, he bonded with the larger community through images on an iPhone.

Yes, I think Pip and his parents have found and embraced a socially bonding balance between the traditional role of lullabies and books and the emergence of a hi-tech new order.

Thanks, everyone, for all the wisdom you have brought to this series.

© 2019 Warren Harbeck

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