A decade later I am at dinner with my own wife. She's enjoying a rum and diet coke and I'm sipping the large glass of red wine. And my toddler? He's sitting next to us watching YouTube videos of cats. And occassionally tweeting those videos to my unlucky followers (psst - are you following @monwithmac on twitter? If not this is what you are missing).
But what I didn't understand then was the massive amount of time that parents spend being on with their children. It didn't occur to me that by that point at least one of those parents had probably been awake since the crack of dawn. If one of them stayed at home s/he likely said no 200 times, heard no 500 times, read 27 stories, read one story 75 times, made three meals that were summarily dismissed or thrown onto the floor, made three more meals that were picked at, cuddled intermittently, kissed several bobos, and answered more questions than s/he could recall. So who in the heck was I to judge them for taking a moment to connect with one another?
I get it now. When it's 5:30 in the morning and my toddler thinks it's the perfect time to wake-up I can usually get an extra thirty minutes of sleep by handing him my phone. And when I need five minutes to prepare lunch, or tidy up, or simply not have a toddler use my body as monkey bars, passing him my phone can be a life saver.
And before you get all up in arms about it let me reassure you that I've heard your arguments.
- I'd would rather teach my child to behave without placation
- Kids today need to spend less time in front of screens and more time outside
- In my day we didn't need fancy gadgets to teach us shapes and colours we used actual books
- Smart phone generation children will suffer from ADD, ADHD, Social Conduct Disorder, Dandruff and Gout
So, fine. You are clearly the superior parent. Although I'd like to make it clear that reading books and using technology are not mutually exclusive. I read Brown Bear, Brown Bear an average of 39 times a day.
But there are also a few reasons why I think my son playing with my iPhone or iPad is actually good for him. Yes, you read that right. It's not just a placation tool for me (although sometimes it's totally that) but it's also a learning tool for him. There is an animal sounds app that has done a much better job of teaching him oink, oink and quack quack than I did. And there's an app that times a cat brushing his teeth that lets me spend a full two minutes with a toothbrush in his mouth.
But beyond that, the truth is that we may have turned out just fine without access to so much technology but we didn't grow up in this digital age. My son will never understand how magic it is to have access to an entire encyclopaedia in something the size of a deck of cards. He will never understand how amazing it is rent a movie without leaving your house and ultimately paying three times the price of the movie in late fees because the video store is all the way across town. And he will never drive himself nuts trying to figure what he recognizes that actor from while watching said movie. He'll just open up his IMDB app and realize that he played a murderer in Law and Order and was the neighbour with a semi regular part on that show he used to like. He is growing up in in a world of touch screens and instant answers. And I don't feel guilty for preparing him for that.
He can swipe through my phone with his thumbs like an old pro. He can flip through my albums, find Ho Hey by the Lumineers, press play and then hit the little button to make the cover art full screen. He can scroll through my contact list and pick out Tracy's name and can melt her heart when he says "Hi Mo!" as she answers. That's right y'all, at 18 months old he's recognizing letters.
I could tell you that he only uses educational apps but the truth is that everything is education to a toddler. Everything is new and everything needs to be learned. In addition to learning shapes and colours and animal noises he is also learning how to interact in the world he is growing into.
And besides, if Siri is any indication, we will likely soon be living in a world where Sarah and John Connor visit from the future to save us from being enslaved by machines. And if that happens he might as well be chummy with our soon-to-be captors. Really, that's just responsible parenting.