Sunday, September 2, 2018
"Kevin? Are you listening to me? I'm talking to you. Kevin?!?"
Part of the reason she thought something was wrong with me was because of the angle of my head, tilting it to the left to seemingly favor my right ear to hear while watching the TV. Plus, I'd poke my tongue out a little bit, which has always been a sign of extra focus for me. She'd ask me why I tilted my head, when she finally got my attention, literally standing in front of me waving hands in front of my face.
"I don't know," I'd tell her.
This continued for months, and in all fairness to the magic electronic box of the then limited but hypnotic programming (right before the even more magical cable TV became available), it wasn't always because of TV. I was a consummate daydreamer as well.
Regardless of the origin of my zoning out (and in), she worried that I had a hearing problem. She had also noticed a discoloration inside my left ear and it worried her even more, so she finally took me to get my hearing checked.
Thankfully it was normal. Plus, the hearing health professional told my mom that the discoloration in my ear came from being dirty and waxy. My mom wasn't happy to hear that one, and all the way home I got an earful about paying attention to her when she talked to me, and to please take a shower and use a washcloth to clean my ears.
Never again was there a fear that I had a hearing problem, so what I heard quite a bit throughout adolescence was:
"Kevin, turn that thing off and listen to me when I'm talking to you!"
And that was the edited-for-television version. Fast forward decades to our family today where we've been experiencing the same thing, except we know exactly what the problems are.
TV and iPads. And we know what the answer is.
"Turn that thing off!"
Yes, the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) and I fully admit of our generous approach to watching TV and playing games on devices, which means a lot. But, in our defense we do restrict their programming and the games they play (which is getting more complicated as they get older), and more recently having them turn everything off more in order to play the old-fashioned way, or to clean the living room where kid stuff explodes every day, or to clean their bedrooms where kid stuff explodes every day, or to earn money doing other chores --
Or to get them to sit and listen with rapt attention when we're talking with them. Beatrice is more of a daydreamer like I was, and so it's harder to snap her out of it than Bryce, but Bryce is our little gamer, playing Minecraft as if she was in deep discovering the next theory of relativity, oblivious to Mom and Dad's looming gravity. And don't get me started about the kid's YouTube family reality shows they like (another post for another time).
"Beatrice? Did you hear what I said?"
"Bryce? Did you hear what I said?"
"Girls, we will turn [insert TV and/or iPads] off immediately if you don't answer us!"
Which is what we do now more often than not. It's up to us to regulate and moderate the brain-melting mind control of games and media and to help instill good listening skills.
"Kevin? Did you hear what I said?" The Mama calls out to me as I finish writing this piece.
Tilt my head to the left, poke tongue out and press publish.