About a month ago, we cut off Nathan’s access to my iPhone. The kid has a serious addiction, spending way too long tapping out on Plants vs Zombies or Sonic the Hedgehog 2. He had watched me play these games and like most things I love, he swiped it from me. He learned how to shuffle through the apps. He lost interest in the toddler games and learned that he could watch all the Thomas the Train he wanted on YouTube.
At first it was really convenient to hand him the phone when we were in line at the grocery store or taking a long drive. Then it spiraled out of control when my phone was all he wanted. He would play with it until the battery drained and the screen went blank. Sometimes he would tell me it died. Other times I would come downstairs and realize my phone wasn’t in his hands and then Mike and I would have an argument because I asked for his help to lift up the couch and I needed more pivoting and less judging!
But it was a problem. I had enabled him and I needed to do something about it. Once I tried to curb his usage, the tantrums started. There would be sobbing red-faced wails for my phone. During daycare pick-ups, he would run toward me and pad me down like a cop searching a suspect for weapons or shrooms. I don’t pack any heat or hallucinogens because of factors like I would likely shoot my own foot if a gun were on my body and I would mistake magic mushrooms for shiitakes and suddenly my stirfry has really transported my family to the island of Sodor. Don’t do drugs, kids!
Mike and I told Nathan that the phone was at the store and needed to be fixed. I’ve heard variations of this parental fib. My friend Drew told me about this couple who removed their child’s toy because it was announced to have lead-based paint and told her that Dora had to go the hospital. Never Coming Back Home Medical Facility, apparently. For one Christmas, I asked for a sweet Playdoh diner set that would let me build inedible clay hamburgers and fries. My mom came home and said that none of the stores on Saipan had it and that it was only sold in the States. This was before I knew about inventory requests and that parents are lying liars who lie.
It was hard the first week. Nathan would ask where the phone was and the interrogate further, “Why did you break the phone, Mommy? Why did you do that?” I would only use my phone once I was in bed with the baby. When I heard Nathan stomp up the stairs I would push it under my pillow before he flung the door open and his half-naked body ran to me, announcing, “I NEED PANTS AND UNDERWEAR!”
Now Nathan enjoys car rides without asking me to complete a difficult level of Sonic the Hedgehog. He reads
the books beside his carseats and broadcasts to his other passengers that we’re on a bridge or entering a tunnel. I would rather have a backseat driver than a child too busy with a digital hedgehog to answer when I call his name.
My phone dropped out of my bag this weekend and instead of grabbing it like he was a tween at the midnight release of the last book in the Twilight series, he stood still and said, “Is it broken? You need to charge the batteries?”
I said yes. It’s still broken. And every day I try to fix it by streaming Netflix or playing Angry Birds while he fixates on trains and tracks and toys that let him be the little boy he is, no batteries or adults required.