I am the mom to a child who has an addiction.
The struggle is very real.
The age of my son?
Am I alone? I don’t think so. The battle is becoming an everyday scenario. And the meltdowns can be extreme. He is growing up in such a different era than his older siblings. He came along later in life. I had him when I was 35. His siblings were much closer in age, and therefore grew up together, whereas he is kind of bringing up the caboose. Next eldest in line is his sister and she is 14 (so of course they do not ever, ever hang out). His other sister is 17 and his brothers are 18 and 22, and no longer live at home.
When I hear my older kids talk of all the fun they had as kids -playing outside, basketball, bikes, football, whatever the clan in the neighborhood community dreamed up, it warms my heart.
Then I look across the table at my sweet nine-year old son, my baby, listening to them talk, and not only can he not join in on these conversations with his siblings, but he does not have these kind of childhood memories. And that makes me sad. He is the age now when my sons were creating these memories with their friends when we got home in the afternoons, enjoying summer camp programs because I had to work, or participating in their favorite sports. The only tech they had back then was a used Playstation, which they played very little. Little man doesn’t have these experiences.
Instead what drives him is his desire to do one thing and one thing only. Play his Xbox. Or the computer, the ipad, the iphone, the list goes on.
Do we offer him experiences? Of course. We have tried various sports and programs. He has a bike but its no fun to go out and ride by himself, and I can’t blame him for that. We ride together sometimes or I walk and he rides but he stays focused on when we are finished and he can get back to his console. We take him hiking, to parks, on play dates and all the normal things to expose him to friends and activities, but the kid remains hooked to his technology.
We set limits and rules, and he struggles to break them. And now, as if to add to my personal distress as a parent, the schools are implementing learning on iPads, furnished to every student enrolled. So, next year he will be carrying around an iPad on which to do his school assignments. While I appreciate the need to expose students to the ever-growing world of technology, and augment their capabilities, I feel like I am losing my nine-year old into the abyss of the World of Tech.
I read about the effects of too much screen time of children’s brains, not to mention eyes, and I panic. All of a sudden I want to move to a commune, grow our own food and never hear the word WiFi again. But of course, that is not practical and obviously not an option. Just my momma heart freaking out and wanting to save my little boy. In the effort of full disclosure, of course we can’t deny that it is a bit of a double standard. He sees that we all have our phones, and our TVs and our computers, etc. So the argument he presents is a valid one.
These days I have been asking him what he might want to do when he grows up. So far his answer is “be a You-Tube-r Mom.” I try not to cringe, and allow room for exploration. After all, that could be a lucrative career, right? I explain to him that he could be a game designer or something else super cool like that. Of course he rolls his eyes and sighs audibly.
At the end of the day, we all do the best we can with our kids. And in this age of constant exposure to screens, we have to be diligent about limits and restrictions, but as I am learning, we also have to relax and wrap our minds around the nuances of this generation being raised in an era where digital technology is everywhere. They will have different experiences and an alternate set of abilities, and maybe that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Mom guilt is Real and it finds us no matter what, especially at 3 am. I know I have a hard time not engaging in that street fight when I wake up in the middle of the night and my brain switches on like a street lamp. Then I reach under my pillow and I feel the hard plastic of the Xbox controller that I stole at bedtime and I am able to drift back to sleep again, knowing that my son’s brain and eyes are safe, at least for tonight.