Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Game time

The other day, my daughter got invited to play basketball with some friends. My son was also invited, as my daughter’s friend has a little brother. Technically, I was invited too since their dad was going to be there, but I had planned to go for a run, which sounded infinitely better than shooting hoops; any day.

Naturally, the moment we got there my kids both said goodbye as I was expected to leave. I hesitated and started chatting with the other dad and within seconds I was tempted to stay and play with them. The kids were planning to play Bump, which is a terribly addicting game. As if I were a moth drawn to a flame, I gravitated towards the basket and a ball and simply felt compelled to stick around.

We ended up hanging out for more than two hours and played some 4 on 4 as well as more Bump. The atmosphere was nothing more than fun and everyone was into it. We ran hard, we sweat, we high fived each other and at the end agreed we needed to do this again very soon. In fact, we ended up playing again just a week later and the experience was the same.

The takeaway from our play time was in watching how the kids simply played. I say this because over the past two years or so, I have seen how our kids, and really most kids, get so wrapped up in their electronics. As a parent, I, along with my wife, have worked hard to limit what our kids have access to, which also means we have worked to control what they might become addicted to, in a way. Electronics can become just that, an addiction of sorts. This may very well be this generation’s version of substance abuse.

Looking back over the course of a few days off, where my wife and I set aside an entire day to be free from tech of any sort, we can instantly see the ramifications on not only our kids, but even ourselves. In the times where we pull our minds away from these screens that at times seem to enslave us, we enjoy more, laugh more often and even love each other better. This is not to say that electronics are somehow inherently evil but there has to be a limit placed. I think most parents know this but giving your two year old your tablet to keep him from running amok is an easy remedy and one that I completely understand. The problem is the tablet acts more like a sedative, rendering the child completely inactive for as long as they have it.

It seems we all know this about our devices, including the effect they have on us as parents, but we trudge ahead anyway. Mindless and numbed by the glow of the screen, we dive into each day with less enthusiasm and wonder than the days before we held a light in our hands. Stephen Covey said, “Between stimulus and response is our greatest power – the freedom to choose”. We indeed have the ability to choose to stimulate or to engage ourselves and those around us. My suggestion is to start with a “tech-free day” and see what happens. Maybe you’re so ingrained you have to start with just an hour at a time! Either way, give it a shot. There’s a lot to do out there when we lift our heads up.

I would recommend some basketball with friends.

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