Technology is killing our kids

Let me ask a question – when was the last time you were driving through a neighborhood and you saw a kid in a tree? Maybe it’s different where you live, but where I live, in a suburb southeast of Houston, I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a kid in a tree.

I’m sure it’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s something that I’ve really been struggling with lately – getting our kids out from behind screens and getting them into activities.

If you followed my blog before my 3-year blogging hiatus, you saw that I was trying to let Rena (8) try a variety of different activities to see if she’d gain any interest in them. As far as organized activities go, she’s done soccer for 3 years and has been doing cheerleading for about a year and a half. Our oldest, Alexis (12), is in cheerleading as well. At the house we have a variety of different activities available for them: bikes, skateboards, a pogo stick, sidewalk chalk, all kinds of sports balls, frisbees, dogs, board games, a slackline and much more. I’ve recently started learning how to play guitar with my dad because he was teaching Rena and he even got her her very own Squier Mini Strat Electric Guitar (in pink). Yet, she will only practice if I’m doing it with her. I’m very interested in learning how to play, so I’m practicing a lot, but I virtually have to bargain with her to get her to practice for 15 minutes, but if you ask her, she wants to play guitar, and she wants to play well.

So what gives?

My argument is that electronics are keeping our kids from being kids. If you ask our girls what their hobbies are, they’re going to tell you something along the lines of guitar, cheerleading and soccer. However, they rarely play any of them at home without being asked. Their real interests are Xbox and YouTube, and it’s not even close. If I didn’t make them get off of those things, they never would. They don’t appear to have any real interests outside of that.

When I was a kid, I was so into sports that I would throw the baseball in the air to myself when I had nobody to play with. Now, my daughter has her very own, awesome electric guitar (and amp) and I can’t get her to play it. I’ve offered on multiple times to teach Alexis, but every time she has an excuse for why she can’t. I don’t care what it is that they’re into (within reason), I just want to see them with a legitimate hobby.

Now let me interrupt to say that they’re great kids. They¬† behave, are very well-mannered and rarely get into things they shouldn’t – the problem is that they’re not getting into anything.

I know that times are changing, and like I said in my last post, I know I’m coming awfully close to becoming ‘get off my lawn’ guy, but kids being kids is one thing that I think should never change. Getting out and playing is how they experience things, and the life lessons go way beyond the skills they’ll gain throwing a ball.

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Let me also say that I grew up loving video games myself; I still do. On the weekends, once the wife and kids have gone to sleep, I’m known to go on a couple hour FIFA binge. But during the week, it’s VERY rare to see me behind my PS4 anymore.

I try to lead by example as best I can. My wife and I are definitely the most active, outdoorsy people we know. We’re actually going to Big Bend National Park this weekend for my birthday. We’ve gone on a bunch of different adventures and have taken the kids on a few, but as soon as we get home, it’s back to the screens.

I brought this up with Mandy recently, and she defended them saying that they’ll ‘play’ when we invite them to. Which is true, but how often did you play with your parents? Sure, I played a lot of sports with my dad, but I played a lot more without him because I was genuinely interested in playing.

To me, it would be one thing if we were sedentary parents, but we’re not. Mandy works her ass off and doesn’t get home until after 7 every day, and I’m constantly cleaning, working out, walking the slackline, kicking a soccer ball, doing something. We’re trying to set the example, but it appears that the electronics have their hooks in so deep, that all our efforts are for not.

Like I said, I know it’s not a new phenomenon, and every generation has their issues that the previous generation resents, but this is bigger than that, I think. I know that our kids aren’t the only ones who are like this, I think it’s a generational thing.

The question I have is: how do we stop it? We’ve tried implementing a time limit, and they just worry about when they can get back to screens. Our go to punishment is grounding them from electronics, but then they’ll just go to sleep early.

This constant access to the internet has crushed any sense of wonder that they have. The other day Rena asked Alexis a question about something, and her immediate response was to Google it. Not that that in itself is necessarily a bad thing, but I think there’s something to be said for a child to just use their imagination, and always knowing the answer seems to prevent that on so many fronts.

It’s just very frustrating. I want to raise kids who are curious, who explore, who aren’t sedentary, who go out and live life.

What have you done to instill these qualities in your kids and get them out from behind the screens?

Teach me how to Daddy

You always hear about dads being “get off my lawn” guy, but you never hear about moms being “get off my lawn” gal; why is that? It’s my opinion that it’s because dad’s have a particular role to play, and we fulfill it instinctively. My dad didn’t tell me that that’s what men are supposed to do, but he did get into it with the neighbors for mowing a foot into our yard and for parking in front of our house. I learned from watching.

He used to always tell me “Do as I say, not as I do.” While that’s a nice saying, I feel that kids learn more from what you do, than what you say. That being said, my mom used to “lecture” me, as I called it, whenever I got in trouble.

I was a single dad for a few years until I met my wife, Mandy, and I inherited two more daughters. I was still in college when we met, but more importantly, I was still learning how to become a man. I still have no idea what I’m doing, but as I’m approaching 30, I’m becoming more comfortable in my identity as a man, but more importantly, as a dad.

