Uffda: Interjection signifying exhaustion, weariness, resignation, or overwhelm, especially used by those of Norwegian descent; see 'oofda'. (The Norwegian-American slang equivalent of the Yiddish term oy.) Black: Me
A couple of events happened to me this month that made me think twice about parenting in the age of technology:
First, I have noticed that three out of four of my children are entranced with their electronic devices. My son has found himself needing to check the status of his eggs and/or fight other creatures on a dragon game that he is playing. He is absolutely hooked. As soon as he gets home from school, he disappears. To where? Some corner of the house to be left alone until, hours later, he realizes that he has not eaten anything.
Daughter #1 is kicked back in her room watching stupid (so, so stupid) Youtube videos that challenge viewers not to laugh (I laugh) on her Ipod (Yes, an Ipod. She is the only one in her class that does not have a cell phone – and believe me, she is pissed; but that is for a different post). Meanwhile, Daughter #2 has watched every kid Netflix movie and/or show that ever created and has now started to re-watch them.
They are totally different people when those devices are in their hands. Heaven forbid their dear, loving parents ask them to do any chores. Those requests are met with tears, eyerolls, and under-breath mumbles as they begrudgingly fulfill their duties that are their only requirement to be granted sustenance, safety, and sustainability by us. I understand that there are stages of child development, but this seems like something more.
So, as a trained researcher, I take to the computer to do discover a fix. I know, How ironic — I use technology to fix the technology problem in my home. Save it. Anyway, I came across a multitude of research about both the positives and negatives of technology on children’s brains.1
So, what are you going to do about it, you ask?
I am going to take all of their devices away, at least for now. I’ll take charge of my household. I’ll show them.
Genius! On its face…
What ensues is both interesting and sad. My kids, as multi-talented as they come, had no idea what to do with themselves. Seriously! They either walked around the house like lost puppies trying to find their owner; or, they stared at us parents with those big, sad eyes that screamed, “Help us!” I did not know whether to feel sorry for them or send them to bed. Each suggestion we gave was met with wailing and the gnashing of teeth.
Luckily, by the end of the night, the drama subsided and they found marker and paper and started drawing, not well by any means, but drawing nonetheless.
The second event involved me stopping by the local hobby shop to look for a possible Christmas present for my son (Afro #3). When I walked in the store, I immediately knew that I was going to blow a lot of money. I was totally overtaken by nostalgia – remote control cars, boats, planes, slot cars, and model sets – all things that I grew up with. Things that defined my childhood!
THE THINGS THAT MADE ME THE NERD THAT I AM TODAY!
But, as I was reliving my childhood and contemplating my future credit card bill, I notice something – there were not many people in the store. In fact, for the thirty-or-so minutes that I was in the store, I had notice 3 other people (not counting me and the two employees) in the entire store. One of them, I am sure, walked in by mistake but pretended to look interested out of pity.
“Slow day?” I asked.
“This is how it has been since the ‘beep, boop, beep, craze.” (gyrating his thumbs in a Gameboy motion).
“Wow, that is sad. There is really a lot of cool stuff in here.”
“Yeah, these things are just not as popular as they used to be.”
It then hit me… My children have no hobbies for themselves. They don’t have that one thing that they depend on to keep them busy when they have nothing else to do and are bored.
If you are reading this article, you are most likely old enough to remember a time when your parents told you to “Go away and find something to do.” Full disclosure, I have not researched this thoroughly, but It seems as though our parents were giving us the gift of finding our inner nerd when they would tell us to “get out of their hair.”
Don’t act like I was the only one!
When my parents were too busy to entertain me, I built Legos, played with my action figures, delved into my collection of comic books, or played with my remote control/slot cars. All things that are not as popular now as they once were. But why? Where did all of the nerds go?
Did technology kill imagination? I mean… I don’t think so, but I do think that technology cannot survive without discipline. It seems that it is way more than a coincidence that my kids were hooked on technology and once that was taken from them, they were in a state of confusion.
Here is the conundrum:
Hobbies help kids learn by doing, test the limits of their success, and provide an remedy for boredom.
Electronic devices help kids research, provide instant answers to questions/issues kids may have while also combating boredom.
“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K. Rowling
A couple of weeks ago, you tried out for an AAU elite travel team. Now, you already how much I absolutely detest AAU teams – although, I’ll admit, it has allowed me to see some awesome locations, meet wonderful people, and play against some of the most talented basketball players to ever walk on a court. The problem is, I have also witnessed the dark side of elite basketball — but, I won’t get into that now; that is for another time.
Honestly, Honey, as we wait for this letter to come in the mail, I keep hoping we receive bad news.
I honestly hope you don’t make the team.
Bear with me…
Listen, I may be a little biased, but whenever you walk into the gym, you are the best player there. You have the size, you have the speed, you can shoot, you can use your left hand, and you have the drive. But, more than anything, you have fun, you are social, you are humble, and you are smart; and that is what I love (and will continue to love) most about your game. I am proud of you every time you step out on the court because I know your competitiveness will compel you to make the most of your abilities as well as make your teammates better. Yes, I will admit, as your coach, when your team falls short — or when you have a terrible game, I am upset. I am upset until I look over at you, joking and laughing with your teammates as if you guys don’t have a care in the world. Basketball is just a game to you; you know you are good at it, but you are there to have fun and socialize.
