Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A passing note on being a dad with computers

I work a full time job and I am an aspiring writer. On top of that, I'm a dad. Today I made the mistake of leaving the bedroom door open when warming my water, lemon and honey for the morning - while my daughter was awake. Emily came right out to the kitchen at 4 in the morning as if it's time for her young mind and body to get up. Like me, she wanted to get up early like Daddy.

Well, I tried to explain to her that she's too young to be up so early. Daddy needs to write in the morning so that he has time for Emily later when he returns from work, right? I do all my writing in the morning when Emily and Alice are asleep. Then in the evening, I can just focus on family and caring for Emily.

But this morning, Emily would not give up on leaving the bedroom. She has figured out the doorknob so now we have to be extra careful about where she's going. But she hasn't figured out the exterior doors yet, thankfully. She now knows how to leave the bedroom even if Alice and I want to get some sleep. This morning, she would not have it so easy. I tried sitting with her at my computer while writing my morning page, but I began to have growing concerns for her eyes and brains seeing light so early in the morning. So I brought her back to the bedroom.

Then the ultimate rant went on, crying, screaming, pounding on the door as I sat in front of it, preventing her from opening it. I carried her hoping that she would flail to the point of sleep, but she outlasted me with her struggle. She did not outlast me with her power, she outlasted me with the hope that her mother, carrying a sister into the world soon, could get some sleep. I could see that as long as both of us were in the room, Emily seemed sure that she had leverage to negotiate. If Mom can't sleep, surely Emily can watch YouTube for awhile. Sorry, Emily. That's not going to happen this morning.

So I carried her out to the living room, but as I carried her, she continued to struggle. Then I had the good sense to just lay her on the couch. I explained to her that it's time for her to go back to sleep. As she lay on the couch, she took notice of her feet and made happy noises about them. She started to relax because she wasn't in the bedroom and probably because she had some hope of getting on the computer again.

So I laid on the couch, too. In a few minutes she joined me. Then I sang a few songs. I counted to 100 and back down to 0 again as she lay by my side, with her head cradled on my shoulder against the backrest of the couch. She was still heaving from crying so much, so I stroked her stomach in an effort to help her relax. Then I turned her over to lay her chest on my chest, letting her head fall to the side of my head.

I figured that after a few minutes of feeling her body rise and fall with my breathing, she would fall asleep, and she did. Helping her get to sleep is one of my favorite things to do, for the smile that she has on her face is priceless. I didn't get to see it this morning because the house was dark and intentionally so. This is to help her brain remember that when it's dark, it's time to sleep.

I did all of this with no yelling, no screaming, no spanking, even if she hit me. Nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could. I was determined to use relentless gentle persuasion. I also used gentle restraint, a firm "no" when needed and eventually, I let her go on the couch and she relaxed. It was clear that she didn't want to be in the bedroom. When I brought her into the living room, she relaxed noticeably. When I laid on the couch with her, she really settled down. When I laid her on my chest and let her head rest against my shoulder, her return to sleep was complete.

I was determined to let her know that she wasn't going to get her way, but that I was there, to gently help her find her sleep again, despite her growing fascination with computers. She knows how to start YouTube, she knows where to find the videos she likes to watch, and she knows how to power the computers on. She just doesn't know the password and how to enter it to unlock the computer. I have a notion that she sees computer skills as survival skills and maybe that is where she is coming from.

I have no doubt that she will be a whiz with computers when both of he parents are very competent on computers. But I also try to show her that computers don't love people. People love people. As she develops language skills, I am going to be repeating that theme over time, to let her know that no matter how appealing a computer can be, they can never love you.

Computers lack the drive and the instinct that people come with. They don't have the unpredictability with all their pleasant and not so pleasant surprises. Computers cannot look you in the eye and say, "I love you". That just isn't going to happen. Computers can't make choices. People can.
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