slice of life · technology

Surf City Water Tower

What did our parents do — in the days before smart phones to provide instant gratification — when we wanted something? Did they plug their ears while listening to us cry? Ignore us? Tell us to toughen up? Or maybe it was some combination of all of those things…

Last week, we vacationed in Topsail, NC with my cousins. Despite seven people — two of whom were under two — living in the same house for a week, it was a relaxing vacation. We ate in most nights, but decided to head to dinner the final night we were in Topsail so we wouldn’t have a clean-up job after dinner since we had a lot of packing ahead of us.

On the way out of the restaurant, Ari noticed the island’s old water tower. He was captivated by it. He said, “Tower!” over and over on the drive home that night.

The next morning, Ari called “Tower!” many times. On our way off the island, we pointed the water tower out to him and said, “Say, ‘bye-bye, Tower’.”

“Bye, Tower!” he called as we drove over the swing bridge off of Topsail Island.

That should’ve been it… but it wasn’t. He called out for the water tower several times on Sunday.

“Remember, we said good-bye to the Tower when we left Topsail,” I reminded him.

“Bye, Tower,” he repeated sadly.

By yesterday afternoon, Ari continued to call out for the Tower. That’s when I googled “Surf City Water Tower” on my phone. Not only did multiple images of the water tower come up, but there were even two videos! I showed the photos to Ari. The images made him smile with delight. Then, I showed him the videos. He watched them with complete contentedness.

Today’s Tuesday. Now Ari is grabbing for my phone saying “Tower! Tower! Tower!” The last thing I want to do is look at photos and watch videos of some old water tower. However, doing just that is my consequence for using my smart phone in this way in the first place.

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17 thoughts on “Surf City Water Tower

  1. Ha- what a different world, indeed! I think often of what a different world it was teaching without computer access, but you are right that parenting is changing in the age of smartphones. I think kids of today often end up with a blurrier sense of reality and fantasy nowadays and I think so much of that is because of their easy access to technology and the pictures and videos they see that are not what is right in front of them.

    1. My friend Sarah and I were talking about this when we were at a pre-4th of July Concert tonight. I think many people turn to technology whenever their kid says they are bored. Coping with boredom is an important life skill (which I reminded Isabelle of when she asked for my phone to look at photos with when we waited for our car at the car wash today). I wonder what would happen if more parents said no to their kids (when it came to tech more often).

  2. As much as I love my smartphone and all things tech – I am grateful these devices were not around when my children were young. As a now grandmother I watch at how the phones are being used – for better and for worse – and I am left wondering about it all. No solutions just wonderings.

    1. We have always limited Isabelle’s technology use. We never have it at the dinner table and were the oddball family who bought a minivan without a DVD player. (The salesman thought we were nuts!) All that being said, I find any time I let my guard down and give in to technology (like this), I almost always regret it.

  3. Jack doesn’t have any screen time except for the construction videos that Grandpa sends to him and the FT visits with family. It’s challenging to figure out how to balance it al, when to share something online, and when to not
    . Have you read the recent article in The Atlantic, The Dangers of Distracted Parenting? It posits that the real issue lies with the adults who stay connected to their devices, but not always connected to their kids. I say bravo for not having a DVD player in your van!

  4. I get too easily sucked up in technology. Trust me. It is a battle with my 10 and 12 year old kids to resist turning on the TV or tablet or gaming whenever they are bored… they get mad at me for sure… Yet I know that I was bored when I was their age and these were also some of the times that I was the most creative. I am going to look up the article of The Dangers of Distracted Parenting… I fear that we too easily teach our kids too many of these bad habits.

      1. I am constantly working on this. It is SO hard though. Have you read the introduction in Naomi Shihab Nye’s Voices in the Air? She says, “not long ago we were never checking anything in our hands, scrolling down, pecking with a finger, obsessively tuning in. My entire childhood did not involve a single deletion. These are relatively new acts on earth.” I have been thinking about this a lot lately.

  5. I know the Surf City Water Tower well and appreciate Ari’s interest in its presence! I also see what you did a as GOOD use of technology! It helped support his memory of something special. I have more trouble accepting using the phone/technology as a way to keep kids sitting/in control during events that have their own excitement!!!!

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