Friday, January 6, 2012

Electronic Toys By Any Other Name . . .

. . . still feel like sandpaper on my principled sensibilities.

I got out of bed at 12 minutes past 6:00 this morning - only twelve minutes later than yesterday.  And it wasn't that long ago as it is now only 7:28 am.  Strangely, four out of four children are still in bed.  Sleeping with heaps of blankets over their little warm bodies keeping out the ridiculous cold of an upstairs that is not connected to our furnace/cooler system.

I have spoken too soon - I hear footsteps - one minute while I hug the body that goes with them . . .

Jonah.  Mmmmm.  Jonah.

Matt and I taught our first Institute class together last night.  As he described it to the students, it is a leap of faith for us.  He teaches the gospel for a living, I teach our children how to identify and label a right angle.  Different spheres.  But it was great fun being with Matt and sharing in the experience of teaching "Preparing for Eternal Marriage" in a class with more than 30 young adults, including five or six couples who are engaged to be married.

We are only able to do this because our dear little friend Chelsea - an SVU freshman from Alaska - is willing to come watch our children every Thursday evening for the next fifteen weeks.  She loves our kids and we love her.  She brought them Christmas gifts last night that she had purchased in Alaska while home during the Christmas break.  Venturing out into the - 40 deg F just to git gifties for my babies.  That's NEGATIVE 40 degrees.  Inhospitable is a raging understatement.  It's a wonder there is life on a planet that can reach such temperatures, and a wonder indeed that humans choose to live where the sun is a fleeting guest.

Anyway, Chelsea put on her parka and trudged through the frozen, dark tundra to get something to bring back for each of our children.  Cecily ended up with the electronic Toddler Text and Letter Learning toy. Marketed as educational my suspicion is that the cellular phone companies produce these as means of establishing a guaranteed customer base very early.

Everything in me wanted to make the thing disappear before it really had time to appear.  Cecily turned into a brute charging up the stairs with her new chiming fandangly thing as she clutched it to her bosom while she yelled at me, "No, it's mine.  It's my OWN ipod.  I'm putting it in my toy box and you can't touch it."

How is it that batteries make instant monsters of sweet children?

So I waited until she was asleep, stole into the cold room, pulled her plastic toy bin out from under her bed and found, way at the back, accompanied by not one other toy, the new electronic fandangly thing.   With a mother's "righteous" insolence I pulled it out and hid it in a shoebox deep in my closet.


But not.

It didn't feel right.

When I got out of bed this morning at twelve minutes past 6:00 it was because I knew I had to put the electronic fandangly thing back in her toy bin before she woke up.  Somehow this one respect for the fledgling autonomy of my three-year-old was critical to our long term relationship.

I was right.  She showed up shortly after Jonah with the toy in hand, already chiming.  She and I have spent the last thirty minutes on the couch playing with it together.  The toy is put away now - under a peaceable governance - so we can do other things with the day.

I am sure I preserved something between her and me that would have been lost if I had acted as brazenly as I nearly did.

What a blind business is parenting.


Emily said...

Can I quote you? I am waging the electronic war in my house every hour of every day, struggling to find the balance between my two desires to outlaw anything digital under my roof, and let Benjamin watch three hours of Veggie Tales so I can nap/do dishes/shower/cook/all those other things that are supposed to be signatures of a Good Wife and Mother. How do you achieve peaceable governance?

aubtobobtolob said...

Well done sweet lady, on both turns. love aub

Greg said...

This was a great story, Jessica. Thanks for sharing. It is such a crazy thing, parenting. (That "blind business", as you said.) That we could somehow suppose to be the decision makers for others made (autonomous) in God's image—even if only for a time—and yet, how can we not? But (as you knew, and acted upon), the best (maybe only?) thing we can develop in our kids is trust, built by the little things we do and don't do that allow them freedoms, individuality, and the autonomy that our Creator has given them by their very existence (again, still within that amazing office he has given us as their temporary custodian/guardian/Mommy/Daddy). Incredible. Overwhelming. Amazing blessing.

I wrote some of these thoughts out, too ... a week or more ago I think. In a post titled "Transitions". I'd welcome your thoughts on that... I'm sure you have as few "answers" as I do, but, well, more thoughts are always good :)

Oh, and... glad you were able to come to an agreement re: the electronic fandangly :)

Camille Wheatley said...

Somehow, kids these days are so drawn to the electronic fandangly things. It's as if they are akin to them--the connection is so strong, and the instant knowledge on how to manipulate them is so instinctual. I don't know if it's possible to sever the ties to the electronic world, nor entirely advisable. But the balance question is definitely the key issue. Sofi adores Justin's iPad. It is absolutely her favorite toy. When she spies it hiding beneath the bed covers or peeking out from under the newspaper on our kitchen table, there is nothing else that exists in the world besides that iPad, and she will not take "no" for an answer when she gestures significantly towards it. Removing it from her presence results only in the most bitter tears. Yet the way she's learned to use it is astonishing. At 18 months of age, she knew how to zip between programs and apps and play her favorite games. Who knows what application these skills will have in the future, especially in light of the building of the kingdom of God? I have to think there's a reason for such a capacity for electronic/technology knowledge at such at unreasonably young age.