Screen Time

I had way too much coffee on Friday. As a result, I could not sleep the entire night. My brain was rushing with so many thoughts as I was reflecting on my own live, being a parent in particular. We had been letting our kids loose a bit with screen time. Between the summer and vacation, we relaxed them a bit. To avoid fighting between the kids and controversy between the parents when we were vacationing together, we let Steve Jobs watched over them. For my own selfish reasons, I needed my own time to read.

Now they are getting addictive. The first thing they woke up and asked for was iPad. They got bored quickly and didn’t know what else to do when they didn’t have access to the iPad. They were angry and frustrated. Laying in bed at three in the morning, the guilt and the failure sunk in. What am I doing wrong? Am I, too, addicted to reading? I got up, hid the iPads, and gathered all the books to return to the library tomorrow. Let’s hit the restart button.

Saturday morning, they asked for the iPad as soon as they got out of bed—even before brushing their teeth. I explained to them that we needed to try something new. It was raining hard so we could not do anything outside. Xuân played with his Polar Express train. Đán was just laying around acted like a drug addict who need a fix. Đạo was grumpy, but picked up his book to read. Đạo loves to read, but only when he has no access to iPad. I wanted to take Đạo and Đán to the library, but Đán didn’t want to go so I just took Đạo. I returned all my books and Đạo picked up 8 books on Vietnam War. I realized that we hadn’t had much time alone so I decided to take him out to his favorite sushi restaurant. It was a nice spending time with just one kid. No fighting and no arguing. My wife texted me to buy lunch home because we lost powered.

When we got home, Xuân already fell asleep. Đán ate all the sushi and Miso soup I brought home for him. The rain was getting harder. I decided to take them to Flight Trampoline, which they had asked a couple days earlier. They jumped for two hours and made some new friends. It was also the first time for a while that their cousin didn’t come along. I don’t mind the cousin comes along, but for some reasons, they always have conflicts when the three go together. In any rate, at the end of the day, they were tired out and went to bed without asking for the iPad.

Sunday morning we got up, had breakfast, and took them to the swimming pool. Đạo and Đán can swim on their own. I just had to watch Xuân. Then we went for lunch and ice cream. The rain picked up again. I drove home, dropped off Xuân, picked up the cousin for Taekwondo. Words exchanged and verbal fight began. It is time to separate them again.

After eating dinner, taking bath, and brushing our teeth, I asked Đạo and Đán to see if the wanted to see The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. These kids love shooting games; therefore, they also love a film about the war. We finished the first episode. It will be our screen time together for the next week or so.

I am not sure if I will take their iPad away for good or just for temporary. I still need to figure out the solution. Đạo reads more books when he’s not on the iPad. Đán still needs to figure out what to do without it. Xuân had begun asking for it whenever his one-year old cousin has one on. It is a challenge when other kids have access to the iPad. Xuân doesn’t quite understand it yet and it is hard to explain to him why he shouldn’t have it. Đạo and Đán already know why.

I am a shitting parent. I don’t have hard, consistent rules. I bend them whenever I feel I have made a mistake. I don’t want to control them, but I still have my responsibility as a parent. After Đạo and Đán spending a day at work with me on Friday, which they did their homework, ran around the playground, ate lunch at Eden Center, and took a nap, Đạo asked me, “Did your dad do these with you when you were a kid?” He caught me off guard, but my answer was no. We did not have too much time together. My dad was always away. I only saw him a few times a month. His respond was, “Oh!”

This ranting is way too long as I am trying to get back to free writing.

Bonjour Vietnam