Over the years my wife and I have talked the talk of less video games, no electronics, books over videos, and all of those things that parents are supposed to say in front of other parents when discussing stuff like high-fructose corn syrup, toy guns, and anything else that makes us feel just as superior as the next person. You know the conversation:
“Oh, we only buy juice squeezed in the morning before the fruit is picked. It really is the only way to know you are getting the freshest juice.”
“We used to do that, but now we order our juice straight from the seed, that way there isn’t any pulp or other contaminants.”
“That’s smart. You’ll have to give me their number.”
“They don’t have a telephone. You have to write them a letter, and their mail is packed in by mule every solstice.”
“Right, I think I saw that on TV.”
“We don’t have a television. Our kids are allowed to watch 15 minutes of PBS per month on their iPad.”
“You let them have time on the Internet? I find that kids learn more from a set of encyclopedias.”
“We make our own encyclopedias. We press the paper from dried fruit pulp. It’s so important that the kids learn not to waste.”
And so forth and so on.
Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t have a TV for a long time and we enjoyed telling everyone about it. It is the same smug satisfaction that I get from being a vegetarian and refreshingly handsome.
Needless to say, you can imagine the shock when our 6-year-old asked for an iPod Touch for Christmas. Who the hell did he think he was? Alex P. Keaton?
Therein lies the rub. Sometimes good parenting means doing things because they are easy and fun, not because we want our first grader to get into a decent law school. Yes, we don’t watch a lot of TV, but we probably watch more than we should. We read books like they have to be returned (support your local library!), but we also have a stack of comics that would make Stan Lee proud. We drink the Trader Joe’s orange juice from concentrate and we often shop in bulk. Last week, when the boys were out of school, we ate breakfast at Starbucks twice. Truth be told, I don’t even own a pair of yoga pants.
And we are always online. Always. Granted, I write on the Internet for a living, but even when I am not typing away like so many free range monkeys I tend to have my iPhone in hand sending Tweets, status updates, emails, and words to friends. It is at the point that I must force myself to turn off my phone when I sit down to watch TV, otherwise I push, swipe, and text through an entire episode of Downton Abbey like so much irony.
My wife is even worse (don’t tell her I said that), and our 9-year-old wishes he could be. He has his own iPod Touch because it was given to me as swag at a Disney media event and it quickly became the greatest souvenir ever. He plays the Wii (only on the weekend), and he listens to They Might Be Giants on repeat while chain-reading Rick Riordan books almost as fast as they are published.
The younger boy has stood strong and taken to the yard for hours of play, shunning such electronic distractions, and we were thankful and proud. Then he discovered Minecraft and something clicked inside him. Now he is tired of being unplugged, and he wants an iPod Touch of his very own.
We gave it a lot of thought. To be clear, if any kid deserves it, it is him, but six seems so young for something so fancy and pricey. As I mentioned before, the only reason his brother has one is because it was free, but the fact is that his brother does have one, and he doesn’t. He wants his.
Unfortunately, for him, we have decided to wait. In fact, despite all of the Wii games already wrapped and hiding in the closet, we have pledged to practice what we preach—both boys are going to spend less time on electronics in the coming year (hey, a resolution!) and I plan to join them.
Basically, if you want to play a game of Words With Friends we need to do it now.
Socks make a nice gift, right?
What do you think about expensive electronics for kids? What do you think is the right age for iPods and the like?
Read more from Whit Honea at his site Honea Express and the popular group blog DadCentric. You can follow Whit on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).