Tristan, my seven-year-old, woke me up at 4:30 a.m. on a Tuesday to ask me where he could find the iPad. I don’t know how many times he nudged my shoulder before I woke.
“Tristan. Really? It’s way too early. Go back to bed.”
He started to whine. He was in Sponge Bob underwear, his head shaved, his body pale from living in Oregon, and soft because he was still in that transition from toddler to boy.
“Just get it for me,” he said. “I want to check on my egg in Dragon City.”
He was obsessed with Dragon City. I’ve tried to figure the game out a few times. It seems like some strange land within the computer where you can spend real money to buy dragon eggs. The dragons then hatch, and you have to spend real money to feed the damn things. Perhaps this is the old man in me, but I’d much rather spend money on real eggs and real food that I could place in my real kitchen.
He was constantly asking me for a dollar to by a Blue Gilled Monster Dragon, or some other piece of shit that didn’t really exist, so he could buy it and raise it inside my iPad. Then, once he bought the dragon egg, he would want to check on it constantly, to make sure it was doing well. Sometimes this meant him calling me at work to check on his dragon. Sometimes it meant waking me up at 4:30 a.m. to check on his dragon.
I don’t know what the consequences were for not checking on the dragon. Perhaps it would die. At 4:30 a.m., the thought of that made me smile.
I suppose he is showing real dedication to this thing, and I know that some of you reading this are thinking, buy him a real pet. That would be much better for him than a dragon egg in Dragon City. And to that I will say this… I didn’t really want to have kids. What makes you think I want a pet? Most dogs lick their genitals and then try and lick my face. Cats are snooty and they stick their big pink buts in my face. No! I am not getting a pet. Not unless I am forced by my wife, who may, at some time, cut me off from sex until I buy a dog, or some other furry irritating thing that shits on my carpet. I will probably learn to love it and wonder how I lived without a pet. But that has yet to happen (thank goodness) and I am not about to instigate buying a pet on my own.
Tristan wouldn’t let up. He kept nudging me and saying, “Just give it to me,” or “I really need it,” or “I just want check on my dragon.” He sounded like an addict. Like he needed this fix so he could go back to sleep.
“Fine,” I said. “It’s in the kitchen.”
He ran out of my room and 30 minutes later I was woken again. Only this time it was Tristan and Norah. They were fighting in the living room over the iPad.
Norah (my four-year-old) screamed, “I just want to watch my movie!!!!” She dragged out “movie”, ending it at a much higher pitch than she started with. This was to show emphasis, I assume.
When I got into the living room, Tristan was holding onto one end of the iPad, and Norah was holding onto the other, both tugging at the thing as though it were a rope.
I snatched it from them. I reminded them that this was not a toy. In fact, it wasn’t even mine. “We can’t afford this thing. The university lets me use it. If you break it, I have to buy them another.”
Both kids looked up at me. They didn’t care. All they knew was that they wanted this thing. This cool little window into the Internet where Norah could hang out at Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse, and Tristan could care for his dragons.
There are so many things that I enjoy about the iPad. It has been a great tool for work and educating my students. I love it in meetings and I love it for all the learning apps I’ve put on it for my kids. It showed Norah how to brush her teeth when I failed miserably at it, and it taught Tristan how to crochet, which he's actually getting pretty good at. But in moments like this, where it is ridiculously early and the kids are fighting over it, I want to smash it. I want to take it back to my boss, and tell him to keep it. I want nothing to do with it. I think about how I didn’t have an iPad growing up, and I turned out just fine. And when I say shit like that, I feel old. I feel like my parents.
But it’s true.
What I think I hate the most is how they fight over spending time with the iPad, and not me. I feel like I am in competition with it. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to drag the iPad away from Tristan in order to get him to go outside and kick a soccer ball, or tear it away from Norah so we can play hide and seek. Most days I come home from work, and as I step from my truck, both kids storm out the front door. Foolishly, I always assume that they are excited to see me, so I crouch down at the end of the driveway expecting a hug, but then my children stop short, look at me with hungry eyes and one or the other asks, “Where’s the iPad?”
“Can I have a hug? I’ve missed you guys.”
“Only if you give us the iPad.”
It was a little after 5 a.m. by the time I broke up Tristan and Norah’s fight over the iPad. Mel had been up most of the night feeding our new baby, and I knew that if I took the iPad away, the kids would fight and wake her. So I sat down on the sofa between them.
I placed the iPad in my lap, and I said, “Let’s take turns. Tristan, show me your dragon. Then Norah can show me her show.”
I was half awake, but with both kids snuggled up against me, it was warm and nice. And by 6 a.m., they had both fallen asleep on the sofa, and it was time for me to take the iPad to work.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley