Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What we really need in stormy weather

This morning, my daughter got up and tiptoed downstairs.  She's a dancer and spends most of her days on her tiptoes, either that, or she is going to ninja school at night.  Her first question was

"Daddy, is Isaac a cateory 1 or category 2 storm?"

Lucky for me, I was able to smile, wrap her in a warm hug, and tell her, "No sweetie, Isaac hasn't become a hurricane, yet." Good news for us and for the city of New Orleans. 

This isn't my daughter's first hurricane-she has ridden out small ones and evacuated for Katrina, Rita, and Gustav.  But this year is different-for me and for her.  For me, there is so much more information.  Up-to-the-second accounts of windspeeds, rainfall amounts, potential landfall locations.  Twitter has become a really powerful (and, honestly, useful) tool, but it has its downside.

All of this information rachets up the tension levels-while making us feel like we constantly need more.  It almost feels like an addition.

For my daughter, the last major preparation was for Hurricane Gustav.  That was four years ago-a four-year-old's concerns and an eight-year-old's are completely different.

My daughter's question made me think about what we really need in stormy weather.  Here is a short list of my thoughts this morning.
  1. We need to know - hiding from information or hiding information from others leads to bad decisions and greater worry.
  2. But not all of the time - for hurricanes, in particular, changes are measured in hours and days, not minutes.  Nothing meaningful is going to change between 8:01 and 8:03.  Have breakfast.  Do the crossword.  Watch a cartoon.
  3. We need love and support - from our friends and family.  We can get through most any situation when we have these two (speaking from Katrina experience).
A hug is more important than catching the latest storm track.  Grab one today.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Parenting throwback night

Stepping into the car the other day, my daughter asked her new favorite question – “Can I play on your iPhone?”  She loves to play strategy games like “Where’s My Water” or “Doors” when we are in the car.  The games are great-no objectionable content, good content (problem solving skills)-but…I really hate that she is so “wired”, so young.  I can’t blame her, really.  My wife and I have iPhones and are connected more frequently than we ought to be.  Her friends play on iPads, iPhones, Wiis, etc.  The topic of texting has even come up once or twice (she texts with her grandparents, already, on our phones).

I have an intense feeling that my daughter is losing something important.  Bent over the screen, interacting with the programmer’s script just doesn’t seem like childhood to me.  While we actively monitor the time and the content my daughter interacts with, digitally, we are doing more.  My wife and I are trying something different-a throwback, to my parents’ childhood experiences.

Last night, we all sat down in the living room, grabbed pillows and blankets, and turned on an audio book-this time, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  We sat and listened to the end of the story (we had started it in the car) and spent nearly a half an hour talking about Sara Crewe and why she was a princess-both when she was rich and when she was poor.

Reflecting on the night, my wife and I decided that “throwback night” will become a part of our family routine.  The experience itself was not without irony-we used technology for our “throwback night”,  listening to the book using Audible.com’s iPhone app (and I blogging about it, now)-but it was very satisfying. 

Rather than letting technology separate us into individuals, we used technology to create an intimate experience that we shared as a family.