After years of resisting, I allowed relatives to buy my boys iPod Touches for Chanukah. Unfortunately, these devices didn't come with directions on teaching children how to live with and without them.
Oh, iPod Touch. You're crack and you know it.
For the last several years, both sets of grandparents have asked if they could buy these devices for my boys and I've always said no. This year, I don't know what came over me, but I said yes to my stepmother. We have experience managing all sorts of media, and I really thought the boys could handle the opportunity to play games, download apps, listen to music and text — basically all the things you can do on an iPhone minus making calls.
I was wrong.
For a few hours after opening them on the second night of Chanukah, everything was miraculous. They texted every grandparent and aunt and uncle. I received 19 texts from my younger son Ezra that were just long series of consonants interspersed with "wats up." One text was just "Gardu Fsgsyd." My older son Maxon texted me from six inches away. Ezra downloaded three different skateboard games. Maxon joined Instagram and downloaded Minecraft. Ezra exclaimed "Bam!" every four minutes while playing an NFL football game, apparently opening up a can of whup ass against the "Texas Stars." (That would be the Dallas Cowboys. I did not correct him). Maxon spent 20 minutes changing his background screen. Then he spent another 20 picking out an Instagram screen name. Ezra told everyone his passcode. Several times.
Early Friday afternoon, it was time to turn them off. Then my husband and I got a taste of what happens when you unplug children from an iPod Touch.
First, they lose the ability to walk. Hunched over Quasimodo style, they follow you reluctantly through the streets with their draggy feet and noodle arms. Second, they lose control over their speaking voices. Every sentence that came out of Maxon's mouth was heavy with cheek. Every request to Ezra was answered with howling "no" sirens. Then they develop permanent stink eye stare. It’s unnerving.
After what was supposed to be a leisurely family stroll to Rittenhouse Square and Joseph Fox Books, my husband and I were electric with tension. iPod Touch withdrawal nearly destroyed my marriage in one afternoon. Michael escaped to Cross Fit around 4 p.m., telling me, "I need to not be here."
I put Cheeky McGee and Whiny McCoy on their beds with no stimuli, praying they would nap.
Were they up too late the night before? You bet. Did they wake up too early that morning? Yep. Do I blame the iPod Touch and not the lack of sleep? Yes. Yes I do. Because no one is Quasimodo walking while carrying an iPod Touch. There is no injustice when the Texas Stars are losing and your karate teacher follows you on Instagram. There is nothing to whine about when all you hear is the sweet ding of a new text.
So my husband and I held those iPod Touches hostage until the attitudes stabilized.
Two days later, we allowed them to take their iPods to my mother's house, where they were spending the night. We told them they weren't allowed to use them until the next morning. When Michael and I woke up we each had new messages from the kids. Ezra texted me pictures of all the art projects he did with my mother. Maxon gave me the play-by-play of his evening. I have to admit, I loved hearing from them that way.
I can’t remove the iPod Touch from existence. I can’t get rid of Facebook (t'would be bliss) or smartphones, or go back to a time when you stuck a tape in a Walkman and hid with a telephone in a closet, the long cord run under the door, stretched to its limit. But I can try to teach my children how to live with and without these machines.
Unfortunately, the iPod Touch doesn't come with instructions on how to do this. Looks like we will be winging it. Get ready iPod Touch. You may be crack, but we have the whip.