21st Century Problems


I’ve started deleting apps on my iPhone instead of downloading them.  To be fair, this is mostly to make room for LittleMan’s continued level-climbing in the NexoKnights video game, but also: Why do I need to be a FandangoVIP?

In these modern times, I will admit that there are certain things I can no longer live without (ahem, Instacart). But this whole an-app-for-everything is starting to bug me.  Apps take up SPACE and space (literal and figurative) is something I just put such a premium on, you know?  I just need to know what time the movie is playing.  Why must I download a product to find out this basic information?  It’s a way to get me to watch ads and then buy stuff.  It’s cyber-clutter.

Like all of us, I have some concerns about my children growing up in a world littered with cyber-clutter.  “Can’t you just…?” is an all-too-common refrain in our household.  Can’t you just call an Uber?  Can’t you just have it delivered?  Can’t you just see if it’s on Amazon?  

Yes, of course I can.  (Although not on my phone, because I deleted that app to make room for FruitNinja.)  But sometimes I choose not to.  Sometimes I choose to walk to school, to visit the store, to hold a newspaper in my hands.  This is my choice!

A few months ago, we had our first official 21st-Century Meltdown.  It was a Sunday, and it was still early, maybe 4:30 in the afternoon?  But as much as the sun was still shining and I kind of wanted to go out for dinner, as much as I was clinging to the notion that the weekend wasn’t over yet…it was.  We were DONE.  There had been a Friday night party, a Saturday overnight, a drive north and back to see my sister and the cousins, a volunteer event with the class, indoor soccer, playground time (I mean, we really try not to be “those people” but sometimes I look back and wonder how we get so freaking over-scheduled).

In other words, it was Sunday at 4:30 and all four of us were losing it.  Like it or not, the only roadmap to peace was, obviously: warm baths, Netflix, and snacks.

If only life were so simple.

LittleMan and Babygirl began fighting in the car from the playground over what movie to watch.  I brightly suggested one of them could watch on my bed and one in the living room…which ignited another fight over which was the better movie-watching position.  Sideways, over-the-seatbelt punches were thrown.  Certain people suddenly required Band-Aids.  (Other people suddenly required liquor.)  Babygirl went into one of her overtired, The-World-Is-Against-Me! downward spirals and I — miraculously! — coaxed LittleMan into giving her the bed (if only because at that point we all hoped she would just fall asleep).  For one, tenuous moment it seemed we would be okay until we got home and…

The Netflix device crashed.  There was no Netflix.

“Can you buy me something OnDemand?” LittleMan asked.
“No.  I’m not buying something,” I declared, stabbing at the remote.  “There is something to watch on the nine million channels of television.”
A quiet little sob emerged from the chair next to me.
“Please stop crying.  This is not a crying kind of a problem.”
Sniff.  “Where’s the iPad?”
“Battery’s dead; it needs to be charged.”


“Umm…Charge it?”

And that?  Right there?  That’s where I LOST MY MIND.  Every moment of skepticism I’ve ever indulged about the Interweb, all my fears for my over-scheduled, over-stimulated children, all the confusion about Uber and AirBnB and who is the Bad Guy and why is Verizon giving my data to the government and does it even matter?


All those big feelings came screaming out of me in a giant, inappropriate, Sunday-at-4:30-pm kind of Whoosh.

“CHARGE IT????  CHARGE IT!!!!”  I bellowed.  LittleMan sat up straight and stared at me.

I continued.  “‘Charge the iPad!  Buy me the On Demand!  The Netflix isn’t working and it’s a TRAGEDY!’  NO!  No!  I do not accept this!”

I snapped off the TV and began pacing around the living room.  “Do you know, when I was a kid” — Note to self: no good story ever started like this — “we just had to watch what was on TV at the time!  We didn’t get to choose!  We didn’t have five remotes that all streamed different media depending on our moods!  We didn’t have three different viewing devices in our home!  We didn’t get to fight!  FIGHTING is a PRIVILEGE that comes with having TOO MUCH CHOICE!”

“But can I use the iPad?” squeaked LittleMan.

“NOOOOOOOO!” I hollered.  “NO!  From now on, we are operating like we did when I was little!  You have to AGREE, on ONE form of entertainment and ONE device, and you have to ask PERMISSION and you have to COMPROMISE with your sister!  Got it??”

And I scampered back to the bedroom where Babygirl was dozing in front of Mulan II and I snatched the computer right off the bed and zipped it into its case.

The kids just stared at me.  I was slowly realizing that this was, perhaps, not the right moment in our lives for me to throw down this particular gauntlet.  This was a moment when all any of us wanted was for things to be easy and peaceful, and instead, I was having a rant against…well, against Time and against the Internet, which a) does not care if I like it or not, and b) is here to stay, and will keep on being both utterly convenient and utterly frustrating forever and ever.

I went into the kitchen to compose myself.

But an amazing thing happened.  The kids huddled their sniffling, teary faces in my bedroom and (with some argument) eventually reached compromise.  They came out, together, and asked nicely if I would set the computer back up and put some snacks out.  Which I did, and the hours that followed until bedtime were, in fact, easy and peaceful, and the kids were laughing and dozing together instead of alone, on their respective devices.

I don’t know if this was a victory.  But I do know that that happened a few months ago, and we still haven’t bothered to fix the Netflix.

And we’re all surviving, just fine.

One.  Less.  Thing.

Photo by Lauren Hemmingsen


  1. This is so wonderful Jaime. Good to go back to the old ways occasionally. Diane

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