No, this has nothing to do with Terminator Genisys. But yes, it is a rehash of a familiar plot—not sending robots back in time, but my perpetual battle against my children and their “device time.”
Why do I have to be the bad guy? Yeah, I’ve got something in common with Arnold, and I’m proud of it. Did you know he wanted to play the hero in the original movie, and James Cameron talked him out of it? (Saving his career, and the world, from a worse fate: OJ Simpson as the Terminator. I kid you not.)
It’s summer. PLAY OUTSIDE. I don’t care if there are ticks. I don’t care if it’s 100 degrees out. I don’t care if you get poison ivy, sun burned, or eaten alive by mosquitoes—they won’t kill you. Well, okay, I forgot about West Nile Virus. Here’s some bug spray.
No, I’m not having “device time.” I’m WORKING. Okay, technically it’s not “work.” No one pays me for this. But it’s NOT EASY. Now go outside.
Play in your room. Build a fort. Draw a cat. Throw pillows at each other. Something. Anything. Just let me have five minutes to myself, or this household is going to fall apart because I haven’t paid bills since school ended. Plus, I haven’t had my coffee yet.
I am such a good mother at the beginning of the summer. I have a calendar. I have a chart. I have a checklist of “Things You Have to do Before You Can Look at a Screen.” There’s a stack of library books in a ridiculously hopeful plastic bucket, next to their beds.
Six weeks later, I’m standing at the kitchen sink screaming “When I say go upstairs I mean it! Turn off the iPads now!” (For the record: I was looking at my children as I threw this tantrum, not randomly hurling my vitriol at a helpless wall. Not that I haven’t done that too.)
I hate using the big voice, but it worked. Two little heads popped up. Four little eyes, wide open, stared at me. Then drifted back to their screens. . .
Oh no. I’m going to win this fight, whatever it takes. This fight is for the future of humanity.
“I am having a conversation with you. Right now. Who is more important—me, or that iPad?”
“Um . . . you?” my son says, though his eyes are still darting downward, and his fingers are twitching.
“You,” my daughter parrots. She does a better job of faking paying attention—she snaps the device off. But her eyes go upstairs. She doesn’t want to be here either.
They weren’t expecting that. They look at each other. They look at the iPads. Finally they look at me.
“Because you’re a parent?” my son guesses.
“No. Because I’m a person. And. . .”
They should know the answer. They totally don’t. They shrug, unconcerned.
“Real people are more important than . . .” I prompt.
“Devices!” They remember the mantra. I’m wondering if it’s accomplished what I hoped it would.
Relieved that they got the answer right, they run upstairs—finally! I should feel great. I won this battle.
Instead, I start preparing for the next one. Should I hide the iPads? Accidentally run them through the dishwasher? At the very least, I’ll just implement a device-free weekend. My work isn’t over—those little vulnerable minds have a lot to learn, and the machines are relentless. They are everywhere. And compared to playing outside when it’s 100 degrees out, they are way too much fun.
I’ll be back.