iPod Detox

I took the boys’ iPods away.  Well, really, my husband took them away, for something, I’m sure, that had to do with not listening.  I just haven’t given them back, yet, and I’m trying to hold out for as long as possible, before I do.

I say trying, because honestly, life is so much easier when they have them, that is, until it’s not.  Confused?  Let me explain.  Whether it’s piano lessons, drum lessons, swim, soccer, basketball, baseball, whatever, it’s inevitable that someone will have wait.  It’s the price of participating in extracurricular activities when you having siblings.

Waiting is not always a bad thing.  It teaches children patience, and to occupy themselves, and most importantly, that they are not the center of the universe.  These are all important lessons that I believe all children need to be taught. Getting there, however, is not always easy.

This is where technology can be wonderful. You can play your iPod while your brother takes piano, seems reasonable and makes my life a heck of a lot easier, until it becomes, can we play our iPods while out to dinner, and while riding in the car, and while a tv show is on, and while I’m walking around, and as soon as I wake up at 5:30 in the morning, and for four hours a day, on the weekends?  Then, it starts to become a little disturbing and not to mention disruptive, when I spend more of my time chasing them off, or arguing over their iPods, than not.

What’s worse, in response to their increased want for their iPods, our discipline methods became increasingly iPod centered.  If you don’t behave (you can insert pretty much any infraction here) then I’m taking your iPod, which would then cause one son, in particular, to go nuts, which would then cause a parent, pick either one, to go even crazier.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as parent, it’s that no two children are exactly alike, which means sometimes you need to change your discipline tactics. Some kids, like some adults, just don’t respond well to threats.  When backed into a corner, they come out swinging. Threats bring out the worst in them. I have one of those kids.

This is how we arrived at Saturday night, at what should have been an enjoyable dinner out, but instead turned into a show down between my husband and one of the boys (I’ll let you guess which one), with both of them ready to kill each other, and threats of an iPod being thrown out into the parking lot, being tossed around left and right.  All the tension and bickering, besides ruining my dinner, made me wonder, just how the heck we got to this place?

I went to bed that night thinking about iPods and my children, and how I could undo what was slowly becoming done.  All I wanted was to be able to roll the clock back to a time before iPods and smart phones, when once upon a time, we went out to dinner without gadgets on the table.  We watched practices and occupied ourselves without checking emails, sending texts, or playing apps.  We colored, we talked, my children found people to play with. We functioned fine, and I would argue better, without our pocket technology.  We paid attention, we figured it out, but most importantly, we were really present.  All of us.

I came to the realization that while I can’t roll back the clock, and I can’t control technology, I do have control over the technology my children consume, at least, for now.

I knew in my heart that I wanted to take the iPods away, but yet, I hadn’t.  Why? Because being a parent isn’t easy.  Because sometimes the right decisions are the hard decisions. And well, because sometimes it’s easier to be lazy.  Even knowing all this, that night, I still went to bed with no clear decision as to what I was going to do.

And then, as if the answer was being shouted from the heavens above, I woke up to a loud sound.  Not a heavenly voice, but the garage door opening, my car being opened with a beep of the remote, and two loud voices, outside in the driveway, well before six a.m., discussing the location of their iPods and the charger, which were left behind in the car the night before. I listened with annoyance and waited for them to come inside and close the garage door, which they never did until I got out of my cozy bed and yelled at them.

That morning, when my husband inevitably took their iPods away for other reasons, I decided I wouldn’t give them back, and I haven’t.  Initially, there was a lot of grumbling (and I think a little panic), but it’s waned.  Lo and behold, they’ve found other things to do. They’ve been having Nerf battles, and car races, and playing Legos.  All things that are neither neat, nor quiet and usually cause me more grief than if they just sat there like robots playing on their iPods.  But, as aggravating as their games can be, at least I can live with myself knowing that I’m doing what I think is best for my children.

It’s not that I am against video games, and iPods, and computers, because I’m not.  When my children were young, we were totally those obnoxious parents setting up the portable DVD player at the table so that we could enjoy a dinner out.  Trust me, I don’t judge.  I see the advantages of technology.  It’s just that my kids get carried away.  Second Son even started sleeping with his iPod.  And while I’m still allowing them to occasionally play on the computer and Wii, I set time limits and ban most weekday play.

When will I give them back?  That’s the magical question.  I’m not sure.  I think I can find a happy medium, a solution that gives them a little play, and me a little peace, when one, or the other, or the other, is forced to wait through yet, another lesson.  But, I think for now, I’ll let them continue with the detox and enjoy watching their imaginations soar.

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