When I was pregnant, I made many carefully reasoned parenting choices, most of which flew right out the window as soon as Connor went external. One of the big ones was that I wasn’t going to let him watch TV, play video games, or use a computer until he was 7. I thought that was a good age, a solid age — old enough to understand time limits and content restrictions, but young enough to avoid porn; old enough to have established the habit of playing outside, but young enough to benefit from all that hand-eye coordination stuff; old enough to operate these devices safely and sanely, but young enough that he wouldn’t mind a ten-year-old Compaq.
Then he was born, and Michael’s mom started him with TV pretty much instantly. At first it was Baby Einstein, of which I grudgingly approved. He didn’t care about the tube much when he was very small, but as he got older he started taking more notice — and he became able to verbalize his wishes. “Doo-da-box!” he’d crow, 18 months old and already asking to watch these horrifying creatures. At two, he insisted on “Lil’ Einsseins, puh-lee-zuh,” emphasizing the please until it was almost unrecognizable (as if that alone would break my iron will). Now he’s well-acquainted with a wide variety of shows even though we don’t have a TV, corrupted by his grandmother’s love of the tube and my eventual lack of caring.
ADD, schmay-DD, I shrug. He has to have something to distract him from
the smack withdrawals his tragic Louboutin addiction making gigantic messes while Mama’s trying to get paid, right? I’ve held firm on the no-computers and no-video games rules, though. I figured that this was the sort of compromise most rational adults make when they butt heads with reality. I mean, I’m not heartless — okay, kid, have all the TV you want at Momo’s house, but at home all you get is the occasional DVD and you certainly don’t need other screens. Play with toys! Here’s some Play-Doh! Let’s go outside! All well and good, and he’s never had a problem with this system.
Until I started working, at home, on the computer. He is now fascinated by what I might be doing on here at any given moment, and he will interrogate me mercilessly, a tiny Torquemada: “Whatcha doin’, Mommy? Are you doin’ ShaSha? Are you doin’ your work, or are you doin’ somethin’ else? What page can you click on to see somethin’ else? Are you going to play some music? Do you have any games on that computer?” On and on it goes, and the precision of some of his questions makes me suspect that he is having computer time at his grandparents’ house.
Tonight we had a lot of fun before bed. He sat in my lap and said, “I will be cold, I will be cold!” at which point I was to cross my eyes, make duck lips, and produce the weirdest sound I could. We did this over and over, laughing like loons, my little Inquisitor and me — him covered in hydrocortisone-smeared bug bites, me with sloppy hair and bleachy hands from a day of cleaning. After a while he started casting flirtatious glances at the computer. “What… well… don’t you think you need to do ShaSha right now?” he asked. “I could watch you, right here on your lap. I will be very quiet, and you can do some more ShaSha work. That’s a great idea!”
He needs to work on his subtlety a little. I got the hint loud and clear, and right then? I gave up. The kid is interested, the kid is bright, and damnit, the kid is not going to learn about computers from his grandparents. That’s my area, thank you very much. I opened up Checkbox-a-Sketch, shook the mouse around a little, and Connor’s eyes lit up. He me to draw numbers, he asked me to write his name, he had me draw every single member of the Cars cast, and finally… he asked to do it himself.
Kid’s a natural. What the hell was I worried about, again?