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The i Generation

I’m waiting for my kids to finish up an extremely important video game. If they don’t, apparently it will be catastrophic. Everything they have worked so hard for will be destroyed – the levels completed, the points accrued, the hours spent ignoring me. It will all be for naught.

I wish I saw this same level of commitment when it came to putting their clothes away, finishing up  homework, reading a book or just generally focusing one tenth of their attention to the words coming out of my mouth as they do to the zombies trying to eat them or the football players running on electronic fields of green.

Gone are the days of carefree casual communication. When my boys walk in from school, they drop their backpacks and head straight for their devices like homing pigeons drawn by some unconscious motivator. I try to intervene with small talk – Hey, how was your day? Anyone want a snack? What happened in such and such class? – and general fussing about but they swat me away with nods and non-communicative grunts.

I consider ripping devices from their little paws and demanding attention, have in fact done it many times but now I’m trained and generally sigh and shuffle off and wait till they’ve had their fix. I’ve seen addiction and they’ve just gone through 8 hours of withdrawal. It seems cruel not to give them 15 minutes.

These days it seems children and teens and their devices go hand in hand. Where they go, it goes and communication goes out the window. I can’t even say it’s just about the younger generation. We middle-aged folk are similarly attached, yet we were around before microwaves, ATM’s and computers and we still know how to use a pot, get money from a teller and write freehand. We hold our books to our hearts but lug Kindles in our bags. We still have CD’s and even cassettes stored away, if nowhere else but in our brains. So yes, we are attached to our technology but we know how to live without them, because we have.

But the kids have not.

The iGeneration is all about technology, and communication without personal contact. I’d like to blame them for my oldest son’s questionable social skills but I can’t. He’s as naturally shy as my other son is naturally social and my youngest is somewhere in between.  It has nothing to do with the technology.

And so it goes. Every morning, sleep still on the brain, coffee in hand, my oldest gets into the car and we head off to school. I immediately pepper him with questions about his day while he answers only to the device in hand.

I sigh, turn on some music, sip my coffee and shake my head as I bob along to the new CBS FM, no more golden oldies, just recent oldies for getting oldies like me. I pull to the curb and he shoves his phone away. “Bye Mama,” He says, and before he gets out allows me to push the hair away from his eyes then flashes me a gorgeous heart stopping grin.

All is not lost.

 

Alisa Pnone through dec 31, 2012 046

So yeah, there’s this…

 

But there's this too

But there’s also this…

 

iTouch vs. Live Touch – A Tale of Two Dragons

Back in May, my then 9 year-old son, Tyler, used guilt to manipulate Howard and me into adopting a baby bearded dragon. We named him Smiles and I immediately fell in love. My son’s promises of care were quickly forgotten, and Howard and I took up the responsibilities of feeding Smiles and cleaning his tank and paying any general attention to him. (I know, super great parenting. If you need to know more about our awesome technique, you can message me.) The only time Tyler acknowledged Smiles was to take great offense when he overheard me referring to him as mine.

Real dragon

I had pretty much accepted my new chores, only half-heartedly resenting them, the same as all the rest. I mean, what was one more thing to add to the list, besides one more thing to add to the list?

Still, I didn’t completely give up on Tyler. Each morning, I’d lay out some lettuce and veggie stuff and ‘suggest’ that Tyler feed Smiles. Unfortunately, by the time Tyler finished his breakfast, and realized he hadn’t finished last night’s homework and did something ‘extremely important but only took a second’ on his iTouch, it would be time for the bus.

In the afternoons, I’d ‘suggest’ that Tyler pay Smiles a bit of attention.  After ‘suggesting’ a few times, Tyler would sigh and walk into the room that housed Smiles tank, look at him for five seconds and say, “Hi, Smiles.” Then go back to the iTouch.

I tried not to let any of this get to me. I mean, we allowed ourselves to be suckered into getting the creature. Then, we covered up our parental misstep with another, by not making Tyler take responsibility for his responsibility. This was as much our fault as his. We sucked at being parents and now we were paying for it through our labor.

Then came the morning at the bus step, when I saw the game Tyler was so enraptured with for the past few weeks, that he could barely say hello to me, much less Smiles.

Handing me his iTouch, he said something like, “Okay, in exactly an hour, you need to…” And then, he went into some complicated instruction while I zoned out, much like he does, I imagine, when I instruct him.

It was a game called Dragon Vale. Guess what you do in Dragon Vale? I think you know… Yup, you breed, feed and house little dragons. You need to pay careful attention to these little creatures or they will not grow. Can you stand the irony?

Uh, not real dragon

“Uh, Tyler,” I tried. “You know you have a real Dragon that you can care for.”

Tyler nodded in the way that says, I didn’t hear a word you said you silly adult, don’t you see that I have something extremely important I need to tell you? And immediately, he returned to instructing me.

The bus came and left me holding his iTouch displaying a cute cartoon dragon, that you couldn’t actually touch.  I looked at him just long enough to close out the screen. Then and there, I vowed to be a better parent and help teach my kids to be more responsible. We would work on it together, putting out one fire at a time.