“Give me my iPad! I NEED it!” or, Adventures In Hi Tech Parenting

This is a huge topic of discussion around our house lately. I’d say most parents have had this argume…peaceful exchange of ideas…in some form or another.  When I was a kid, it was “how much TV do you let the kids watch?” or “how much time on the Atari is TOO much time?” Anyone who ever played Pitfall knows the answer…there’s no such thing as “too much” time from the kids’ point of view. I mean, look how far I’ve come! Any minute now I’m going to see the gold bullion or the big diamond! Mom! Don’t turn it off! No! I’ve been playing this stupid game for HOURS!

But I’m not bitter or anything.

In our house, it’s not XBox 360 or Nintendo DS. We’re a Mac house. I was given an iPad by my employer a year or so ago, and promptly bought an Otterbox for it (having learned a terrible lesson with my first iPhone). I knew as soon as I saw the box who in the family would be getting the most use out of the iPad. I know, I know, you’re just *shocked* that the answer isn’t me, right?

Our daughter’s love affair with the iPad started with Elmo’s Monster Maker. At first, when she was only a year old, she played it on the iPhone (see comment above about a terrible lesson…). Once the iPad made its appearance, I was overjoyed to learn I could put Elmo’s Monster Maker on the iPad, and hence get my iPhone back for all that terribly important Facebook time I was missing.

As time went by, more apps got installed on the iPad. Wheels On the Bus (guaranteed to make you want to gouge your eyes out in fifteen minutes or less), EasyBeats, Preschool Adventure (don’t put your junk in my backyard, my backyard, my backyard, don’t put your junk in my backyard, my backyard’s full). Don’t ask. And of course, our daughter’s personal favorite app…Netflix.

Yep. I pay $9 a month so my child can stream Wonder Pets, Dragon Tales, and Strawberry Shortcake. So shoot me.

The thing is, I’m about ready to shoot the iPad.

Mostly, she plays with the preschool apps or with the various coloring or drawing apps. She likes the interactivity of the games. I really don’t have much of a problem with the educational apps. She learned the alphabet playing the Super Why app. She can count to 20 and recognize all the numbers. She’s learning spatial relations (something she can then help mommy with later…). For the most part, she’s learning all kinds of stuff. And the drawing apps are just freaking awesome. She can color – with PAINT – for hours, and there’s zero mess! This is remarkable, amazing, and…okay, yeah, I don’t have many drawings on the fridge. Well, I could print them out…but I don’t know…it loses something when you have to send it to the printer – the same printer where I routinely scan my receipts and copy out my expense forms. Ick.

Then there’s Netflix (like we needed another reason to hate Netflix, right?) Wonder Pets. Dora. Diego. Dragon Tales. Spongebob. The Walking Dead. The Smurfs. My Little Pony. Wait, did she say, “the Walking Dead?” As in, the incredibly violent show about a zombie apocalypse? Yep, she sure did. And yep, this really happened. Luckily, my daughter is either terribly smart, or terribly single-minded, and once she realized (within like four seconds) that this wasn’t an animated or brightly colored show (well, depending on the episode, it can be REALLY colorful, but that’s not important right now), she hit the “done” button, went back to “Home” and selected something more her speed – like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Or Caillou (I think I’d rather her watch The Walking Dead, to be honest). Oh, and that link is NSFK – and only the first 25 seconds are funny, but they’re REALLY funny for those of you who have to endure Caillou. The rest is crap. But my point is that there are no good parental controls on Netflix. The smart thing would be to have a separate account for the child…but of course, Netflix would make us PAY for two accounts. Which makes me think this is exactly how they planned it. Which makes me hate them even more.

Did you catch that, though? Before I went off about Caillou and my loathing for Netflix?  She started The Walking Dead, registered, “ew, this isn’t one of MY shows,” then tapped the screen to make the controls show, selected the terribly tiny “Done” button at the top left of the screen, then tapped the equally tiny “Home” button at the bottom of the Netflix page, and located a show more to her liking to watch. She’s 3 – and she’s been doing this kind of “advanced” selection for over a year.

Do I think she’s a genius? You bet your boots, I do. But not because of her ability to navigate an iPad. I think most kids her age can do the same thing with the same level of exposure. In fact, I know they can, because I’ve read articles about how preschools are starting to use iPads and touch screens as educational tools. I’ve also been reading articles about iPad addiction among young children, particularly among very young children. Even the Apple forums have several questions (some serious, some not) from parents concerned about their child’s “problem” with the iPad. Just Google “toddler iPad addiction” and you get some alarming results, if for no other reason than how many  hits you get.

