I am, admittedly, awfully new to the parenting game, but man I gotta tell you, this shit is hard. It’s a huge learning curve; every new situation, every meal, every everything is first and foremost me trying to figure out where the booby traps are, what the words are that might set off the next chain of exploding land mines. The kids were in this family before me, and there are so many days when I would tell you myself that they run this joint–no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
They, of course, do not feel the same way. Though I am usually decent and amusing company for them, there are more than a few moments when they look around for their father, likely hoping that he’ll notice how his wife is once again trying to rule with an iron fist when they’d be much happier to have her sucking up and asking for their approval. These looks do not go over well with me, and I’m beginning to notice that my ire is compounding over time. The more I don’t respond, the more I want to and the more likely it becomes that I’m eventually going to. Every day, for example, I struggle to resist the urge to plan and legislate every second of their time at home. I am oh-so-tired of cleaning up after them, of saying “please don’t eat pineapple fruit cups on the couch” and then having to clean a sticky mess off the cushions when they get up. I am so done saying “don’t carry soda cans into your bedroom” and then having to buy ant poison for the subsequent and inevitable infestation. If they had chore lists and set punishments for their dumbassery, maybe I’d get a break from the relentless movement and the neverending urge to scream at the top of my lungs in frustration.
But as the parent who is the most present in their lives (my sweet husband works a lot), I am most often consumed with worry rather than anger. I’m 43 years old, and I’ve seen enough of the world to know that there’s some scary, dangerous stuff out there. I’ve also been around the block enough times to know that most of the time, it’s our own bad choices that bring the shitstorm down on our heads. I would very much like to save them from either of those truths whenever possible. I am therefore seriously considering a mandate from my high position as step-mother:
HENCEFORTH AND FORTHWITH, ALL HUMANS UNDER THE AGE OF 39 WHO LIVE IN THIS HOUSE WILL IMMEDIATELY (AND WITHOUT HOPE OF SUCCESSFUL APPEAL) RELINQUISH THE EQUIPMENT REFERRED TO AS CELL PHONES AND THEN TRAVEL BACK IN TIME, POST HASTE, TO THE RENAISSANCE ERA, WHERE THEY WILL START READING ACTUAL LITERATURE AND DRINKING TEA AND NEVER AGAIN UTTER THE WORDS “YOU TUBE” OR PERFORM THE MANEUVER “DAB” EVER, EVER, EVER AGAIN. ALSO, THEY WILL WEAR VICTORIAN CLOTHES AND SPEAK AS THOUGH THEY HAVE SOME SENSE AND A DECENT EDUCATION.
I don’t know…maybe it sounds a little extreme, but it’s beginning to feel like desperate times call for desperate measures. I mean, I was about 18 when I started learning about computers and building my first, scary-looking websites, but the integration with technology nowadays is freakin’ scary. It’s more than just wanting to play on your phone when you’re bored; people (including children) today are so addicted to their phones that cell phone addiction has actually become a thing. It adversely effects concentration, test taking, and even sleep. Consequently, what formerly was an occasional flight of fancy about taking the phones away from the kids and returning to board games, books, and actual eye contact has now become an almost zealous belief in the inherent evil of cell phones and a determination that next time some shit goes down and punishment is imminent, removing the phones (and all other access to social media) might well be the first (joyous) step.
Aside from the scary addiction factor, I’m also worried by the extent to which cell phones are causing our kids to grow up much earlier than they should. And I know that wouldn’t be possible if we were monitoring our kids’ phone usage as closely as our parents once monitored our internet usage, but for the most part, for whatever reason, we aren’t looking. Ironically, I think we were in far less danger than are the kids and teens of this generation. I mean, suicides are happening because of Facebook and Snapchat, y’all. I wouldn’t want to have to tell people that’s what happened to my kid, especially since the mere idea of a death caused by something so intangible is still pretty much unfathomable even to people my age, who were in the first high school level computer classes as teenagers.
How does something so small get so big and important in the lives of children?
I think my sister (in-law) has it right, as usual, and we should be seriously limiting screen time and snatching the phones at random–right out of the hands of the children we love–to see what the hell is actually going on in their lives, what information and everyday horror they’re being presented with in a place that is so very obvious and easily accessible, and yet WE NEVER FREAKIN’ LOOK. I mean, I had to do some serious plotting to read my first smut book at 15, and dammit, I don’t think my step-kids should have it any easier. Also, if they want to know how to build a bomb or start a cult, I really think they should have to perform a little exercise and walk their crazy little asses down to the library, but hey, maybe that’s just me getting a bit drunk on all that new step-mother power.
But I’m serious, y’all…I’m worried. I’m going to try to pay more attention, but I have a feeling that it’s only going to take a feather to push me over the edge of reason on this subject, and I’m taking all the cell phones with me on the trip down.