I woke up a bit disheveled this morning. I spent most of the night tossing and turning and I wasn’t my typical chipper self. I needed a bit of time before I was ready to deal with my toddler, and the best way to get me out of my funk would be a nice hot shower. Obviously, nothing too long and relaxing, since I am home alone with my three year old. I’ll just drag his beanbag into my bathroom so I can watch him while I shower. He’s still in his PJ’s so I give him his morning bottle, his blankie, and …..my iPad (shhhh, don’t tell my husband). Normally, we don’t allow our youngest to watch too much television, but this isn’t really the same as TV, right? I mean, it’s kind of educational, no? Oh well, I’ll be quick.
I’m really enjoying my shower, the hot water pounding on my back, warming all my sore muscles. And as I begin to lather, I realize my son is quite content lounging on the beanbag, relaxing with his “educational” program. I guess I don’t actually need to rush. As I step out of the shower, he is completely enthralled with what he is watching and I manage to slip out of the bathroom without him noticing. Usually, he is keenly aware of my every step, and I can barely move without him following me. Maybe he’s beginning to develop a sense of independence. Just as I finish getting dressed, I hear him. “MOOOOMMMMM!!!!” I rush back into the bathroom, nearly slipping on the wet floor only to realize he’s on the verge of a tantrum because his program has ended. So much for new found independence. At least I’m dressed.
After breakfast, we head to the market together. Normally, we walk the isles leisurely, him in the shopping cart, me pushing him as if he is in a regal carriage. But he is particularly fussy today and I just want to get in and out of the market as quickly as possible. Fortunately, I have the iPad in my bag. What’s another show while I grab ingredients for tonight’s dinner? I mean, the clips he watches are educational and no one wants a toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the produce isle. I’m in and out of the market in a flash. And as I wrangle the iPad out of his hands while I buckle him into his car seat, I’m grateful I purchased his favorite snack. I strategically swap the device for the box of crackers, and once his mouth is full he hardly realizes I’ve repossessed the iPad.
Later that day, we make a trip to the mall. I would really love to buy a new pair of jeans, and I have a few hours before I need to pick up my older kids. I never would have ventured to the mall alone with my older kids. But as a seasoned third time mom, I’m totally prepared for the outing: comfy stroller that fully reclines for naps, diaper bag packed with enough snacks to get us through a famine, plenty of diapers, and a few toys to keep him occupied. Just as we walk into my favorite store, my son is whining for the iPad. But he’s had enough screen time for today; he will just have to keep busy with the toys I brought along.
As we head to the dressing room, I contemplate taking him out of the stroller. The room is big enough for him to move around, and I’ve got a bunch of things I want to try on. Once he’s settled in, with an assortment of toys in front of him, I begin to go through the new clothes. It really is such a delight shopping with him; I couldn’t have done this when my other kids were little. As I pull on the second pair of jeans, I hear him giggling softly. As I look over, I realize he has gone through my purse and dug out my phone. With a few swipes, he has found the videos I’ve taken and is contently watching himself splashing in the bathtub. He really is quite a genius. I mean, how many toddlers know how to swipe and tap just the right way? I should research some apps that will enhance his already advanced skills. As long as he is using a device, he might as well work on some important life skills. I mean, if he can do all this now just imagine what he will be doing by the time he is five! A new pair of jeans later, we head back to the car knowing we both enjoyed our time out together.
Since it’s not a school night, my husband and I decide to take the kids out to dinner. I’ll keep the groceries for tomorrow night and we can enjoy a nice family meal. Nothing fancy, just somewhere kid-friendly and convenient. We take a vote, and CPK wins! No chicken nuggets, but there is mac ’n cheese and pizza galore!!! Kids’ cups, crayons and wine—these people really know what parents need. As the waiter pours me a glass of Chardonnay, I look over to see my two boys huddled together. They really do play nicely together, and they are so lucky to have each other. Suddenly, I realize they are not coloring or playing tic-tac-toe; they are watching YouTube videos!!!! My older son is showing my younger son stupid cat videos and they are cracking up.
Ummmm, this wine is really hitting the spot. I’m so glad we decided to come out for a nice family dinner. I didn’t feel like cooking tonight anyway. The waiter comes by with our meals and comments on how well behaved my children are. Sitting quietly, patiently waiting for their food. I look over and beam at them with pride. Ok, I admit that at this point they each have an electronic device in their hands: the iPad for my little one and my husband’s and my cell phones for the older ones. But by now I’m on my second glass of wine and my husband is intently telling me about an upcoming project he’s working on. And I don’t really feel bad that they are occupied in that way. I mean, just look around the restaurant. Practically every child in here is captivated with something electronic. And what better way to get my child to finish a meal. This way, they are so distracted by what they are watching that they keep shoveling food into their mouths. At home, I practically have to chase them around the house to get them to eat. This is just so much more civilized.
Later that night, after the hugs and kisses, snuggles and stories are over I climb into bed totally content with what a wonderful day I’ve had. My husband slides in and I ask him what book our toddler chose to read tonight. “Oh, he didn’t want a book tonight. I offered, but he just wanted the iPad. So we snuggled on the couch while he watched YouTube clips and I checked my emails.” I was a little baffled that my son didn’t want to read a story. He usually manipulates us into reading an endless stream of books. As I’m contemplating this, my husband chimes in, “Don’t worry honey. It’s not like he gets any screen time during the day. A few minutes at night isn’t that bad.”
As my husband turns on the TV I begin to ruminate. He is right. It’s not like my toddler gets THAT much screen time. I mean, I’m a stay at home mom and we spend all day together. We take walks around the block and look at the ants crawling on the floor. We pick up leaves and dig for roly-polys. I make homemade play dough and host play dates once a week. So what’s an hour, or two, or five of screen time? I mean, I bet if I took a poll on my trusted Facebook mommy group, I would find plenty of moms who give their kids WAY more screen time than I do. Plus, most of it’s educational…. isn’t it?