Categories
family

This is the happiest I will ever be—and I’m OK with that.

Shawn Blanc, fellow NaBlogWriMo participant, writing about a mess his kids left on the stairs:

One day, my boys will be grown and they will move out to live on their own. And my wife and I will finally live in a clean and quiet house. And we will miss the days, like this one, when toys were left on our steps and our boys were at home in the evenings to play and to laugh and fight about whose turn it is to brush their teeth first.

And so I try to remind myself in those moments of annoyance that the things which frustrate me now will one day be the things I will miss terribly and wish for again.

It’s hard to overstate just how tiring it is to be a parent of a young child. By 7 PM each night (my daughter’s bedtime), my wife and I are exhausted down to our bones—sometimes nearly to the point of tears.

So it is helpful to remind ourselves that we will very likely remember these few years as the happiest time in our lives. Our daughter still loves to dance with us, play with us, read stories with us, and snuggle. Those gifts ought not to be taken for granted.

And they won’t last forever. Adolescence will bring estrangement, and our daughter will eventually build an independent life. As time rolls on, we’ll hold our memories of her early childhood more and more dear.

So I’m determined to cherish those experiences now—even if I’m tired. ◾

Categories
Culture

Playgrounds are deserted

My daughter is a connoisseur of fine playgrounds. Often, when we’re driving through somewhere unfamiliar, we’ll hear an excited voice from the backseat: “Look! Over there!” Sure enough, there’ll be a tell-tale yellow slide or a row of swings on the horizon.

What we typically won’t see? People. Wherever we go, whatever the day or time, America’s playgrounds seem empty. No new parents feeding newborns on benches, no infants swaying in the baby swings, no top-heavy toddlers stumbling up the ramps, and no grade-school kids leaping brazenly from the uppermost parapets. Of course, there are exceptions—well-placed, unique parks that still attract a crowd—but more often than not, we’re the only family at a playground.

Why is this? Was it always this way? If not, what changed?

One explanation I can rule out: kids didn’t abandon our parks because playgrounds somehow got worse. Yes, they’ve removed the jagged metal edges and concrete pads of decades past, but playgrounds have undeniably improved over the years. They now feature double curly-Q tunnel slides, massive subterranean mazes, bouncy bridges, two-person swings, climbing walls, and countless other “play-ventions” that didn’t exist when I was a kid. Even fast food playgrounds have evolved into four-story-tall wonder-worlds.

Our playgrounds are better than they’ve ever been. So what it is it? What’s keeping the kids away? Here are some guesses:

  • We’re too busy. Parents are stretched thin and can’t spare the time to prioritize their kids’ outdoor play. For their part, kids have overpacked schedules, too, bouncing from one extracurricular to the next: sports, music, dance, etc., etc.
  • We’re scared. In another era, many parents wouldn’t hesitate to let their children walk a few blocks or ride their bikes to the neighborhood playground and stay there for hours on end. That sort of “leash-free” parenting is pretty rare these days, in an era when cable news amps up our suspicion and anxiety to irrational levels.
  • Blame the screens? As our daughter grows, she’s increasingly obsessed with watching TV and playing simple video games on her tablet. “I just want to watch TV all day,” she pouts, when we take her Kindle away. We’re not alone in this struggle, I know. The kids missing from the playground may well be cooped up inside, staring at a TV screen or poking away at an iPad.

The truth is that all of these explanations probably factor into the exodus of children from the public square.

Of course, on the one hand, we like the fact that playgrounds are uncrowded. Our daughter never has to wait for her plaything of choice, and there’s plenty of room for us to join her, without any worry about stomping someone else’s munchkin.

But on the other hand, town councils and municipal committees are bound to notice that their pristine playsets are nearly always empty. Will they continue to spend precious tax dollars on building and maintaining playgrounds, when so few residents patronize them? ■

Categories
apple

Memories vs. math: how to justify paying $1,000 for the iPhone X

I have a dilemma. I can’t decide whether to buy the iPhone X or hang onto my iPhone 7 for another year. Day to day—and sometimes hour to hour—I waver:

Calculating the cost

On the one hand, I dig the X’s edge-to-edge display, its high-res OLED screen, and (especially) its dual lens camera system. And by my math, the costs of upgrading my phone every year are surprisingly comparable to upgrading every two—when I figure in the cash return of reselling the old phone.

But then I remember the X’s thousand-dollar price tag, and my determination falters. That’s a major investment, no matter the potential resale value. I hesitate to spend that much when my current phone works perfectly well.

Memories > math?

Of course, there’s more to this decision than just dollars and cents. If I do buy an iPhone X, it will be to get one marquee feature in particular: its best-in-class camera.[1]

I imagine myself forty years from now: a septuagenarian looking back on the past. From that vantage point, it’s likely that my current stage of life—young parenthood—will be the time I would be most grateful I had used a decent camera.

Kid in grass

Our adorable daughter is two years old—and growing like mad. It’s almost physically painful to see time flying by so fast, and we’re desperate to capture her quirks and discoveries with photos and videos. We snap hundreds of pictures every week—exponentially more than we ever did before she was born.

I want a phone camerathat takes amazing shots, even when my kid runs wild through the yard in the autumn twilight.[2] If I upgrade to the X, I will have a better record of my daughter’s second and third years of life.

To buy, or not to buy?

If I’m awake at 3 AM on October 27, preordering the iPhone X, here’s what I’ll be telling myself: you’re not buying a $1,000 phone. You’re buying a $1,000 camera with some amazing bonus features. Somehow, that seems easier to swallow. A thousand-dollar phone? That’s extravagant. But a thousand-dollar camera that helps me better remember my daughter’s early childhood? That makes some sense.[3] ■


  1. Technically, the Pixel 2 is the current champion, at least as judged by DxOMark. But the iPhone 8 Plus is close behind; assuming the X bests the 8 Plus (likely), it may approach the Pixel 2 in overall quality.  ↩

  2. Fortunately, even older iPhone models take snapshots that compare favorably to low-range DSLR photos. The iPhone is already good enough; it has completely usurped the place that standalone cameras once had in my life.  ↩

  3. Even hobbyists spend that much on photography gear without blinking an eye.  ↩

  4. Scale and camera vector artwork courtesy of Freepik.