“Ipad Time” and Other Ways to Make Your Child an Adult at Age Four

This is the best thing that happened today. As I lay by the pool contemplating ways to enhance my twitter following the sweetest angel child was swimming while singing, “motorboat motorboat go really fast motor boat motor boat put your foot on the gas!” as a woman gently circled him around her, creating the cutest baby waves. Of course, he was about five or six and couldn’t pronounce his r’s correctly which immediately forced me to fall in love with him. But the real best thing ever was this:

(Unknown mom/nanny/auntie figure): “You know you earned 30 minutes of iPad time for going right to bed last night!”
Angel boy: “Ipad time?”
Mom/nanny/auntie: “Do you wanna go use your iPad time? (Homegirl was clearly done playing the motorboat game.)
Angel boy: “I don’t want iPad time I wanna keep swimming!”

The look on nanny mom’s face was that of perplexity. How could this boy not want to hop into virtual Minecraft world like every other kid?

Little background here: I worked as site director of an afterschool program for mostly privileged white kids (most of whom I absolutely loved) who couldn’t entertain themselves with a game of twister and some cool beats. Who doesn’t love twister? These kids died for the opportunity to bring in their electronics. Which I realize was probably because they had such a variety of electronic goodies they didn’t want any to not be used and feel left out. Which, to me, is eerily comparable to the way I treated my beanie babies in second grade. In me and my generation’s defense, however, creativity is actually involved in playing with beanie babies.

With these kids I found myself constantly stopping and catching myself sounding EXACTLY like my mother when it came to their electronics: “Put that DS/ipad/gameboy away right now or it’s mine for the day!” But I would not lose this battle due to my inability to be in touch with the world of gadgets. I’m Gen Y! I’m young and hip! We invented Facebook! I used to have a V-Tech laptop that would sing me the alphabet, c’mon! And these kids were often ruthless. When one of the little boys who didn’t have many friends brought his gadgets in, he’d end up loaning them out like library books to kids who promised friendship in return, for the hour they were allowed to play at least. Turdy mean kids was what they were. (Mind you, most of these turds were no longer allowed to bring in their electronics because they were TURDS). What pissed me off the most was getting these kids to accept the rules of games like musical chairs and actually play was like getting them to pay their taxes (which I also had to do but we’ll talk more about this some other time). Most of them could not except the idea of not winning at the end. They were too used to have their own personal computers where if they lost, well, they could turn the damn thing off and start again.

In reality, I’m scared. Just like I’m sure my mother was when we bought this crazy new thing called the computer. My mother still does not think she can use a computer because she doesn’t know “how to get into the thing once she’s looking at the screen.” What she means by this is, she can not understand that the mouse leads to wires that hook up to a monitor that you can move and click to get to places and sites (and yes, this is by the way, the technical way to explain how a mouse works.)

I refuse to be my mother though, at least in this aspect (because she’s pretty kick ass in a lot of other ways). I will not mess up social networking sites names by called them “FaceSpace” or give up on technology without ever trying. Come to think of it, even my mom eventually learned to Google. Her first search was for Charlie Sheen–she had no reason whatsoever, she just really likes the show Two and a Half Men. She even called me to tell me about it; it was an extremely exciting day for her.

Anyway, this little swimmer angel had my respect, especially since when I was five, the only thing I wanted to do was show my dad how well I could keep my head above water in our pool. So, we need to not forget about that whole creativity thing that kids are supposed to cherish and be really good at it. Like when I babysat two boys that only wanted to do Star Wars reenactments all day with guns made from legos. There is a picture that exists of me with a stormtrooper helmet on that is nowhere to be found and that I will use as an example of why no one is allowed to delete pictures off my phone ever again (Also, I didn’t even have to look up the name Stormtroopers. I totally knew it). Playing Star Wars with kids is fun. Sitting next to a kid looking at a screen while you also look at a screen and virtually kill each other isn’t fun (because I said so!).

Look how fun all that stuff looks! Those kids are having fun! I love this commercial because it’s sort of teasing kids that sit and stare at a computer screen all day, even if its not meaning to. I mean, you don’t have to go to California to play soccer on the beach with your friends but I get it. We need to cut it out with the “Ipad time.” Why can’t it be “imagination time” or “write in your journal time.” I even choose television over Ipad time because at least some shows make an effort at promoting creativity and moral values. Angry birds is a menace with no meaning. Why should “Ipad time” be the prize? Aren’t kids sitting around enough at school all day?

I’m sure I’m going to read this when I have kids and laugh in my own face but still, turn off the damn Ipad already!

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