For Rinn’s sixth birthday I bought him a new iPad.
I know what you’re thinking:
This is the girl who has lectured on more than one occasion the importance of moderate gift giving.
What does a first grader need with a $400 tablet?
I hope she bought an Otterbox.
At the time I was homeschooling using K12 Online School and this was investment in our homeschooling future (obviously that didn’t pan out.) Also, we were about to embark on a 16-hour drive to South Carolina and on top of that, I knew we were going to spend the better part of the year being Travis’ roadies. Rinn could receive an education while on the road and I could avoid having to answer “are we there yet?” thousands of times.
And before you start in on alternative, non-electronic distractions please know that when Rinn and I took a road trip to Panama City Beach last summer I prepared a comprehensive travel kit including coloring books and stickers and tiny toys. None of which Rinn took any interest in; instead he spent hours licking and sticking summer sausage to the car window. My car smelled like dried meat for a week.
Anyway, what started out as a thoughtful, well-intended gift turned out to be the bane of our existence. Rinn spent hours watching other kids play with toys on YouTube instead of actually playing with his own toys. We heard more about this Ryan kid than his real friends at school. He started making demands that included having his own YouTube channel and owning a battery powered nerf gun (which Santa is now on the hook for because it’s the number one thing on his list since October.) Then came the pranks, and the jumping out of hiding places to scare us which again, he undoubtedly learned from YouTube. I’m not good at being scared and by not good I mean I resemble a fainting goat; my entire body seizes up and I crumble to the floor. Forget fight or flight, I play dead. Rinn’s fascination with mimicking everything he sees on the internet was dangerously close to actually killing me.
The last straw came when we sat down to do homework one evening and Rinn burst into tears because he couldn’t watch some middle-aged man build box forts in his backyard. I threatened to take the iPad away for good. He calmed down but was so preoccupied in getting the iPad back he couldn’t answer simple questions like “2+2=_” and when asked “what rhymes with hat?” he said “fish.”
Jesus take the wheel.
I could no longer simply threaten to take the iPad away. I had to take the iPad away.
Travis and I had a civilized conversation with Rinn in which we discussed that the iPad was hindering his quality of life and that while we will always love him, we weren’t sure we like the person he is after using his iPad. Essentially what we had was an intervention. You would have thought our six-year-old was using heroin. Turns out, addiction has many faces.
Rinn understood he had become powerless against the need to watch his iPad and agreed to no iPad until January. They say the first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem.
Time for detox.
For a couple days Rinn would wonder around making audible groaning noises and announcing that he was bored and miserable and all he needed was “one video”. “Just one”, he would whine, sounding more like a junkie than a kid who was in desperate need of screen time. It was difficult at first, sometimes ugly, but Travis and I stuck to our guns and we all successfully survived the detoxification process. No one was going to label us enablers.
Rinn is going into his sixth week being iPad-free. They say that recovery is a journey and he’s well on the road. The meltdowns have significantly decreased and he’s taken an interest in things other than sitting on the couch and surrendering his soul to a brightly lit screen. He has taken up running clear across the house and perfecting his slide into the “endzone” and “home plate”. His coloring abilities have drastically improved and he willingly uses his free time to take notes while I dictate Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”.
He is even READING.
Independent, unprompted READING!
It pleases me to say that it’s been weeks since Rinn has even asked to watch YouTube and I’m beginning to think that Travis and I should open a rehabilitation center for children and young adults with electronic-based addictions. However, we don’t want to put the cart before the horse. After all, January is just days away meaning the iPad is technically fair game and Rinn could easily relapse if we don’t stick with the program.
Would be a damn shame if our Elf on the Shelf skipped town on Christmas Eve and took the iPad with him to keep him entertained on his travels.
A damn shame.