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1 (or more) school-age children
1 ipad mini (or other internet-enabled, hand-held device)
1 (or more) well-intentioned parents engaged in a futile battle with technology
See a toddler on the train. Listen as she says “Daddy phone, daddy phone” and watch how proficiently her tiny fingers navigate the touch-screen technology. Try to resist the temptation—but fail in the end—to judge a fellow parent for pacifying his child with a hand-held device. Silently condemn him with your eyes and feel just a bit self-righteous as you shake your head, saying, “That will never be me.”
Feign nonchalance as family members introduce your 4 year-old to Angry Birds on their hand-held devices. Notice the early signs of terror coursing through your veins as you watch your child get hooked on technology faster than he could ever get hooked on Phonics. In spite of your love for your family, secretly feel relieved that they, and their Apple products, live several hundred miles away.
When your child has finally learned to read and write tell him he must do these things better—as in David Foster Wallace better. Drop a copy of Infinite Jest from high above your head and listen as it lands on the kitchen table with a tremendous thud. This impressive display, while mostly futile, may buy you a little more time.
Pretend to be OK with the fact that your child occasionally gets to use the teacher’s ipad in class. Also pretend to be OK when the Principal tells you schools will soon be “bring-your-own-device.” Try not to shoot these messengers because they are just as powerless to fight the technological onslaught as you are.
Tell your child’s grandmother if she wants to buy him a tablet for Christmas you will not stand in her way. Feel your growing sense of communion with frightened animals that have been trapped in mazes or have undergone scientific experiments. Yes, you may have been raised by the Beverly Hillbillies and Lucille Ball, but this kind of “screen time” is different. Watch your child unwrap his “best ever” present while you self-medicate with a cinnamon roll, horribilizing the long-term social implications of technology and how this device is about to change the mood of your home.
Be amazed by how much of your Saturday morning paper you can read while your child is in a tablet-trance instead of pestering you with all kinds of complicated questions about life and stuff. Enjoy this tech-induced quiet time so much that you allow him to go beyond his daily limit “just this once.” Pour a second cup of uninterrupted coffee and hear a small voice whisper that you too have become a pacifier of children.
Think of the man on the train and feel the burn of hypocrisy. Feel it.
Let the great sadness of watching your child lose interest in all of his pre-tablet toys and hobbies wash over you. Try not to rain on his parade with your lack of enthusiasm as he proudly tours you through a world of his own design in Minecraft. Watch him struggle to build a bridge back to your world once his tablet time is over.
Feel the stinging hand of irony slap your face when your child tells you that Boom Beach, Clash of Clans—or any of the latest distractions he’s longing for—are free. It won’t cost a cent to lose your child, game-by-game, even as the social costs may be incalculable.
Spend some part of your sleepless nights hating Steve Jobs and thinking ill of the dead. Stop just shy of wishing pancreatic cancer on any of the senior management team at Apple as you try to lull yourself back to sleep.
Resist the urge to scream the word “Bull*&^%!” out loud when people talk about what a great educational tool a tablet is. See this for what it is: the pleasantries exchanged by out-of-control sheeple who are careening into an unknown void at the speed of light and have opted for self-soothing over self-awareness.
Hate yourself, and the sound of your own voice, a little more every day as you say, over and over, “Your 30 minutes are up!” Know that from here on out you are more referee than mother. Buy a whistle and a black-and white shirt and focus on the upside: vertical stripes are very slimming.
Unplug your family for one week—not because the folks at Participaction suggested it but because you had to or someone was going to get hurt. Discover that your child’s quirky comic books, silly songs and superhighway of creativity are not dead, just temporarily obscured by a technological fog.
Make a silent vow to be unrelenting, to fight the fog as long as you can, or to die trying.
Michelle Hauser is a former professional fundraiser turned humorist and freelance writer. She lives in Eastern Ontario (Canada) with her husband Mark and their son Joseph. Please click here to sign up for her monthly Newsletter.