BY KELLY HINES WITH TRIAD MOMS ON MAIN
Sometimes, it’s a truth said in the heat of an argument about nothing—”You’re on the computer all the time.”
Sometimes, it is a heart-crushing proclamation made by a five-year-old who’s been denied screen time—“I don’t want to read a book! Books are boring! I HATE BOOKS. I WANT TO PLAY WII.”
I hate books. The words brought tears to my eyes. How could my child hate books? How could my child prefer to spend her time watching SpongeBob or playing video games or browsing the app store or anything, anything, but reading a book?
The answer is simple. Me.
I wake in the morning, stumble into the kitchen, and check my e-mail. Messages from Target and Groupon take precedence over coffee, even. I fix breakfast and turn my back to my children while they eat, so I can check Facebook. I keep the iPad on the counter, so I can check in here and there dozens of times a day as I pass through the room. At nap time, I balance it on my knee while I rock Henry to sleep.
Henry is barely awake and starts asking, “Play game?” Julia can work every electronic device in this house better than I can. And she was the source of the “I hate books” comment. I do not read at bedtime anymore with any regularity, finding it easier to put a movie in her portable DVD player while I get Henry to sleep.
Katie, who did receive the benefit of thousands of pages read aloud to her, and has reading and writing skills far beyond her age and grade level, prefers the company of an iPod Touch to anything else.
I, my friends, have screwed up.
I am not a bad parent. I take my kids places and love them fiercely and have spontaneous dance parties and feed them good food and teach them right from wrong. I am afraid what I have become is a lazy parent. Maybe sometimes an overwhelmed parent. Maybe a smug parent, assuming that their natural inclination for awesomeness will compensate for any deficit in my parenting. I am, I think, by any standard a good enough parent.
I don’t want to be a good enough parent. I want to be a good parent. I should strive every day to be a GREAT parent. When we decided to have children, everything in my life became suddenly secondary. I am responsible for the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of three very small people. It is my job, my chosen profession, to dedicate my life to helping them become good and kind and productive and generous and loving people. Some people wonder what their purpose in life is. I don’t—that’s it. Those three people are my purpose in life.
It’s my responsibility to do this job the best that I can.
And I haven’t been. What I have done is helped create a trio of vidiots, so “connected” with things that we’re losing connections with each other. We lead by example: Sean and I, finally alone with all the kids in bed, sit in front of the television, simultaneously watching a show and surfing on our respective electronic devices.
But it’s the way things are now! Everyone’s connected! Everyone is linked in! Everyone has a blog! It’s what it is.
I’m not going offline. We won’t throw out our televisions or computers or phones. I will still give in to laziness and exasperation and say, “…just watch a show for a little while to get dinner made or laundry folded or a few minutes of quiet. I am not perfect; I cannot be.” But good enough is not good enough anymore.
Today, no one played video games. As a result, none of us got the shakes or went insane, or burst into flames. Instead, we sat on the floor and played Legos until my ass fell asleep. Tonight, I sat in the rocker and announced, “Storytime!” and didn’t hurry the story. Julia decided she doesn’t hate books, after all.
Tiny steps. Small victories. Glimpses of greatness.