The DadBall Era: Ay-Yi-Yi-Pad

I’m annoyed and amazed (and jealous) by the technology at my kids’ fingertips.
My wife and I are responsible and savvy parents for the most part, on most days, concerning most parental duties. We do not condone illicit drug use, for example. Also, we hardly ever let the kids shoot flaming arrows at each other like in the beginning of Gladiator, we flat-out forbid them wearing Vineyard Vines clothing, and we strongly discourage them from betting on the NBA road team in the second game of a back-to-back (no matter what the spread is, that is just common sense). It is exhausting and time-consuming. But it is right, and probably worth it in the end, we feel.

Where we are lacking, I suppose—where we could stand to do a bit better—would be with regard to their iPad usage. More specifically, we need to address the fact that they are on them ALL. THE. TIME. It has become somewhat problematic.

Oh, it starts innocently enough: “I need an iPad so I can learn to do arithmetic,” they’ll plead. And that’s true! One-one-trillionth of the iPad’s capabilities involves fun little math games taught by talking turtles and whatnot, as well as other educational apps that will help kids be less stupid. You know, productive, useful things. The remaining portion of its capabilities, however—in the devious hands of a 6- or 7- or 10-year-old—involve Lego Ninjago games and FIFA soccer and an infinite universe of entertainment at their immediate disposal.

I am still baffled/amazed by its immense powers, truth be told. Like some 16th-century chimney sweep transported to modern times, I sometimes find myself in complete and terrified awe of the iPad—like its existence should not even possible in this physical realm. (“EGADS, THIS SORCERER’S TABLET AND ITS DARK MAGIC FROM BEYOND!”) My grandmother felt the same way about our garbage disposal in 1988.

So, yeah—I’m jealous. I’m jealous that, as kids, we didn’t have immediate access to every video game known to man while sitting on the toilet. I’m jealous that our iPad was a Service Merchandise catalog, our playlist whatever was on the radio, and our entire video library a few VHS tapes with recorded episodes of Airwolf, This Week in Baseball, and grainy footage of our dunk contest on the Nerf hoop.

Most of all, though, I’m jealous that my kids can (and do!) use their iPads to FaceTime and text with their friends nonstop, directly to their friends’ iPads or whatever, with impunity and zero chances of stressful awkwardness. Lucky bastards.

People my age still bear the scars of telephoning friends and girlfriends on landlines, to their homes, where their dads could answer and sternly #DadSplain to you that calling at this hour is rude and unacceptable. Or worse yet, when your dad answered and did the irritated #DadSplaining. Awful, just awful! And there were a million other terrifying awkward possibilities with those calls as well, each worse than the last. Each call had the chance to create new and exciting ways to mortify ourselves. Those scars never heal. Those scars are why there were so many emo/goth kids back then, hollow and broken and listening to The Cure in deserted graveyards at all hours. That, in turn, paved the way for grunge rock and Doc Martens and everything else that was baggy and flannel and depressing in the 1990s. It all stems from how miserable those phone calls were. My kids cannot grasp this. They cannot comprehend how fortunate they are to not have to deal with that kind of anxiety.

Most of the time—especially here at Tournament time—I’m the Old Man at the Soda Fountain decrying all this newfangled technology and laziness while fondly recalling the simpler joys of my youth. (“WE CARRIED OUR NICKELS IN OUR KANGAROO SNEAKERS AND WE LOVED IT!”) But to hell with that. I am not on Team Nostalgia on this. I am firmly on Team FaceTime, forever, because no kid should be forced to endure the tragic awkwardness of a late-night landline call intercepted by a pissed off dad. That is too much to bear.