The real reason we’re concerned isn’t so much that she uses the iPad. It’s how she acts when it’s time to STOP using the iPad that has us worried. She goes from sweet little angel to Veruca Salt in less time than it takes to hit the Home button. If we’re good parents and have a redirect all ready to go, we’re fine: “Hey, come help make dinner in your play kitchen” or “Listen to what Daddy is playing in the studio!” If we’re not ready, or if the battery just up and dies, you’d think we were sawing off her arm by removing the iPad from in front of her: “Nooo! Not my iPad! I NEED it!” or “Give me that back! It’s MY iPad!” So for the most part, it’s like any other toy that we need to take away for whatever reason. Which is precisely why I’m conflicted. On the one hand, the iPad is like anything else the child enjoys, with the added bonus that it *can* be educational. For those of you who haven’t experienced it, the iPad has completely changed the face of long car rides with a very young child. I actually look *forward* to long car rides because I know we can both be absorbed in our own little worlds (me with the thrill of driving – I’m geeky like that – and she with the thrill of watching Nemo for the 742nd time).

I could just delete Netflix, but somehow I think she’d find her way to the App Store and just download it again.

Then there’s my dirty little secret: Netflix is “Mommy’s Little Helper” some days. If I need time to myself, Netflix is there. If I need to make a phone call…Netflix! If I need to use the bathroom…Netflix! I can get an entire half hour of complete silence (well, relative silence…I can hear the show she’s watching) and I can get things accomplished I would otherwise not be able to do. So in many ways, I NEED the iPad. And Netflix. Which makes me feel like a bad mom, but it also allows me to feel like a regular human being who is able to accomplish normal things.

Ultimately, I don’t know what to think. Anything in moderation should be fine…but some days, I’m not so good about the moderation. Then there are whole weeks that go by (when we visit with family, for instance) when the iPad hardly gets any use at all. Maybe it’s just like anything else involved with parenting a child and there is no easy answer. I just don’t know. For now, I lean toward “more good than harm” – but I have to wonder, am I leaning that way because it’s true, or am I leaning that way because it’s easy? Has your child taken possession of your tablet? How do you respond? Am I overly worried here?

Hi, my name is Mommy, and I’m a Mommy Blogger

I think to myself, “this was bound to happen.”

The truth is, I’ve been secretly (or not so secretly) reading Mommy Blogs for months now. It actually started with birth junkie blogs (particularly Birth Faith, who inspires me all the time), then gradually made a shift toward mommy blogs. I attribute this to Parenting. Illustrated With Crappy Pictures. It’s all her fault – and I’m sure somehow (though I don’t know her) that she won’t mind my passing the buck here.  It’s a huge compliment.  If you haven’t read her blog, you’re missing out. If you’re a PARENT and you haven’t read her blog, stop everything and go read her blog. Seriously. I’ve got lots of work to do on this project, and it’s not going to be interesting for awhile yet…she’s been working for months and is freaking hilarious.  Enjoy.

The inciting action here is kind of important. You have the background, and it’s good to know, but the trigger happened tonight, and I’m still reeling a bit. It starts with a confession.

I try to be the best mom in the world. I’m into attachment parenting.  I breastfed my daughter exclusively for 8 months, then engaged in extended breastfeeding for nearly 3 years.  The thing I miss most about having an infant is definitely the babywearing. My Sleepy Wrap is tucked away in a closet and I run across it occasionally and feel a pang of “baby need.” And yep, there was another pang when I just found out that Sleepy Wrap is now called Boba Wrap – it’s been so long since I’ve been a babywearer, its name has changed…sigh.

My point is, I think I’m a pretty darn good mom. I’m the best mom I can be. My daughter is charming, and smart, and funny, and brave and all the good things the experts said she’d be if I did the things I’ve done. Success! But as it turns out, even the best moms do dumb things – or at least, less-than-super things. And fear not – when we Super Moms make a mistake or cut a corner or do something less-than-super – some jackass will be standing by to make a comment or judge us.

I travel for my job sometimes. Last week, I was about 4,000 miles from home when a broken tooth I’ve been ignoring for *years* suddenly became un-ignorable. So today, I had to go to the dentist (shudder). Having no dental insurance means I haven’t been to a dentist in…I’m gonna say “a long time” here, and what I want you to read is “an embarrassingly long time.”

My husband has a gig today, so that means I had to find someone (at the last minute) to watch our daughter. Mission accomplished. Then I had to get a shower, feed the child (and husband), and get the child to the sitter. Again, I managed, and was only 20 minutes late meeting the sitter. This is an accomplishment in and of itself. I actually managed to get to the dentist with 2 minutes to spare! Ooh rah!

Long story short – I need a root canal. But that’s not important right now.

After the appointment, I made it back to meet the sitter and my daughter at the playground in time for the sitter to get to her next job (she literally squeezed us in this afternoon). Since my daughter was having so much fun playing with other kids (something she doesn’t get to do often enough), I hung around for another half hour or so with her there.  Then we had to go so I could pick up the prescription the dentist gave me for coping with the pain of a tooth broken down to the nerve.

