Friday, August 20, 2010

Unplugged, By Choice

Yesterday, I was at the dance studio waiting for my daughter to finish her ballet class. Now, since my girls have been dancing since they were two, and one of them dances on a competition team, this is not an unusual place for me to spend a weekday afternoon. In fact, we're there four days a week. (I know, that's decidedly un-Slacker Mom, but I'm working on getting some overlap in the schedule. Next week we'll be down to 3 days a week. Yay me.)

But I digress. My 8-year-old and I were waiting for my 6-year-old to finish her ballet class, when another mom asked my daughter, "So what do you DO for an hour while your sister's in class?" My daughter looked up at her (in confusion, I might add, since she had her nose in a book), and said, "I read."

"Read? How do you get her to read?" the other mom (I'll call her Anne) asked. "Doesn't she want to bring her DSi, or her iPod, or her cell phone? My kids only read at bedtime, and only because I make them."

And my sweet, brilliant girl replied, "I LOVE to read! I'd rather read than do ANY of that! When my mom punishes me, she takes away my books!" (That's true, actually. I do. Like I said, whatever works.) Of course, as soon as we were in the car, she started with the "It's not fair! I want an iPod Touch, an iPhone, a DSi, and my own laptop, just like Brooke has" crap, but that's another story.

Now, if parents want to buy their 8-year-old an iPad, her own cell phone, or the Hope Diamond, for that matter, go for it. No argument from Slacker Mom. Hey, my kids have, no joke, 14 American Girl dolls in their playroom. (Santa and Gramma are pretty darn generous, and Gramma only had boys, after all. She LOVES to buy dolls.) But, as I told my daughter, if you asked Santa for a $100 doll, why on earth would you also get a DSi or an iPod? And a cell phone? You're 8! You're at school or with me. Who are you going to call? And why couldn't you just use the phone that's sitting on the kitchen counter?

But no, Anne just couldn't leave it alone. I got a 20-minute explanation of why her kids (5 and 8) have all the electronics that they do: she doesn't want to have to entertain them when she's home, and if they are plugged in, they are quiet and leave her alone and she doesn't have to figure out what to do with them. Her words, moms, not mine. If her girls are bored and want to play on the computer, she doesn't want to have to "share" hers. (See, I just tell my kids no. As in, "No, I'm using it and you can go play with something else. And if you're really that bored, I've got a couple of toilets that need scrubbing." Works every time.) And then - her fatal error - Anne continued to explain that because the iPod Touch and DSi are "educational", that they can teach reading skills and math facts, I shouldn't allow my kids to "miss out" on the "educational opportunities" they could be providing for my children.

Now, usually Slacker Mom is all about the love. To each her own, parent and let parent, that kind of thing. I am rarely, if ever, defensive about my parenting choices. I know I'm the best mom that I can be at any given moment (whether that's ego or age, I don't know, but it's true: I don't really care what anyone else thinks) and I assume the same about other moms. But don't get me started on education. I will morph from mellow, live-and-let-live Slacker Mom into a ranting, raving, soap-box carrying lunatic when you start talking about education - particularly the education of MY children.

So I kind of let her have it. I explained that I taught my kids to read with no gadgets or electronics, that I used the good old-fashioned method I used as a teacher: phonics and books. Yep, my kids learned to read (at age 4, I might add) by reading books. And math? Sure, you can do drills on your DSi, but I taught my kids math through real-life math problems and the old stand-by: manipulatives. So PLEASE don't try to sell me on electronics by telling me it will give my kids an "edge" in school. Please. They are both significantly above grade level in all academic areas, one of them skipped a grade, both are gifted - and it's not because I bought them a laptop or a DSi or a cell phone.

Hey, let's call it what it is: entertainment. If you want to provide your kids with electronics, go for it. I really don't care one way or another. But it's NOT for educational purposes alone, and we all know it. It's for entertainment, which is not a bad thing. It's just not MY thing. I let my kids play video games, use my cell, use my laptop, use my iPod. I just don't call it "education" or feel that they need - or are entitled to - their very own.

Personally, I don't believe that ANY 8-year-old actually needs a $300 iPod, a cell phone, her own laptop. Of COURSE my daughter wants all of the above: we live in a materialistic society, where many people seem to feel the need to buy the latest version of the newest big thing, cost be damned, and she wants what "everyone else" has. I was the same way as a kid. But I'm not spending $100 a month on a wireless plan for myself, let alone my kid. Nope. Not doing it. Call me cheap, but I'd rather spend that money on dance lessons, books, a trip to see my sister and her kids.

Besides, it's kind of like the 12-year-old whose parents get her a limo for her middle school dance; what do you do for prom? for her wedding? Let's leave something for later. Why get "everything" now? And where's the lesson on working for things? If everything is just given to them, do they appreciate it? One mom said, "But if his grandparents want to buy my first-grader his own laptop, who am I to say no?" Well, um, in a word - the PARENT. I don't care WHAT my parents want to buy my kids; I'm the mommy. What if they bought a puppy? Wouldn't you need to approve that first, too? No, my parents can buy my girls all the dolls they want, but, as I told my mother, "You ARE NOT taking them to Hawaii for spring break." No deal. At least, not unless you take me, too.

Slacker Mom Says...back off! My kids aren't entitled to the latest electronic gadgets any more than yours are entitled to have four puppies, three kittens, and a pony. I won't criticize you for the decisions you make, so don't tell me my kids "should" have the same things yours do. Soon enough, they WILL need all that stuff, and we'll get them their own laptops and cell phones. But right now, they are content to play Barbies, dolls, and board games. Right now, they'd rather run upstairs to their playroom and create a world of horses, fairies, and magic than play video games. Right now, my two girls are best friends who would rather play together than hole up alone in their rooms. Right now, they'd rather curl up on the couch with me and hear a great story than text their friends. Why on earth would we do anything to discourage that? Why grow up so fast? Their teen years will be here too soon as it is. In ten short years, we'll be sending our firstborn off to college, and our baby will follow two years later. For now, we'll focus on spending time together, rather than spending time plugged in. That's just us. Don't knock it til you've tried it.


  1. Preach it, Sistah!

    My kids can self-entertain, without all the great gadgets. my 6 and 9 year olds don't have cell phones, iPad, iTouch, iPods...they have a cheap off-brand mp3 player that grandpa sent them, and they rarely use it. They are currently in the bonus room playing with their "guys" (stuffed animals). Both of them have a DS, and it's a tool I use when we are doing something that will require lots of time, where reading isn't always the best thing (such as in a car for 4 hours - we all get car-sick reading...heck, I get car-sick scrolling thru the address book to make a call!). So the DS offers a reasonable entertainment (yes, ENTERTAINMENT, just like you said) option. We do math, reading, and other things the "hard way"...

    My daughter asked for a cell phone. I told her NO. She won't get one till she's responsible enough to take care of it...AND pay for it. 'nuff said!

  2. Fantastic post! I agree with everything you said. Really, what else can be said? You've won the internetz!

  3. Great post! My daughter is a master at my laptop, but when she says "it's my turn," I explain that it isn't - until it is. ;) She also uses our cell phones to entertain herself while we wait for dinner to arrive and she has colored everything in sight. But I can't imagine any of those things being in her actual possession until - well - quite some time. Good for you!

  4. Andrea, I love it: It isn't, until it is! Love love love that!