School vacations are always challenging, trying to find a way to fill the void of time that would normally be taken up by school and school activities. It’s a special kind of cabin fever, and I get it. The kids are used to being around their peers; they’re used to a routine that accounts for nearly every minute of the day, from 9:00 am until 3:30 pm, and frankly, so am I. Having so much time with their grandmother during this week has led to some bruised feelings, and I have to admit, a little more screen time than I’d like.
So I got home yesterday at 3:30 and both girls were on their iPads, Lexi engrossed in a youTube video all about Minecraft, and Madeline in what must have been her umpteenth episode of Inspector Gadget. I told them their screen time was up. And Lexi went ballistic…
Me: How much screen time have you had today?
Lexi: I don’t know.
Me: Well, when did you last do something that wasn’t screen related?
Lexi: Um, I don’t know.
Me: How long is this episode?
Lexi: Well, most of them are, like, 30 minutes.
Me: And how many episodes have you seen today?
Lexi: I don’t know. Like five of them.
Me: Don’t you think it’s time you turned it off? Five episodes is 2 1/2 hours.
Lexi: But I love it sooooo much! I don’t want to turn it off!
Me: Finish this episode and then turn it off. It doesn’t matter if you want to.
At which point my beautiful child’s face contorted into what I can only guess is what the devil’s face would look like. I fully expected snarling and spitting, not unlike from a rabid dog, at any moment. Eventually, though, she cooled down and we were able to talk again like normal human beings. It helped that by then she had turned her iPad off and it was sitting in the chair in the other room, charging for whenever it was going to be used next. She was hoping sooner, but I knew it would be later — much later.
Lexi: So what do I do now?
Me: You have a million things you could do. Find one.
Lexi: But I’m sooooo bored, and I don’t want to do anything.
Me: What if I told you you could have your iPad back again?
Lexi: Can I?!
Me: No. My point was that you aren’t too tired to stare at that screen so how could you be too tired to play with your toys or play with your sister?
Lexi: Daaaaaaaaad! You know what I mean.
Me: Yeah, I know that you’re completely obsessed with Minecraft and those videos, and you need to find time for other things in your life. Things that are real. Things that you can do with other people.
Lexi: Maddie can play Minecraft with me,as long as she doesn’t wreck my stuff. I spent a lot of time building everything in my world.
Me: That’s not what I meant, but it proves my point.
She proceeded to lay down on the couch and began humming some tune I can only imagine is prevalent in Minecraft.
Me: So you’d rather stare at the wall as if you’re watching paint dry than find something constructive to do with your free time?
Lexi: Why would anyone sit and watch paint dry?
Me: Again, you totally missed my point. Find something constructive to do.
Lexi: What do you mean by constructive?
Me: Anything. Like building a fort, or playing with your ponies, or helping your sister put together a puzzle, or reading a book. Anything!
Lexi: But I don’t want to do any of that.
Me: So you’d rather watch paint dry. Okay.
Lexi: I don’t care about paint drying! No one’s painting anyway.
Me: I’m sure someone’s painting somewhere.
Me: Seriously, though, Lex, you’re not getting your iPad back until you’ve done at least three creative or constructive activities as approved by me.
Lexi: I’ll just lie here then.
Me: I’m thinking I might just designate some days as iPad free days. And no, it doesn’t mean you an order whatever apps you want for free. It means you won’t have the iPad for the entire day. You’ll have to find something else to do with your free time.
And I meant it then. I mean it now. Sometimes I think that “with great technology comes even greater responsibility.” As a parent I need to make sure my child is a productive member of society, and having her nose in a screen all day long won’t help her get there. We’ve already limited her screen time to 2 hours a day, but instituting these iPad free days will make it even more of a focus, a focus on getting creative and constructive.
Lexi: You mean I’m going to have to come up with stuff to do?
Me: Yup. That’s exactly what I mean.
Lexi: Can you just wake me up when it’s the next day?