I have a bone to pick with Santa.
I already have one screen-addicted child, I certainly don’t need two.
It’s true, my son Eli would choose a screen, be it computer, hand-held video game or TV over almost any other activity, any day of the week. I have to stay on top of him to make sure he gets plenty of outdoor activities and play that does not involve a keyboard or a remote control.
My saving grace in this regard has always been my daughter. Emma will watch a little TV while she eats her afternoon snack, but otherwise, she is off to play in her room, always finding creative ways to fill her free time. She loves to play with Barbies, take pictures with her kid-friendly camera, or draw and write in her journal. She needs very little prompting from me.
And then, Christmas came. And Emma was gifted with an iPod Touch.
Look; the child didn’t want anything else, no matter what other suggestions I made. When she wouldn’t budge, I explained to her that granting such an expensive request would mean Santa wouldn’t be able to give her anything else. She readily agreed.
Before she submitted her letter to Santa that listed only one item, her father and I discussed it. Emma loves music, and the iPod touch holds more than her Shuffle. The iTouch takes wonderful pictures and has the capacity to make great videos. Emma loves to act out stories on our video camera, coming up with her own scripts and props. We figured, somewhat reluctantly, that she could get a lot of creative use out of the iPod Touch. We gave the go-ahead to Santa.
And now, I’ve got two kids who, if left alone, have their faces in screens for endless amounts of time.
Early Saturday evening, I couldn’t take it. One child was spread out on the couch playing a video game. Another was sitting in a desk chair, planning her calendar and making notes on her hand-held device. Enough was finally enough.
I brought out the big guns. Uno cards!
They were hesitant to put away their “screens," but I finally got the kids to join their father and me at the kitchen table. They’d never played Uno, and they were somewhat intrigued. I, too, wasn’t sure how my experiment would turn out. Our experience with any kind of family game in the past has always dissolved in tears, with children not knowing how to lose, or how to win with grace, for that matter. I was more than a little doubtful.
As it turned out, it was the best night we’ve had as a family in quite a while. The kids LOVED it, begging for more each time a hand ended. I was surprised and proud at how they handled defeat, and winning. And, by goodness, I actually got to see their faces, instead of them being glues to screens!
Who knew? Uno!
Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.