Like all responsible parents, we aim to keep our child as unplugged as possible, and while we do sit her in front of the TV on occasion (every morning is an occasion), we limit her to PBS programming, and this makes us totally virtuous. In the end, though, I freaking love my iPad and I don’t want her Cheez-it fingers all over the screen.
Oh, I thought I was being so stealth. But she knew. Recently, when, as I do several times a day, I slapped closed the protective cover and hid the thing quickly behind my back like a kid getting caught with porn, she said, “Is that the new iPad?” Not, “What is that?” or, “Is that an iPad?” but, “Is that the new iPad?” as though she’s a regular reader of Walt Mossberg‘s personal tech column in the Wall Street Journal. I began to sweat and quickly distracted her with chocolate.
I watch her eyes sometimes, and they notice that I’m simultaneously working on my laptop while checking messages on my iPhone while being furtive with my iPad. And what’s most curious to me is that her eyes show no sign of disapproval. They’re simply observing. She has no sense that I’m tuning her out in order to stay tuned in. Instead, she studies me and says to herself, “This is what parents do.” And that breaks my heart.
Granted, I am not some gamer who plays World of Warcraft for days on end, unshowered and dehydrated, while his toddler dies of starvation. But I do like to stay in touch, cheat at Words With Friends, and check to see how many people “liked” the pic of the osso buco I had for dinner last night. The trouble of course is that do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do doesn’t work with my child. So the question is this: When she finally gets her own smartphone (can I hold out until she’s 6?), how can I expect her to pay a lick of attention to me when I tell her it’s bath time?