A Maggie Moment: Battling screen time amid The COVID


(4/22/2020)

by Maggie Modjeski, columnist

 

When faced with the task of writing a column not focusing on COVID-19 I found myself at a loss. While having only been in a stay-at-home order for a little over a month is really not that long when you think about it, but what else is there to share?

First of all, what do you call it, COVID, corona, The Virus, this crazy time? The name changes and reference changes no matter who you talk to.  I am reminded of the past when adults whispered what someone had wrong with them from cancer to divorce; it was hush-hush, at least in the Midwest. I remember my grandmother whispering for years about my aunt and how she had “the divorce.” The reference always used the word “the,” personifying the problem. So I’ve found myself calling it “The COVID.”

“The COVID” has completely dismantled my biggest challenge over the past 19 years of parenting: fighting screen time. From the day my oldest was born until March 17, 2020, I have struggled over how much screen time was too much.

Starting as babies when all I allowed my son to watch was Baby Einstein videos or National Geographic, I read recommendations and discussed it in parenting groups and friends. As parents we were fearful to ever admit you went over those guidelines; if you did you became “that parent.”

I carried guilt for most of 2003 after one fateful celebratory New Year’s Eve which caused me to nap most of New Year’s Day while my son watched “Homeward Bound” back-to-back, and I feared the extra screen time of lost pets scarred him for life.

As they grew older, then the struggle was video games and how much was too much. Even this past March during spring break before “The COVID” I found myself commenting to my adult children they were spending way too much time playing video games and should go talk to their friends in-person instead of via the headphones.

All those years of lectures, groundings, tears and high blood pressure has led to screen time all day becoming the new norm. School via the screen, family and social events via the screen, my children became so bored one rainy day that they pulled out the Wii for the first time since 2013. It reminded me of every time I tried to give their toys away; they found it was their favorite again.

While I still encourage as much outdoor time as possible, they miss their friends, and social distancing has become all about the screen, for now at least.

One interesting screen-related development occurred so far due to “The COVID” — I was able to have a nice online chat with Jesus. No, it wasn’t a scam; I didn’t swap my stimulus money for a free pass into heaven or for a confession with no penance. All I wanted was a refund for tickets that I purchased for an event that was cancelled due to “The COVID.”

You can imagine my surprise when I entered the chat to request the refund and the message popped up that Jesus was happy to assist me, all He had to do was look over my information. My mind raced with all the things Jesus could assist me with at the current time, the refund being last on the list.

After a brief chat Jesus realized He could not assist with the refund and directed me to a customer service phone number that was answered by Dave, who had much more power than Jesus when it came to refunds.

The days continue to go by, our children continue to grow older, and it’s a good thing we limited the screen time before so we don’t all start resembling zombies created by “The COVID.” Here’s hoping we have other things to talk about and stories to share soon.

 

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