Tag Archives: technology

I Put the Phone Down For a Day to be In the Moment and Here’s What I Learned

A beautiful moment preserved for all eternity thanks to a smartphone camera

I’m addicted to my smartphone.

If you’re a parent and you’ve ever been on the Internet, you know how shameful a statement that is. Because if we’ve learned anything from other parents who write about parenting on the Internet for an audience that is largely mobile and reading these things on their phones, we know the combination of phones + kids is bad. Harmful, according to so many of these writers who know beyond a shadow of a doubt parents on phones are irreparably damaging their offspring.

On Sunday, I put our canoe on top of our minivan, loaded up the fishing gear, and decided to take my 3-year-old for a canoe ride down the Charles River. When we parked the car at the put-in point on the river, I had a panic attack as a horrific feeling of dread and anxiety washed over me.

I forgot my phone at home.

Truth be told, my first instinct was to jump back in the car and go get it. But I stopped for a second and calmed myself in order to contemplate something truly outrageous — spending the next few hours in nature with my son sans smartphone.

I thought of all the articles I’ve read telling me what a deadbeat I am for using my phone so much around my kids. I thought of how valuable it could be to be present in the moment and not witness life through a small screen. I also thought about the epic tantrum Sam would throw if I told him we had to go home and then come back and how much I hate detours, but I swear I thought about the value of the no phone thing too.

In the end, I decided to go it without technology. Just a dad and his son. Fishing and paddling and talking and connecting with one another and nature. Besides, who needs a camera when the mind’s eye is so wondrous, right?

Well fuck that shit, because the answer is me — I need a camera. And going without my phone was absolutely awful and I’m never doing it again!

I know you were expecting another one of those “I was addicted to technology but I went without it and I had some spiritual epiphany and now I’m a different man and a better father and I’m here to annoy you with my newfound anti-smartphone wokeness” bullshit, but that’s not happening. And here’s why.

First of all, the scenery was really beautiful along the river and capturing some shots would’ve been nice. Second, we saw deer, turtles, an otter, and a family of geese. It was really cool. Know what wasn’t cool? Sam asking me to take a picture each and every time wildlife appeared, and having a fresh new meltdown every time I reminded him I didn’t have my phone on me. It was nice being in the moment with multiple tantrums.

But the big reason I’ll forever kick myself for not going back for my phone is because Sam caught his first fish on this trip — and I missed it.

I’ve let him reel fish in after I’ve hooked them, but this was the first one he caught after casting with no help from me, setting the hook, reeling it in, and then landing it in the canoe. When he realized he had a fish on he FREAKED OUT with excitement and began reeling like a madman. He was shouting “I’VE GOT A FISH! DADA I’VE GOT A FISH! I’M A REAL FISHERMAN!” and his shrieks could be heard clear across Populatic Pond. He and the fish battled but eventually Sam got the better of him and plopped a smallmouth bass into the canoe. Once in the boat, Sam screamed “I CAUGHT A FISH ALL BY MYSELF!!!!!” with triumphant resonance. And as a proud papa, my smile widened as my eyes watered. And at that moment Sam turned to me, cocked his head to one side, and said something I’ll never forget.

“Dad, you got that on video right?”

Don’t get me wrong, it was as Kodak a moment as they get and I’m thrilled I was able to see it. But know what would’ve made it better? A video or picture I could look at any time I wanted. Something I could show relatives and friends. Something I could show him years from now when he’s unable to remember any of this. Hell, something I can refer to when I can’t remember any of this.

All of these parenting “gurus” tell you to live in the moment so I’ll be able to remember things clearly, but I work 50+ hours a week while raising three kids. My days start at 5:15 am and don’t end until the maelstrom of dinner and bedtime has concluded around 10 pm. Half the time I don’t even know what day it is, and I legit can’t remember my kids’ names. I called one of them the dog’s name yesterday. So having every photo and video I take automatically back up to Google Photos and be categorized online for perusal any time I want is HUGE for me.

An that’s the other thing. One of the arguments from these smartphone critics is “You’re taking a photo you’re never going to watch again so what’s the point?” Well maybe we’re a bunch of narcissists in this house, but we watch old videos and go through old pictures constantly. Once in awhile we’ll spend entire evenings going through YouTube videos from years ago and watching the kids grow up. And EVERY SINGLE TIME we say “Oh wow, I completely forgot about this. This is great.

I hate to break it to these professional parent-shamers, but it’s entirely possible to take pictures and videos of your kids and “be in the moment.” Using a smartphone to record kids and being present are not mutually exclusive things, and I’m not sure why it’s now socially acceptable to simply believe that’s the case. If you overdo it then sure, it can be a problem. That’s true for anything — especially dispensing judgey parenting advice on the Internet.

Lastly, when I got home, MJ was FURIOUS at me because if something had happened I would’ve had no way to call for help. So in addition to missing a milestone moment,  not being able to capture the cool animals, and disappointing my son, the absence of my phone got me chewed out by my wife to boot.

All I know is I’m going to wield my smartphone all the time and capture as much of my kid’s childhoods as humanly possible. And I’m not going to question that decision or feel guilty about it for one damn second. Because some day years from now, MJ and I will be sitting down getting happily misty-eyed at random videos we’ve taken over the years.

The beauty of this technology is that it’s allowed us to retain the random, wonderful moments that are too often lost through the holes in memory’s floorboards. It’s the virtual recycling bin that allows us to reuse the overflow of memories our minds are simply too full to comprehend for the long-term. Or, more simply put, it allows me to live in future moments as well as the original one.

I will hold on to the memory of Sam’s first fish for as long as my addled mind allows. But I sure do wish I had caught it on video.

It won’t happen again.

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There’s No Such Thing as Taking Too Many Pictures of Your Kids

cell phone

“Put the phone down.”
“You’re taking too many pictures of your kids.”
“Your eyes are the best camera.”

If you’re a parent with Internet access of any kind, you know how controversial a topic phones are in relation to your children. You can’t whip out a soon-to-be-outdated phablet without hitting some parenting “expert” or “guru” telling you what a materialistic and superficial jerk you are for posing your kids in a pumpkin patch or posting a selfie with the kids to Instagram during Touch-a-Truck.

I’m pretty confident in my parenting, but after reading so many of these articles talking about how I’m not actually enjoying life because I’m living it through my cell phone camera lens, I started to worry maybe they were right.

So one day I left the camera in the car.

I took Will and Sam on a hike through some local conservation land, and it was gorgeous. It was hot out, but felt 10 degrees cooler when we entered the forest and walked beneath the canopy of towering maple trees. The pine needles padded our steps and my boys bounded forward with youthful zeal, as slits of sunlight periodically found them and dotted their backs.

We explored the forest and inspected downed trees while wondering if a giant blew them over in a fit. We climbed rock formations and claimed them as newly discovered lands (Willtopia, SamLand, and Dada’s Village if you must know). We ran to the next trail map and studied it forcefully, as if it alone held the key to our ultimate survival.

And then we saw the butterfly.

A Monarch butterfly, you know the type. Wings a deep Halloween orange with jet black lines that made it look like an ornate stained glass window. Little white circles dot the tips of the wings and its head, as it rests on some grass seemingly weightless. It was totally still, and so were my boys. Enraptured. Until…

“Dada,” Sam whispered excitedly. “Take picture of butterfly!”

Crap.

“Sammy, I can’t. I didn’t bring my phone with me,” I said with fear rising in my throat. “But that’s OK, wanna know why? Because we have something better than a camera — our eyes. Let’s look at the butterfly and study it really hard, and we’ll take a mental snapshot so we’ll always have the butterfly in our memory.”

I even did that thing where you make a camera out of your hands, hold it up to your eye and snap a “mental picture.” And I immediately recoiled in horror and felt an unyielding desire to kick my own ass.

He knew it was bullshit. I knew it was bullshit. Sam flipped out and started crying, because — well, that’s what almost 3-year-olds do. The unphotographed butterfly must have also sensed the bullshit level rise to dangerous levels, and with his moment of zen interrupted by shrieking, flew off for parts unknown.

In a desperate attempt to stop Sam’s meltdown, Will had a phenomenal idea. He reminded Sam about our geocaching adventures, and started talking about finding hidden treasure. This idea pleased Sam greatly as his sobs subsided and excitement took over as both boys turned to me for the coordinates to our next find.

Coordinates I didn’t have, because I didn’t have my phone with me.

Taking an excessive amount of pictures of your children and adventures is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing. Committing things to memory and looking at the world absent a lens is overrated garbage, mainly because 1) taking pictures doesn’t always take you out of the moment, and 2) my memory sucks.

I’m a working dad. I’m up at 5:30 am, I work all day, I come home to parent, I do some more work, I go to bed. My mind is a ball of mush. It takes me at least two tries to get my kids’ names right, I poured my beer into a sippy cup last week, and the only things I truly remember are random ’90s song lyrics. So while it’s a noble thing to live in the moment and try to commit to memory the look on my sons’ faces when faced with the unparalleled wonder of a Monarch butterfly, I’d rather have my camera so I can have it forever and share it with the people I love who weren’t there.

Cell phone cameras are incredible and allow me to relive moments from years ago whenever I want. You’d be surprised how much I revisit them, especially now with Facebook’s “On This Day” feature that allows you to relive memories from years ago.

