I couldn’t tell whether he was appalled or impressed, and he didn’t seem entirely sure of which tack he was on, either. It was a humid, stuffy morning on the #36 bus and our somewhat bedraggled, but seemingly well- intentioned fellow passenger gaped at my two-year-old son as he followed Dora the Explorer’s prompts to trace letters on the screen of my iPhone.
A flood of possible responses filled my head, all competing for airtime. In that moment, I felt I needed to defend all of my over-thought choices for my child, to explain our household’s policies around “screen time”, to explain where I’d read a positive review of this allegedly educational app. I wanted to explain why I was allowing my son to stare at a phone instead of engaging him in brain-building conversations about the things we saw on the way to school. Why wasn’t I playing “I Spy” with him, or counting how many people on the bus were wearing glasses, or red shirts? Or practicing color words in Spanish?
As I drew in a breath to expound on my overanalyzed approaches to parenting, I realized that our neighbor, who was probably pushing 70, wasn’t asking for any of this. He was simply surprised. Surprised, presumably, that a two-year-old was given access to a piece of equipment worth hundreds of dollars. Surprised that his sweet little sausage fingers could work this appliance. Surprised that someone out there was, apparently, inventing and selling video games that were appropriate for a person who still wears diapers.
“He’s two, almost three,” I replied with a proud-mama smile, “and he just loves this new alphabet game I got. Can you believe the stuff kids are doing these days?”
“Well, I’ll be damned….that sure is neat. Wish they’d had stuff like that when my kids were little. You’re lucky!” he replied with a chuckle.
Yes, I am. In so many ways.