I walk past the twins huddled at the kitchen island, their tousled heads touching each other. Smiling, I put the huge container of dosa batter, close the door and turn. Curious, I edge closer to them and through the gap between their necks, spy my old iPhone. They are watching one of the countless home videos I make of them and their little sister. They giggle as Laddu giggles on the screen. They are absorbed, oblivious to the world around them. Kids these days! I sigh and move on.
Shooing them away to the living room where the overhead fan gives the illusion of a breeze, I turn towards my catharsis, the perennially overflowing sink. Approaching the task with a mathematical bent of mind, I sort and rearrange the dishes mentally before I load them so I can cram them all in. In the half hour it takes me to do this, a part of my mind has meandered to the years past. Days before technology invaded our lives and had us hooked to screens the size of our palms. My summer vacations involved chanting “I’m bored” countless times a day and re-reading back issues of reader’s digest. It also involved sitting on the thinnai of our ancestral home swatting flies and just being. The heat and humidity weighed on us till we succumbed and dozed away in the occasional breeze.
No helicopter parents worried if their spawn was away from their eyesight for a few minutes. No one to organize, schedule or pack my day into streamlined activities to develop my ‘skills’. I wonder if parents those days wondered how the occasional TV time impacted their children as they grew up in a world without moving screens. They probably reminisced about the days of the traveling talkies or the advent of electricity which extended their day by a good few hours before they called it a night.
“Mommy, Pattu is not sharing the phone…”
I snap out of my reverie to attend to the multitude of complaints about who hogged the phone and for how long. I snatch the phone away and direct them downstairs to their play room. They go sullen and unwilling. I stay by the stairs till war whoops and complaints of “Ammu hit me…” trickle upward. I collect the phone, iPad and put them away from reach.
As a parent in this connected world, I truly believe my children should embrace it. It is their age. If this decade is all about touch screens and voice search, the next could be about mind control and the smart home. I want them to be part of the new technology. Perhaps even be part of the group that pioneer newer ones. I want them to be the children at school who are confident about what they know. Not linger in the shadows waiting for another child to educate them. I also want them to know that this access to technology comes with rules. With moderation.
I want them to be able to know the joys of playing outside. I want them to be able to make up games to entertain themselves. I want them to be able to scooter outside with a group of kids and learn how to find their place under the sun. I want them to enjoy movies and screen time as an occasional treat. I want them to be judicious in their use of technology.
Kids these days are still kids you know.
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