I really hate screens.
I hate watching my kids stumble around, eyes glued to that screen held so lovingly in their palms. I feel like their brains are being controlled, replacing all my life lessons with mush.
I hate it even more that they learned this behavior from me.
I get so mad at myself and those devices that anytime someone loses one or it gets smashed or dropped in the toilet (no snickering, I know we aren’t the only ones) I throw a secret party in my head. I can’t help it—they have officially gotten in the way of my relationship with my kids—and I have put the obstacle there myself.
Saying yes to screens was my worst decision as a mom.
Of course it wasn’t my idea. But it all started when I got a company iPhone in 2007. That Christmas the kids got iPods, their gateway drug.
Somehow I have fallen into the trap of allowing them to trade up for better, faster versions. Somehow that’s what Christmas or birthdays have become. No surprises here. Happy “7 Plus” Day. See you when you turn 8.
And I pay for it, in more ways than one.
I convince myself that the dark circles under the kids eyes aren’t permanent craters because of late night viewing—because they can’t sleep. And yes, I get the irony.
But I’m just as guilty. Some nights at three or four am, I’m already at it. I feel my way to the kitchen while I respond to an email that somehow I think needs to be answered immediately.
These screens feel like they are taking over at least this family’s life. I read somewhere that even Steve Jobs didn’t let his kids have screens—any of them. Could he maybe have known something that we are now learning the hard way: These things are addictive. When I put down my phone, it’s only to look at my computer. If I can’t change my habits, how do I expect my kids to?
Screens dominate our family dinner table.
They hijack our conversations. They make stronger bonds with things that are meaningless to our family: videos about kittens or people falling; a stupid comment OR an irrelevant article. Or jokes and phrases that don’t make me laugh because they aren’t even real words. Very recently, I have felt like I need a dictionary like it’s a foreign language. Ghostride the flounce, on fleek dafuq. By the way, POS isn’t what you think it is. It’s way worse. And so far, they do a great job at KPC. It’s a constant game of catch up that I’m confused about, because I swear I’m still hip. But I’m not, because I order these phones to be put away. Now it’s officially me who isn’t joining the conversation, because I have no idea what is going on.
I’ve been known to say awful things like, “Did you know that the number of deaths by selfie has spiked in recent years…” The kids laugh at me: “Is that how you’ll go mom?” I laugh too, because of course I’m a first-hand offender. I have also sought validation in likes and comments from pictures and videos. Even when I confess about this, trying to have a “hey isn’t it funny that we do this and complain about it” conversation, I’m not sure they’ve heard me over their own concentrated scroll. Their eyes and thumbs are so much more connected than mine. At this point in time, they are gifted with this connectivity and it’s hard for me to accept it as being meaningful and necessary, really.
Look, I have the ability to end it. Right here, right now.
Everyone give me your phones, say your goodbyes. Into the bin they go.
But the device wouldn’t be the only thing that went in. So would their artwork, their friends, the meaning they have found in themselves, the companion that, even though I hate to admit it, has been the only one there for them late at night when they couldn’t sleep. Also, let’s not be silly and think that this bin isn’t a two way street. Because I’m damn well aware that while all of this stuff went into the bin, the first thing that would crawl back out is resentment. Towards me. What a replacement that would be.
So I let them scroll and ignore, scroll and ignore. Is that the worst thing that could happen?
And, while I’m feeling really guilty here—let me outright admit that I have used screens to babysit them while I’m on mine. “But I’m working,” I say, with 65% accuracy.
I try to challenge our family in many ways, but it’s hard to stop using. I try to lead, but I have come to realize that I’m pretty lousy at the follow up. Here are some of the many restrictions I’ve failed at—and their responses:
A temporary collection bin on the dining table—all phones are to be deposited by 8 pm.
But my phone is also my alarm clock.
I need my sleep sounds app to get me to sleep.
Designate an art time, every day.
But my phone is what records my art—my animation.
I need to watch this video tutorial so I can do the art you want me to do.
You’re supposed to be doing your homework.
I’m using it to look up vocabulary.
The Discovery Channel counts as research.
Just put it away, it’s bad for you.
But I’m reading an article on climate change.
You said I should have more friends—so I’m live streaming.
and the inevitable…But yours is out all the time!
In a couple of months we are taking a long vacation. I can’t wait to watch their pale Oregon faces get sun kissed. These phones are allowed to come for the trip (they are, after all, cameras too), but they need to stay behind in the hotel. Of course I’ll use the excuse of salt and sand ruining their devices, but in all reality, I just want them to see that there is more to life than what is in the palm of their hand.
Hopefully I’ll be able to follow the rules.
So Called Mom
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