Excess can be a real problem in so many areas, but when it comes to pictures of the people and places I love most, there’s no such thing as too much. So have fun being “in the moment” and thinking you’re superior because you left your cell phone in the car. I’ll be busy happily recording memories and avoiding toddler meltdowns.

Just think, if I listened to the know-it-alls and didn’t have my phone with me, I’d miss moments like this.

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School Pictures are Obsolete

willpicsI just got an e-mail from my 5-year-old’s youth basketball league, reminding me this Saturday is Picture Day. And to that I say, not for this family!

These pictures are for basketball season. A few months ago, in the fall, we had Soccer Picture Day. And in the spring — you guessed it — Picture Day for baseball. And then, of course, parents are hit up with notice of the time-honored tradition of partaking in the rite of passage known as School Pictures.

What. A. Crock! And here’s why I’m ending it.

Continue reading School Pictures are Obsolete

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It’s Not the End of the World, Just the Galaxy

water_phoneMy wife got me the brand new Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone for Father’s Day. I immediately fell deeply in love with it. Like, scarily obsessed. If we’re being totally honest, I sleep with it next to my pillow lest I get lonely at night, OK?? And of its plethora of wonderful features, the 13-megapixel camera is by far my favorite thing about Galaxia (yeah, I named my phone. So what? Wanna fight about it?), because it allows me to capture some truly beautiful moments such as my son’s preschool graduation, family members who are no longer with us, and even a shot of him catching his first fish.

In fact, fishing has become somewhat of an obsession for the boy. So despite being under the weather, I told Will I’d take him fishing again on Father’s Day.

The place we like to fish is difficult because it’s gated. That means we have to park and walk a half-mile each way to the lake, which is not an easy feat for a 5-year-old on a hot day. After lecturing Will about the importance of not forgetting anything because we wouldn’t be able to run back to the car for it, we make the trek from our car to “our spot” — and that’s when I realized I forgot the tackle box. That meant we had just one hook and one bobber. If the line was cut for any reason, we were all done for the day.

I baited the hook and Will cast out into the pond. Wouldn’t you know it, he gets a fish on the line almost immediately. I watched and smiled a fatherly smile as he struggled with the “huge Great White shark” that was surely on the end of his line, as I like to let him do things himself. But then the fish started to take his line into the weeds and the overgrown brush on the side of the lake. Realizing we were in trouble, I grabbed the pole and tried to jerk it towards the middle but it was too late. The line was stuck.

But the fish was still hooked and it was flopping around.

“DADA, DADA! WE CAN’T LOSE THE SHARK FISH, GET IT QUICK. PLEEEEEEAAAAASE!!”

He didn’t have to ask. I was already pumped up and feeling oh-so-manly on a Father’s Day father-son fishing trip with the boy. That fish was ours and there was no way I was letting it get away. The only problem is the steep dropoff this kettle lake had, which meant I had to wade in chest deep just to go around the brush and get to the fish. But I did it, and after a few minutes I had secured the fish and untangled the line. Success!

Or so I thought.

It was then that Will asked me to take a picture of his fish and put it on Facebook so mom could see it. And that’s when — sopping wet — I reached in my left pocket to get…MY PHONE!!

First I felt a wave of terror that coursed through my body and zapped me right in the pit of the stomach. My fingertips worked their way past the entrance to my doused khaki shorts and touched Galaxia. Almost too afraid to look, I grabbed her and held her up to the sunlight for an inspection — but it was more like a postmortem. Galaxia, who was only with me for a few shorts weeks, was gone. Drowned at such a young age.

I’d like to say my behavior over the next few moments was something befitting a 33-year-old adult and father. But that would be a lie. I sank to my knees and yelled “NNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!” like an absolute lunatic. But then my next thought sent me back into a panic, because I thought of MJ and what she was going to do to me for losing a brand new phone she had saved up hundreds of dollars for to get me as a gift. Especially since this is not the first time I’ve lost an important and costly object to the gods of the Lake.

But as I was pathetically sitting there on my knees bemoaning my technological loss, Will brought me back down to Earth.

“Dada, I’m sorry about your phone but guess what? You saved my fish and we can still go fishing together, and that’s all that matters!”

I’m not exaggerating either, that’s actually how he talks. And you know what, he speaks the truth. Yes I am an idiot for not emptying my pockets and ruining a really expensive piece of technology. But you know what? I did it because I didn’t think twice about jumping into a lake to make sure my son was happy. The phone was ruined, but the experience wasn’t. And if that’s not the epitome of what Father’s Day is supposed to be about, then I don’t know what is.

Thankfully MJ agreed, and also had the presence of mind to buy insurance on the phone because she knows me so well. Thanks to Will, this might be the only time I’ve pissed away hundreds of dollars and walked away smiling.

And for the record, the fish was totally as big as a Great White.

