I took the iPads away a few months ago. Screw that, I took it all away! The iPads, the Switch, the Nintedo DS, or whatever else has made its way into our house throughout the years. If it can carry an electrical charge and turn my kids into mindless, apathetic zombies who don’t get off the couch when I ask three times to come to dinner, it’s gone. You know what, I am sorry, that’s not fair. It really isn’t. Matter of fact, it’s disrespectful, and I shouldn’t have written that. I apologize to all the zombies who have ever graced the pages of literature and walked across the screens of movie theaters and television sets. Zombies at least MOVE! Sure, they’re sluggish and listless (unless of course you’ve seen that one with Brad Pitt and they can run freakishly fast. What the hell was that? You can’t just go and make zombies even more menacing like that. It’s not right. Not right.), but at least zombies have drive, right? They have some sort of purpose (eating you obviously), and it involves getting up off the damn couch! My kids, not so much when the electricity is flowing at their fingertips. If I watch them, and I have, I can actually see their upper and lower lips slowly part from each other, and if given enough time, drool will in fact start to seep out. Neanderthals, and I’m not about that. The worst thing about them, though. The thing I can’t stand. The meltdowns when they have to shut them off.
“Dinner’s ready. Let’s go! Wash your hands and get to the table.” I ask curtly. Curtly you ask? Yes, because this is the third time I’ve asked. Generally, my rule is three. I’ll give you once and twice as freebies because we’re not running a marine boot camp over here, but I’m not asking any more than three times. Those five extra minutes are done.
First time ever. My baby boy. The first born I used to cradle in just one hand and sing to at night in that rocking-chair says , “No.” I stop dead in my tracks like Arnold from The Terminator and slowly, methodically turn my head to meet his glare. System scanning and processing. My robot eyes look him up and down. They narrow now in full on target mode. He knows he messed up. I can already see that look of regret starting to form on his face, but if you know Teddy, the boy is full of piss and vinegar, and he has an extremely difficult time apologizing when he knows he was wrong. He won’t back down, and I know it. My wife says he gets it from me. She’s wrong. I’m right. That’s enough on the issue.
Terminator protocol engaged. “Come again now?” I reply.
“Well, I said, ‘No’ because I am not finished building this thing yet.” Minecraft. Such a dumb game. I’m sorry. I don’t get it. If he had said, “Dad, we’re about to kick King Koopa’s tail in this level, and we can’t save it,” things might’ve been different. I would’ve told him to move over and watch the master at work. But, Minecraft? Umm, no.
“You’re kidding, right, Teddy? Did you just go from seven to seventeen in a matter of seconds? Who exactly are you talking to like that?”
“Ummm? Dad, dude. I’m Dad, and you don’t talk to your father like that. You just lost your iPad. I’m done.” Tommy starts to laugh at him and of course do what little brothers do. He points and repeats over and over again, “Teddy lost his iPad, Teddy lost his iPad!”
“Hey, Tom. Guess what?”
“Huh?” He cocked his head left and scrunched his eyebrows. I almost felt bad because he looked so helpless and had no idea it was coming.
“You did too. Remember when I said brothers are always a united front? I’m taking yours away too.” Did he deserve it? I think. Not sure. Like I said, terminator protocol was engaged, and I was out for redemption.
Tears like a Tsunami flew my way with a hailstorm of insults and accusations. The two of them raged. Inside my head that song “Let the bodies hit the floor! Let the bodies hit the floor!'“ started playing.
“You can’t do that!”
“You’re the worst dad ever!”
“You’re so mean!”
That’s fine, they’re just words, and I know my kids love me. The thing that gets me through moments like this and that helps me not cave in and let them have their way is all the valuable time I’ve spent DOING things with my kids. Playing Avengers with Tommy and wearing that suffocating Iron Man mask that makes me miss oxygen. Playing Jedi Knights and taking a rogue Star Wars light saber to the throat because Teddy has absolutely terrible aim. Letting Joey fall asleep on my chest while I watch T.V. because he’s scared of a nightmare. I know they’ll remember all that too in the future, so it helps me stay strong in their catty moments.
“Every time you guys say something mean to me, it’s another month. You’re at three months right now.” Truth be told, I meant to say weeks but it was a slip of the tongue. Show no weakness in the armor. I wasn’t going back.
Wait, maybe Michelle is right?
Anyways. Moving on.
“Mom! Dad’s being a poo-poo butt!” Teddy belted from deep within his core. Did that really just happen? Yes, yes it did. Remain calm, Chris. Breathe in. Breathe out.
They stopped. Tears glistened on their cheeks and blinded me now. This hurt more than their words, but if this was how they were acting over a few games, then I was clearly right that these devices had started to hold my sons captive.
“Are we done now?”
“Yes.” They both replied in unison- defeated and dejected.
Confetti and balloons fell from the ceiling, and disregarding their emotions, I danced in circles shouting “I won! I won!”
I’m kidding, but I did imagine it in my head.
Terminator mode deactivated.
They washed their hands, came to the table, and we ate dinner in silence (Dare I say an added bonus). It’s been four months. In that time, Teddy has read in his free time instead of playing video games. He’s read three Harry Potter books and the Percy Jackson Series. Tommy’s sight word recognition has tripled in that time, and he actually likes working with his hands and building Legos. Teddy has fallen in love with Archery and Tommy is running frantically and excitedly around a soccer field. We play chess ALL THE TIME, and Teddy is actually finding ways to beat me (Not sure what that says about me if a third grader is getting the best of me in a mental game, but whatever). Am I trying to brag? Truly, no. Taking that stuff away was hard. For them and for us. After a long day of dealing with teenagers, my wife and I used to appreciate the little bit of time we had to just hear nothing while they played on the electronics, but it wasn’t good for our kids. I’m not saying everybody should do the same thing. Maybe your kids handle it better than mine do and that’s great. We’ve slowly reintroduced them back to the devices, but there are now some huge restrictions and requirements that came with this return.
Have you practiced your piano or guitar?
Is your room clean?
Thirty minutes and that’s it. Any complaining and they’re gone again for four months again.
We’re going to see if this works. We’re trying to navigate this onslaught of technology our parents didn’t really have to deal with. It’s everywhere and so very much integrated in all aspects of life. I’m trying to teach them balance, and I’m hoping we’re modeling for them how to do just that.
How do you handle technology in your home? Any tips or advice? Leave some comments below!