After you get older than three, you forget that three-year-olds are actually tiny people with a tiny culture.
It started when they were two. Dropping off my son at day care, another two-year-old would say hi, and he’d say hi back.
Like they are real people that have any business communicating with each other.
Now we’re at a place where I can’t get near his room without the other kids yelling out that his “dad is here.”
He’s in the back of the room doing god knows what with his friends, and he’s posted lookouts at the front of the room.
But then there is the hugging. These kids like to hug. And they don’t care who you are. Tonight I had to bend down to help my son get his shoes on, and I was nearly pulled under by a room full of toddlers that were desperate to hug me.
If you are pulled under, remember to swim perpendicular to the tide, rather than against it.
I’ve been recently accused of being a “gadget guy.” Yes, I happened to be writing on an iPad using a Bluetooth keyboard. And my iPhone was laying next to the iPad. A MacBook Pro was closed on my desk. And my watch sometimes needs to be rebooted.
There is a mountain of evidence against me. And if you come between us, I’ll kill you. But it’s not codependency, and I not a gadget guy. Come on…
OK. I do my fare share of unnecessary fiddling with gadgets. But it does prove to be helpful more than other people realize.
Parenting is Hard.
My wife and I have two young boys. 2 and 6. Which is like having three additional full time jobs on top of working.
Sonos and Apple Music make it easy to put on music that we like without having to browse or even make decisions.1 It’s incredibly useful when there’s spaghetti flying through the air and we want to get some music going.
I can glance at my Apple Watch to know if it’s going to be raining soon or if it’s hot enough that the kids are going to catch on fire in long pants.
Using an iPad Pro as my primary work device has helped by reducing the amount of maintenance and meta nonsense that come with a traditional OS, and it means that any other screen I pick up is essentially the same. My phone, my iPad Air 2…they are all almost identical to the iPad Pro. Same apps, same data, same settings. They have become different sized windows into the same computer.
Setting our coffee maker to automatically brew at a specific time in the morning is essentional now that our six-year-old has to be at the bus stop before the sun comes up.
No, it’s not revolutionary or new. But this is the kind of thing that I want more of from technology.
I’m not excited about VR or AR or any of the other Rs. I can’t yet see the benefit.
There’s nothing so compelling going on in home automation that would make it worth the headache. Right now, it seems like it’s mostly about lights that change color.
I don’t need a video game system or a blue ray player or a fridge that I can see from my phone. It’s all frivolous. Additional time commitments. More things to set up and maintain. More things to think about.
Less wow, and more utility.
We need tech that helps us keep our shit together while we raise our kids and maintain our jobs and keep our house from being reclaimed by the earth. Help us get more done without having to think about it. Anything that helps us take time back is a winner.
Amazon Echo is supposed to be even faster, but we’re in deep with Apple’s ecosystem, and haven’t made that leap yet. ↩
I wrote the other day about my son and books. I’m not generally any kind of crusader about paper verses digital. But I’m having a little bit of trouble with the tension between all media being digital and raising kids that are interested in the world.
Kids of the future describing books:
“This is the settings panel.”
“This is the page-turn touch-target on the bezel.”
“This is the ice cold, unfeeling, touch screen. If you stare hard enough, it might stare back.”
I picked up a lot of great habits from my family by seeing how they went about consuming media. My mom and sisters were often around the house reading books. Dad read the paper.
We always ate dinner as a family. But around the time I was in middle school, Peter Jennings became a part of the family. We would watch the news together.
In fact, just having the paper in the house was important in how I became interested in the world.
No one ever told me to read it. But it was there. So when I was sitting around the house, eating breakfast, or whatever else, the paper was there for me to pick up and look through.
On Sunday, Dave Barry was in the back of the Washington Post Magazine. Which, as a young fan of comedy, showed that the written word could be really funny … every few weeks or so, anyways.
I’d read books that were around the house. I’d pull out the ten year old Funk & Wagnall encyclopedia and flip through it, reading about random things for hours on end. Sometimes while procrastinating homework. Sometimes not.
Our House is a Media Desert
Our house is barren of physical media. The bookshelves have a few books on them, but are mostly filled with pictures.
I go back and forth between ebooks and the real thing. Or at least, I’d like to. The truth is that I get in much more reading when my book is always available and in my pocket. And I’m far too impatient to wait for a book to be delivered or to take a trip to the bookstore/library.
We subscribed to the paper for a few months before realizing that we didn’t have time to sit down with it. Or that we weren’t taking the time to sit down with it.
Magazines that we’ve subscribed to get to the point where they go directly from the mailbox into the recycling bin. We could’ve just left the recycling bin under the mailbox and asked our mailman to just skip the middle man. Lifehack.
And TV news? We can’t put that garbage in front of our kids.
When I’m reading a novel on some sort of device, it looks exactly the same as when I’m mashing the like button on Facebook or raising cortisol levels in my email inbox.
They don’t see me writing things. They see me rubbing and tapping on glass.
I want my kids to see us reading books and magazines and newspapers. There’s no sense of when I’m using “grown-up” media and making things versus the spazzy social media that is eventually going to consume their lives.
We’ll have to try harder.
I want them to know the difference. To have an appreciation for media that requires an attention span and stepping away from the world for a few minutes at a time.
I want them to know that it’s OK if they are not constantly reachable, and that it’s OK if they don’t get back to someone right away. I want them to be alone with their own thoughts and imaginations without the pollution of other people’s spastic posts and emails and snaps and chats and expectations.
I guess there’s not really an answer here besides trying harder. If I want to set the example I want to set, we’re going to have to invite physical media back into our lives. We’ll need to keep the instantly available, backlit convenience of digital books and magazines and websites at arms length. Or at least use it in moderation.
It would be good for the kids, and probably better for us.
My oldest boy is five. Turning six soon. I’ve gone out of my way to make sure I can put him to bed every night. It kind-of became my job. When I was still at the agency, I did everything I could to get home in time to put him to bed, even on nights that were insane and involved late work. It’s something I enjoy doing, even when it takes a long time or he tries my patience.
While not every night is like this, there are some nights in his room when there are a good 10 to 15 minutes of pure magic.
It happens when he’s going through whatever winding down activity he’s chosen for the night.
Sometimes it involves quietly racing cars around a track before parking them. He’ll make quiet little engine noises, and then carefully place each car next to another. It’s very methodical and controlled. Nothing spastic about it.
Sometimes he’ll finish drawing “a book” that he’s been working on throughout the day, and then he’ll walk me through the story.
Other times he’ll quietly flip through a book on his own before we sit down to read one together. Sometimes he’ll then tell you about the book itself, the different parts of it and what they are called.
These are my favorite nights.
“This is a hardback book.”
“This is a book jacket.”
“This is the spine. It holds the pages together.”
There is nothing that feels more wholesome than this. I don’t know if it’s some kind of biological thing or if it’s just me, but I am never more relaxed or present than when he does this.
Being present like this, you start to notice the details again. The floppy sound that the pages make as they are being turned. The crackling of the glue in the spine as the pages move. The texture and feel of heavy paper. The distinct smells of dusty older books and the crispness of the new.
The artwork suddenly stands out as big and beautiful. You feel the textures and depth and style that goes into it all. You appreciate the imagination and creativity and the care taken with materials when putting it all together. You wonder about the nonsensical nature of the story being told, and how it came to be written.
These are the moments you remember. You don’t remember the spazzing and yelling and demanding and Sharpying of expensive things.