4 November 2007

Old fashioned houses

As I was doing my work yesterday I realised that our home is very old fashioned. Our kitchen is the centre of our home, it's a place where we all sit and talk, when friends drop by they are entertained in the kitchen or outside on the verandah, when Hanno and I stop for tea every morning we usually sit outside on the verandah. We have a large area around the house for chooks, vegetable and flower gardens, and we have our aquaponics garden and fish, a bush house, garden shed and a large shed where we store hay and where Hanno keeps his tools and repairs broken furniture or appliances. We live on an acre of land but our house takes up a very small portion of that space.

New homes are different. Many new homes are on a small piece of land and the home is built right up to the boundry line, there is very little room for outside activities. There might be an "outdoor kitchen" and a small swimming pool but most of the living is done indoors. And when we're indoors I'm amazed that each person has their own private space. There is an advertisement on TV at the moment where each person is in their own room with their own computer, using the internet. "Princess" has her own pink bedroom and bathroom with her own computer and her own phone, while "Buddy" is down the hall in his blue bedroom, complete with basketball hoop on the back of the door, X Box-internet combo and phone so he can hang out with the boys. In these homes there is an adults lounge and a kids playroom. They are separate so the kids don't disturb their parents.

Am I the only one who thinks this is strange and unhealthy?

Our home has one computer connected to the internet that is in the living room, it has always been like that. We bought our first computer when our kids were 7 and 8. They had a couple of computer games, but they played outside most of the time. I would never have allowed them to isolate themselves with a computer in their rooms. We have a really good relationship with our, now grown, sons. We have that partly because we shared our lives, they grew up in the same space as Hanno and I. They saw how we conducted ourselves when we were in our private spaces and not just when we were out on our best behaviour. We encouraged them to bring their friends home and we'd all share an area where at any given time there would be a radio or music playing, games being played, newspapers read, people talking on the phone or to neighbours who dropped in. I would be cooking, a dog would run through, the kids would have a Lego town built taking up half the floor area, they could lay on the floor on big cushions reading, or make a fort with an old bedsheet over the kitchen table and play under there while I wrote. It was all in together, we all made allowances for each other, we all enjoyed the contact with each other and it helped build us into a solid family unit.

I hate to criticise how others live but I really do think they're got it wrong with these new houses. It seems to me that real estate agents are dictacting how people use their homes by giving everyone their own space, and thereby gain more from the sale of new houses. Bring back family rooms! Allow kids to share rooms with their sisters or brothers until they go to school. Separating everyone stops us building trust and loving bonds. Share one computer and let that be in the family room where everyone can see who is trying to talk to the children on the internet. I'd like to see children expand their horizens outside with cubby houses, swings, gardens, chooks and bikes. Is that too old fashioned? Maybe I'm past it but when I look around and see family life as it is lived now, I can't help but think we need more old fashioned houses.
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