That being said…
If you are selected for an elite AAU team, there is a whole new dynamic to consider…
Man, o’ man. Little girl, you will be expected to win. Not only will you be expected to show up to a tournament and produce, but, when you do not produce, you will sit the bench until you are able to produce (which could be a while dependent on if your replacement has a hot hand). You will need to practice your craft on your own time — no excuses! It does not matter if you are the best player on any given day; you need to be the best player on that specific day. The expectation is for you to show up to a tournament, hours away from your home, and claw and scratch your way to a championship. Period.
Look, I am not here to bash AAU or crush your dream, but, my job as your father is to protect you. That job requires me to deem what is, and is not, appropriate for you given your age and maturity level, whether that be cell phones, music, movies, boys, and yes, basketball. And frankly, right now, I don’t think you are ready.
Is there a side of me that wants you to make it? Yes! But I have come to realize that it is the part of me that is selfish, self-serving, and competitive. Of course I want to show everybody that I produce the best of the best. But that is not right.
So, here’s to you staying young, having fun, and not making the team.
For the record:
Weeks later, I found out that you, in fact, did not make it…
“Unfortunately, She was not selected for our 6th grade team. We had so many girls at that level trying out this year and looked at each one very carefully before making our decision.
We highly encourage your daughter to try out again next October.
Eight years ago, I sat in a room across from both of my bosses and realized ahead of me lay a fork in the road — a decision was being forced upon me. I had two options: One, stay in a place that did not deem me or my services valuable, yet provide a comfortability. Or, two, go with the uncertain, improbable, and uncomfortable. Looking back, I can now say that without a shadow of a doubt that I made the right decision.
I had always loved the poem, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. But I was never put in a position where I would have to put those exact words to the test – until that moment. When I am old, and it is time for me to reflect upon my life, that meeting will be the pivotal point in my life. It will be the time when I told the right people where to shove it and chose to take my own path.
I want you to believe in yourselves as smart, able-minded people. I want you to be able to depend on your education, grit, and skill to choose the path that you want to take. If you choose to switch careers, or start your own business, I hope that you are able to make sound decisions that won’t incur a ton of risk. But if you choose to risk it all, I hope that you do it without fear because you are willing to put your all into it.
During that pivotal time, I was father who was expecting his second child and in need of all monetary compensation that I could get my hands on. Everybody, including your mother, was very fearful of what we would do next. But I was not. I saw that moment as an opportunity for me to grow both as a person, and as a professional – that is what is most important. It is important that you have a job that will help you attain your goals; a job that will provide you with an opportunity to advance – both monetarily and position wise. It is easy to be comfortable; it is extremely difficult to rely on yourself and your training to reach your goals.
People will call you a fool. They will ask what in the hell you were thinking. They will sit back and whisper to others about your sanity while waiting for your failure so that they can tell you that they “told you so.” But after a while, they will admire you because they could not take that leap themselves.
Do not listen to the accolades and do not track the accomplishments. Those things show you an event or feeling from a snapshot in time. Many people have heard their praises only to fall from grace soon after. But, on the other hand, do pay attention to the doubts and the criticisms. Those come from true feelings. Use them to fuel you, but not burn you. Use those to help you and not hinder you. Use those as reasons and not as excuses.
Because of my choices, I am living a life that I once believed was only a dream. I am only to that point because I understood that there is truly no such thing as luck – good or bad. So, I’m telling you that there are no wrong decisions, only consequences. If you choose to do something. It is no one’s place to tell you that they, “told you so.” Don’t use that to make your decision. Whatever you choose, go about it with reckless abandon, pour all of your heart into the venture, and live with the consequences.
Go Left. Everyone chooses right. No one wants to dare because of the possibility that it could lead to failure. I am begging you, go left. You are stronger than what you realize. You will not know that stregnth until you put it to the test. If you are willing to put the work in, go left. We only get one life to live, don’t live it trying to be someone that you are not. Don’t live it trying to do what others think that you should do. Do what makes you happy — unless it hurts other people, then take one right.
A few weeks ago, I spend time with my best friend. It was weird because her and I have not hung out in years. Life got in the way. After college we both got married, had kids, went pretty far in our careers, and drifted apart.
We decided that we were going to meet up in Minneapolis for the weekend. At first, it was a little awkward. I am not going to lie, I had always had a crush on her. When we met, the tension was still there.
It was like we were never apart; we picked up right where we left of years ago. We laughed, we ate, and we drank as if we did not have a care in the world. We thought, “Geez, if only those people we left back home could see us, they would be jealous.”
It was not until I saw her in a mirror that I thought, “Shit. I have been missing her for the last ten years.”
Good thing I married her.
Yup. I hung out with my wife.
We saw stayed at a casino hotel, took in Hamilton, attended a Counting Crows concert, ate sushi, consumed endless mimosas and met up with some old friends.
When you have kids, they tend to take up all of your time. Parenting is hard. Raising a human to be a decent grown up is a daunting task. It requires all of your concentration, money, and resources. We have four cherubs, meaning we work during the day, attend a multitude of events in the evening, and try to catch up on the days’ events at night after the kids are at bed. By 8 p.m., we are completely depleted. But, dispite of that, we have found that it is just as important to make time for each other, even if it is only once a year.
It is important that we are able to look at each other, twelve years later and see the people that we were – before we had the stressors of everyday living taking over our being. Yes, we chose this life, but like many other parents on this journey, we had no idea what the hell we were getting ourselves into (and yes, we would do it all over again if we had the chance and would not change any decision we made thus far).
I am fortunate that I have a support system around me that affords me the opportunity for a getaway. I thank God for that. I thank God for them. They allowed for the girl that I met in college to came back for a visit.