 

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Old People and Technology Don’t Mix

As most of you know, we’re spending a lot of time at my parents’ house as we get the condo situation straightened out and look for a new place to live. They’ve been absolutely fantastic taking us in, putting up with us and watching Will more times than I can count. We’d truly be lost without them.

So naturally I’m going to ridicule and humiliate them here.

My parents have been together FOREVER. They’ve known each other since the 6th grade, they’ve been dating since their junior year of high school and married for almost 35 years. I can’t be sure, but I think they ran out of things to talk about after the first 12 days or so. And since then, they’ve filled their downtime with an endless amount of bickering. I’m not kidding. Anyone who knows my parents knows they go at each other like—well, like an old married couple. It’s not (usually) nasty or mean-spirited or anything like that. They love each other. They just have a funny way of showing it sometimes.

And one of the arguments that seems to pop up is over technology.

My dad has an iPhone 4S. Probably because my brother has an iPhone 4S. The two of them are in an eternal technological competition, always trying to one-up each other. My dad gets a 50-inch TV and my brother gets a 52-inch TV. Then my dad spends the next few months trying to convince my mom to get a new TV—and TV that’s bigger than Nate’s. To my dad’s credit, he does know how to use his phone for the most part.

But that’s in stark contrast to my mom. She doesn’t care about the difference between regular def and HD on TVs. Her cell phone is a Droid Incredible and she has absolutely no clue how to use it beyond the phone and texting. Seriously. She’s had the phone for two years, and last month she asked me what the funny little icons were at the top of the screen. She had no freaking clue there was a drop down menu and had never updated any of her apps, checked missed calls, etc. Which is mind-blowing to me.

But despite her technological shortcomings, my mom has no shortage of opinions regarding the matter.

The first thing you need to know is my mom hates Siri. If you’re not aware, Siri is like a virtual personal assistant on the new iPhone. You just ask her a question and she’ll find your answer. Even though I’m not an Apple fan, it is pretty amazing technology. But my mom DESPISES her. Which isn’t totally surprising considering my mom tends to dislike and mistrust any robotic persona that attempts to tell her what to do.

Case in point, a few years ago my mom got a Tom-Tom. But instead of using the GPS as it’s supposed to be used, she would quarrel with it and try to trick it. If Tom-Tom told her to go one way, she’d automatically take a different route just out of spite. Which, ya know, kind of defeats the purpose of a GPS. And that was just with directions, so you can imagine the angst she feels towards the all-knowing Siri. To make matters worse, my father’s sole purpose in life seems to be crawling under my mom’s skin and pissing her off every chance he gets. Which means he’s constantly using Siri in her presence.

Which takes us to last Tuesday night.

Mom yelled at dad for using Siri. Again. Dad then told mom he uses Siri because it allows him to skip a step and do things like text faster. My mother (who just an hour earlier learned about the “missed call” notification icon on her own phone) took issue with this and basically told my dad he was full of shit. She claimed she could use the voice activation on her phone to text me something faster than my dad and Siri could. Whoever sent me a text that said “I’m home” first would win.

I sat on the couch in disturbed silence as these two elderly smartphone gunslingers prepared for a not-so-epic duel of inept proportions. After a 3-2-1 countdown they were off. I took mental notes and it went something like this:

Dad: “Siri, send a text message to Aaron—”

Mom: (speaking into her Droid) “I’m home.”

Siri: “I’m sorry, I did not hear what you said. Who would you like to send this to?”

Dad: “Cynthia, you can’t talk while I’m talking. She can’t hear what I’m saying.”

Mom: “Done! It’s sent. Told you.”

Me: “Mom, I don’t have a text from you.”

Dad: “Siri, text Aaron and say—‘”

Mom: “What do you mean you didn’t get it? I sent it!”

Siri: “I’m sorry, I did not understand–”

Dad: “Hey, that’s not fair. You’re talking over me.”

Mom: “I’ll try it again. ‘I’m home.'”

Dad: “TEXT AARON ‘I’M HOME!'”

Me: “I still don’t have your text mom.”

Siri: “Are you trying to contact Nate?”

Mom: “I don’t know what’s wrong, I’m texting you!”

Dad: “Jesus Christ Siri, you’re not helping me here…”

Me: “Mom, your phone automatically imports Facebook contacts. You’re probably trying to text my Facebook.”

Siri: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand—”

Mom: “Oh shut up. I win. I’ve already sent two text messages.”

Me: “Two text messages that haven’t gotten to me.”

Dad: “Siri, you’re making me look bad after I stuck up for you!!”

Me: “Everyone looks bad today. I’m going to bed. You two work it out amongst yourselves.”

Until next time, when they fight about who’s the worst driver. In the meantime, if you want to see the most hilarious parody video ever involving Siri, just click here.

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