How Did You Know?

Returned home late from a meeting last night and the kids were already in bed. But just barely, so I headed in to say goodnight.

First stop was the boys’ room. As the door opened, I saw a flurry of movement in the top bunk that ended with Hal flopping onto his belly with his elbows out and his hands resting under his chin as he looked at me.

“Goodnight Hal Monkey Bear,” I said as I climbed enough rungs of the ladder to reach him. Instead of going straight for the hug, which he wasn’t leaning over for anyway, I stuck my hand under his pillow.

He made a desperate noise and attempted to press his full seven year old weight onto the pillow. He deflated a bit when I extracted the 3DS.

“You know this is supposed to be in the living room on the charging desk,” I said before turning to his brother, who freely sat up from his bed for a hug.

Outside of their room, I turned into their sister’s. It was dark and there was no glow of a phone. Yet as I approached her bed to say goodnight, I could see that she was still holding it.

“You need to go to sleep, sweetheart. Put your phone away.”

“I know. I usually slide it up here,” she said, moving her phone up to the corner of the bed and sounding disoriented. “I don’t know why I hadn’t yet. I was falling asleep.”

“If you continue to have fatigue problems, we may get you an alarm clock and have you put your phone out on the charging desk so you don’t talk to people too late into the night.”

“I don’t! I’m always too tired.”

About then, her phone buzzed.

“Sounds like you are actively in a conversation right now.”

“Well, I was but then I fell asleep.”

Mmm-hmmm…

I then returned to the living room, where you might think this story ends. But you’d be wrong. I have three children, remember?

“I think we need to check for electronics more closely,” I said to my husband as I showed him the 3DS.

“Is Daryl’s iPod over on the desk?” he asked.

“I see his red case and it looks like something is in it.”

“He got a new case. You better go check.”

So I walked over to the desk where they are supposed to store and charge their electronics and picked up the case. Turning it over, I saw that there was indeed an iPod in it. But it seemed strange that he hadn’t plugged it in to charge. The boy may be irresponsible and forgetful about many things but charging his iPod isn’t one of them. Even more baffling was that it wouldn’t even power on.

I mentioned these discoveries to my husband who then asked to see it. After a brief examination, he confirmed my suspicions. “Go get his iPod from him.”

So I re-entered the boys’ room. Daryl’s hand slid slowly toward his hip and he looked up at me calmly.

I held out my hand. “Give me your iPod.”

The calm facade broke, replaced with an embarrassed and surprised smile. As he handed it to me, he asked, “How did you know?!”

Oh, son… How did we know? Maybe it was the old case the day you got a new one. Or the fact that it didn’t power on. And wasn’t plugged in. And didn’t actually fit the case since it was an even older iPod that you stashed in your old case as a decoy. Or maybe it’s your age. And the evidence of your siblings.

We were young once too. And devious as well. We might not have had portable electronics, but that doesn’t mean we never tried to pull one over on our parents. You are getting better at it. Your deceit is well thought out and your tells are subtle and easy to miss. But this night, at least, we weren’t too tired to catch them.

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Electronics Free Time

My husband decided we should institute an electronics free time in our household. He and I discussed it for a bit before deciding to “go live” Sunday evening. Sun-Thurs, regardless of whether school is in session, everyone will put away electronics from 5pm until 8pm.

This includes phones, iPods, tablets, the PS-4, computer games – all of them. Kindles are allowed for reading. And while the devices are all sitting in a designated public-access spot, we can check them for text messages or answer the phone if it rings.

So Sunday evening rolled around and my husband told the boys to put their electronics away. Daryl soon picked up his old iPod and said he wanted to do experiments with it outside. I was leery until I verified that it wouldn’t power on.

He and Hal were soon outside using the silvery back of the iPod to reflect the sun onto the sidewalk. When they noticed that they could almost see the Apple logo on the concrete, they ran back in for a sheet of paper to see if they could get a clearer reflection.

Sometime later, Hal came in looking for a rag. A glance outside showed that they had raided my husband’s pottery shard pile and were cracking pottery with a rock, washing desired pieces in a cup of water, drying it with the rag, and arranging them on a board for a mosaic.

Several times, I contemplated calling them in to put away laundry or help me make decisions on their overabundance of T-shirts. Every time, though, I looked outside at the two of them. Working together. Not fighting – at all. And unplugged.

And every time, I decided the clothes could wait.

When I came home from work last night, they had found a magnifying glass and were seeing if they could start a piece of paper on fire in the driveway. Hal created a new hind end for himself out of a shoe box. They played with the Nerf dart guns.

Both nights, they came easily to the table when called in for dinner. And no one has whined about wanting to be on their electronics. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s like nirvana or something.

We’ll see how well it lasts. And both nights, Jane has been gone so the jury’s still out on how that is going to work. And last night wasn’t without a dispute or two. But all in all, this is exactly what we were hoping to see happen.

As I told my husband, I’m more than happy to give up Two Dots for this.