My wife has had an amazing job since I met her. She’s only moved up, and has about 10 years experience in her field. As a student, and now as someone just starting their career, that was something I struggled with. Not so much that she made more money than me, but that she was a working woman and I wasn’t, so what’s my role?

Men are traditionally the bread-winners; my dad was, so that’s where my example of how to dad came from. However, as time has passed, my wife has continued to move up and with that, comes longer work hours and an extended drive time – a very extended drive time. I work much closer to home, so I’m generally home by 5, whereas Mandy usually doesn’t get home until 7:30. Kids gotta eat, right? So I’ve been forced to grow up and become a man. What’s that look like?

There’s the old cliche that women are “sandwich makers” and belong in the kitchen. I was joking with Mandy about that the other day – I make better sandwiches than her, my daughter lovingly refers to them as “man sandwiches.” This was my big identity crisis – I’m an Iraq war veteran, college graduate, and I am the sandwich maker in this relationship. Since I’m home earlier, I do the majority of the housework, cooking and just general day-to-day upkeep around the house. I don’t mean that to say that my wife doesn’t do anything around the house, she does PLENTY, it’s just that now, I’ve had to learn how to carry my half of the load more efficiently, so that I can help her with hers.

I’ve never enjoyed cooking, cleaning or really, kid stuff for that matter. I don’t enjoy Barbies, tea parties, or princesses. So that makes me a bad dad to 3 little girls, right? That’s what I’ve thought up until about the past year when I’ve realized what my role is as the man of the house.

That door doesn’t close correctly? Dad’ll fix it. Oh wait, I’m Dad! Crap.

That, in a nutshell, is what being a dad means to me. Always being there and giving maximum effort. Nobody else is going to fix, so I have to step up. When my wife took her new job and started getting home nearly 3 hours after me, nobody was left to cook and clean – time to step up and be the example. I may not make a great friend to the girls, but I can show them the way that a man is supposed to act. Men don’t have to play with barbies, we don’t have to make our kids play the sports we did, we don’t have to be their friend, but we do have to be there for them. We owe it to them to show them how a man is supposed to treat a lady, to show them how to fix their bike, to fix their door when it won’t close, and to be there for them when they need it. Don’t tell them what they should do, SHOW them.

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Let’s get caught up

It would appear that a little catching-up is in order.

First things first – I got married. Yeah, that’s right – I married my best friend on March 7, 2015 (in Nikes, no less).

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We had the most beautiful, coolest wedding I’ve ever seen. The wedding party all wore Nike Dunks, we had a food truck cater, and the decor was perfect. I know it’s cliche, but it was all a blur. From setting up, to getting ready, to walking down the aisle, all of it, but it was undoubtedly the best day of my life. My main thought was to not mess up or cry when saying ‘I do,’ but of course, I did. I cried a bunch and jumped the gun and said ‘I do’ before it was my turn. Nobody seemed to notice, but I still laugh about it. Everything went perfectly at the wedding. We were having so much fun that we forgot to do the garter toss and we nearly forgot to cut and eat the cake!

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The following day we immediately took off on our honeymoon – 3 days/nights in Paris and 3 days/nights in London. I’ll probably go over this more in-depth in a later post, but the TL;DR version would be: our flight from Houston to Miami (we were scheduled to leave from Houston to Miami, and from Miami to Paris) ended up getting cancelled. We ended up flying to Dallas to catch a connecting flight to Philadelphia, where we would then head to Paris from, but our flight to Philly ended up cancelled and we stayed in Dallas for the first night of our honeymoon. We finally made it to Paris, but our luggage couldn’t be found. It ended up causing some stress, and we had to buy some clothes (shopping in Paris? I know right?), but it definitely made for a fun twist to our story. The rest of the honeymoon, especially the 3 days we spent in London, was absolutely amazing.

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Eiffel Tower Gages

The trip was obviously amazing. We were both overwhelmed with emotions by the whole experience. I never thought I would get to visit either city, much less both in one trip! We were more rushed than we would’ve liked, but we got to see pretty much all of the main, touristy places that we wanted to, and we even watched my favorite soccer team, Arsenal, play at a local pub!

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The biggest takeaway from the trip was our appetite for adventure together. This was our first real trip that we had taken and it put us in a foreign country with a foreign language (we remembered the basics of French) without luggage, but we survived and thrived. Tackling the unknown with my wife is probably my favorite thing in the world. This trip sparked a new lifestyle of exploration and adventuring for us and our family.

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Since that life-changing trip, we’ve gone on a cruise to Mexico, hiked Enchanted Rock, hiked/camped at a few Texas State Parks, spent a week in Colorado, a weekend in Austin and explored Dallas in a 24-hour scavenger hunt. Each of them a different experience than the last and we’ve enjoyed them thoroughly, but most importantly, together.

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Married life has been much better than I expected. Of course it’s been challenging, but it’s been so much more rewarding. We’ve been through the ‘honeymoon phase’, the falling out of it, and the return to it. We’ve learned more intimately how each other tick and how we can best compliment each other, and it’s been absolutely fantastic. One year down, forever to go.

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