Thursday, July 28, 2011

Connected in disconnect

Jayden was only 6, but he was already showing signs of addiction.
We thought about "Intervention." Instead, Kate had him color three strips of paper.
They were his tickets.
They were tickets to anything electronic.
He needed them.
Before the tickets, his morning could be full of cartoons, or sometimes I'd have to pry my cell phone from his warm, sweaty hands.
NO! ANGRY BIRDS! he'd yell, as if I'd yanked the needle from his arm just before the heroin was delivered. When I got home, rather than a hug, I'd be greeted with, "Can I do your phone?"
In between, maybe he'd do the computer, such as a NickJr. website or a site.
We knew it was bad. But here's the sad part. The dangerous part. I thought it was also nice.
It kept him occupied, and a quiet, occupied young kid = quiet, occupied parent actually doing something for himself or herself.
Like, you know, playing with my iPhone.
Still, the girls keep themselves occupied by using their imaginations. They play with each other, with themselves, with toys.
Jayden relied on us for his entertainment. It was like he had forgotten how to play. To be a kid. To go outside and run around and poke bugs.

What was worse was we are not freaky parents who wondered why our babies weren't crawling at three months, but we had contemplated looking into ADHD for Jayden. He could not hold still, even telling us, at one point, "I want to but I can't." Kate had to ask him 10 times to put on his shoes.
When we instituted the rule, meaning a half hour plugged into something electronic, he gave us a ticket. And we noticed something almost right away.

He was focused.
Now he would sit with us and do homework. He wanted to read more books. He wanted to go outside more (even if the weenie does come right back in because of mosquitoes and 95-degree air).
He is in our face more.
A focused Jayden means I have to be Dad more. He makes me put my iPhone away. The iPhone is one of the best things that's happened to me in the last few months. It's also one of the worst.
I'm not alone. CNN just did a story on people who obsessively check their smart phones. The study said, on average, people checked their smartphones an average of 34 times a day. That's 34 times a day! A day!
My nose was in my smartphone so often that my kids sometimes would say, "Daddy!" to pull my attention away from it. When I wasn't checking it, I was playing Angry Birds or Tiny Wings or Words With Friends.
Jayden comes by it rightly. A diversion like that is like a trough of queso and chips to someone on a diet.
Disconnect is my biggest problem as a father and a husband. It's a serious weakness.
I need people for my job, and yet people drain me, and when I get home, I'm desperate for a recharge (much like my iPhone at the end of the day). Burying my face in my phone is a recharge. My family bears the brunt of that.
So I've tried to be better about it. I talk to the girls, play with the kids and wrestle with them at nights now. I still play my phone too. I wish it weren't an effort to interact. But it's the way I am.
Jayden really needed those tickets.
Turns out I did too.

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