For those not paying attention – I have a tooth broken to the nerve and I CHOSE to stay at the playground longer before going to get the pain meds. If that doesn’t seem superhuman to you, I’d like to trade central nervous systems with you.

Fast forward to the CVS Pharmacy – where waiting ten minutes for a prescription means ten minutes of trekking through the aisles and saying “No, sweetie, we don’t need more candy” and “No, the dogs don’t need more dog toys” and “Okay, yes, you can have one package of M&M’s” and “No, let’s not go play with the makeup”…I could go on. That was just like minute one and maybe part of two.

Then we make our purchases and say goodbye to everyone in the store (well, *one* of us does that last), and make our exit.  As I’m strapping my daughter into her carseat (and we still use a 5-point harness for our 3 year old – that’s how safety-minded we are), I realize that I forgot to buy my Cokes. I’ll be making a subsequent post about my “drinking problem” with Coca-Cola, but that’s not important right now.

So I could undo the straps, get her out of the car, and guide her back into the “candy zone” at the front of the store. I could. I should. I know I should. But – and here’s the confession – I didn’t. I gave her my iPhone with Netflix showing Curious George, I locked the doors on the car, and I ran into the store to grab a 12-pack of Coke.

I did. I know. It’s dusk by now, it’s not hot or cold outside (right about 70 degrees), and we live in a very small town. There’s hardly anyone else in the store. I’m just grabbing a 12-pack that’s right by the door and paying cash – so it’s seriously maybe a full two minutes and I’m only about ten yards away. But it was still not a smart thing to do. It was easier. It spared me having to buy (or say no to) more candy. It spared me having to juggle holding hands with a 3 year old while carrying a 12-pack of soda and unlocking the car (the remote device having been lost years ago). It was dumb. I did it anyway.

It is imperative to note at this point that my child was FINE. She didn’t even realize I was gone, that’s how quick it was. She was safe, she was locked in, and she was *fine*.

Never fear, though. All of you who read this and think, “Shame on you! How dare you endanger your child!” can take comfort in knowing you had a champion. When I returned (at speed) back to the car, a very well made-up woman was getting into her pricey quasi-SUV luxury car, and took it upon herself to say:

“You shouldn’t have done that. You left your baby all alone in the car. Anyone could have come up and seen her there and taken her.”

I stared a moment. Then stammered something like, “I don’t usually – I just had to run back in…”

“That was dangerous and stupid,” she says.

“Honestly, I don’t. It was just a minute and this is our hometown – we know most everybody…” I continued, hating myself more with every passing second.

“I live here, too. And it’s NOT safe.” She unlocks the door to her car. I notice her very well-coiffed hair has hardly moved during this entire exchange. Her brows, which probably should be registering a frown-line between her eyes do not – most likely due to Botox treatment or some other nerve-deadening drug (that seems also to have affected her ability to feel empathy). But I digress.

At this point, I open my mouth to argue further – and then just decide to get in the car. There’s really nothing I can say anyway – she’s pretty much right. Except for that last bit, but really, there’s no point arguing. There’s nothing I could say that would change things. So I took the better option and just got in my car and left.

And stewed. And nearly cried. And stewed some more.

When I notice her turn off into a very exclusive neighborhood, it was all I could do to refrain from flipping her the bird. Not because she was wrong. Pretty much because she was right – and because she made me feel like shit. With that hair and makeup, I can only assume she either: a. has no or grown children, or b. has children and is able to pay someone else to do all of the things that would mess up said hair and makeup. Grrr…I shouldn’t judge – and that’s the thing. That’s *exactly* the thing. It’s not that she was wrong – it’s that she took it upon herself, knowing absolutely nothing about me or my parenting style, to judge me based on one stupid freaking mistake.

I got home, got my daughter settled (and fed again). Now she’s playing Pre-K games on her iPad and I’m starting this blog. Cause you know, I want to start off with a “I’m a terrible person – please shoot me” bang. And also because I finally had a triggering moment that pushed me over the edge from “regular” Mommy to an “I feel a need to share my experiences with others in hopes I can find some common ground and maybe even help someone else who’s in the same unpleasant position” Mommy.

I also couldn’t help but draw some parallels between the judgmental woman I encountered this evening and the women who’ve been responding to a recent post on crying it out by another awesome Mommy Blogger, Baby Rabies. Now, in no way do I mean to draw a parallel between my parenting blunder and anyone who decides, for whatever reason, to let a baby cry it out. Rather, it’s the response by someone who has no idea who I am or what parenting choices I typically make that felt similar to me as it was happening. I actually read the post just this morning via Mama Birth (yet another fantastic blogger that I read). So it’s sort of like the stars were aligning for me to take this step.

So what about you? Has this kind of thing happened to you and what was your response? Did you feel the same sort of shame/anger/disbelief that I did? Or even – am I missing something important? Maybe I really *should* be strung up by my big toes and flogged…


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