Chacos: The American family tech war

Feigning inconvenience, I scroll my Facebook feed once a day to keep up with the news. OK, OK. I visit the site a few times a day seeing who’s put on a few pounds, who’s in Mexico together over Spring Break, and who has the nerve to block me and my witty humor.

Since I’m in the mood to tell you the truth, I’ll admit, I check Instagram too, but for only for like five minutes. Honestly, I rarely go to Twitter, and I’ve never danced in a TikTok. I’m a model low-tech mom for my three children, I swear.

After nourishing my social media needs one Saturday afternoon, I close my laptop and check in with my offspring scattered upstairs. I will go ballistic if they are holed up in bedrooms buried online.

I’m relieved when one is listening to music, an old playlist of mine, building an intricate Lego structure. He briefly looks up at me with his big, blue innocent eyes, and I assure myself he is oblivious to the online world because he’s my 13 year-old “baby,” and his idea of edgy music is Digital Underground’s, “The Humpty Dance.” Because I’m also a hip mom, I dance a few moves while singing along as I leave his room, nostalgia’s way of graying out the reason I entered his room in the first place.

My spectacle provides fair warning for the entrance to the second bedroom, having learned all 17-year-olds need this from their parents. I breathe deeply before stepping into a pile of dirty laundry, scattered math homework, an open computer, a phone in hand, and incredulous eyes boring back at me. I’m already exhausted anticipating the patience and skill I’m about to employ reasoning the phone out of my daughter’s grasp. I also need to refocus her toward the homework assignment now considered “late” by her teacher.

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I peacefully begin my lecture with the virtues of completing assignments before they are due, akin to taking the trash bin out before the truck drives by the house at 7 a.m. Both elicit satisfying feelings residing deep in one’s soul, I tell her, and fear that if my daughter doesn’t soon master some basic skills, then I’ve failed her as a mother.

The lecture abruptly turns to vitriol because I blame the lapsed homework assignment on Clash of Clans, the online video game that swallows my child and our internet data at a similar rate. My daughter counters that I’m addicted to Words with Friends, a cheesy Scrabble knock-off, and that briefly shuts me up. For my benefit, my daughter turns dramatically to her computer and smartly says, “But it’s obviously still OK for me to use this device for schoolwork, right?” I slink to the third bedroom without a logical comeback so I don’t sound like I’m grasping at straws, but mostly, it’s so I can escape her impending eye roll.

My failed attempt at extricating the electronic devices from the previous two bedrooms and having them go all “Little House on the Prairie” for the remainder of the afternoon leaves me little hope for success in the third room, but I am filled with hope. I’m a glass-half-full kind of gal when it comes to my kids.

I’ve given my 16-year-old son (who resides at the end of the hallway) plenty of warning and preparation to imitate reading a book as I’ve made quite a vocal spectacle of myself strutting between rooms thus far. He doesn’t look up from his computer when I enter his room. My hopes are that he’s watching a World War II documentary for history class since he’s that engrossed in the images on the screen.

I look over his shoulder and I’m rendered speechless because he’s shamelessly watching the Formula 1 Grand Prix. I sit beside him, immediately overtaken by the loud noise, fast cars, and neon uniforms. In one lap, I’m hooked. I settle in alongside my son, happy we’ll have something in common to talk about over dinner later in the evening.

Before bed, I want to share the day’s observations with my husband. He turns to me, closing his laptop, and I put down my phone after I send my Wordle score to my niece before it’s too late. I love connecting with her a little bit every day, even if it’s only to brag that I’m smarter than her.

“I’m weak,” I tell my other half, deflated, and matter-of-factly. I remember our low-tech existence to be easier when the children were little. Now we’re tech dependent in ways that make parts of our fast-moving lives easier, smoother. I pause, swallow, and finally admit to playing both sides of a tug-o-war game that always feels like being on the losing side.

My husband looks at me for a long time and kisses my forehead, silently letting me know I’ve nailed it, but that he doesn’t have an easy solution either. We’re dependent in ways both rewarding and ridiculous and we’re sucked in more than we’d care to admit. We commit to a device-free family hike the next morning and settle in to start the latest Netflix docuseries everyone is raving about.

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