So my mother texted me the other day.
Just one of many hundred texts she sends on a monthly basis to keep me safe and breathing at all times with cautionary tales, depressing statistics and fatalistic data. The missives are supposed to make me aware that my life is hanging precariously on a thread, and I should be more vigilant about self-preservation 24×7.
This one, however, was about my 5-year-old son Jude. His cousin was getting a Gameboy for Christmas, and she wanted me to know that she had decided to give the same one to Jude as well.
As a rule I ignore the bulk of my mom’s texts as kind, maternal spam, or respond with annoying emojis, knowing they drive her crazy, but this time I had to stand up and be heard.
I absolutely did not want my son to have a Gameboy for Christmas. As it is, he was spending more time on his electronic devices that I could possibly control. The world has become such a place that denying your children their virtual playtime can have the feds knocking on your door for purporting cruelty to minors. It’s as if electronic devices are their birthright, and media solicitations and peer pressure are such that life-versus-iPad balance has become a struggle for concerned parents who dare to dream of raising children who are in touch with the real world.
The two kids in my family are still bound by some rules – like matching the hours spent on iPad with as many hours of reading books – and no way was I going to lose this breadwinner’s advantage by letting my mom overrule my decision with grandmotherly indulgence.
So I told her that this year for Christmas, the kids are getting a trampoline. I wanted them to experience the joys of jumping up and down on a trampoline, exercising in fresh air, spending time in our beautiful yard and syncing up with nature.
“Funny, I just read about trampolines and injuries,” she wrote back.
Apparently, trampolines are super dangerous. My kids would end up hurting themselves – grievously – if we were foolish enough to bring such an evil plaything home. Gameboy, on the other hand, was safe. It kept the kids safely indoors.
I fought back, saying my wife Stacy was determined to have a trampoline for Christmas. Pulling the mom card to beat the grandmom card should have been enough to make anyone back down. But not my mother.
She shot back with yet another bizarre warning: “Those [trampolines] require extra homeowner’s insurance.”
This woman actually knew that a trampoline can make homeowner’s insurance go up? Why? And what else? Messermeister chef-grade kitchen knives? Double-headed bathroom showers? Spiral staircases? Ceiling fans? Where did such portentous predictions of doom and gloom end, and where did she get all this?
The internet of course. My mom is an inhabitant of the virtual world where news of deaths, illnesses and accidents thrive and multiply. Where opinion-makers find legions of followers like my mom who are mesmerized by information that could catapult any normal, healthy human being into a teeth-chattering state of agoraphobia (fear of going outside).
Do I want my kids to grow up under such shadows of fear? Spend hours and hours indoors, playing online games or cruising the internet while seasons are changing and birds are singing and a trampoline is calling? No, no and no.
I want my kids to get their fair share of scrapes and bruises and learn how to stay out of trouble through life experiences — not because some viral internet article has listed 10 advises against it. I don’t want them to Google “dangers of walking on a nature trail” before going camping. Or “will Acesulfame and Sucralose irritate my digestive track” before they eat an ice-cream.
I believe my wife Stacy and I uphold a pretty healthy lifestyle of moderation in everything our children does. We teach them the joys of sharing, the blessings of caring and the need for balance, hope and self-worth that will keep them grounded, and in touch with their truest selves when they step out into the topsy-turvy adult world.
About the trampoline? Sorry Mom, they’re gonna have it. But in deference to your well-meaning concerns, I shall stop myself from going to the homeowner’s insurance people to volunteer the information that I have a trampoline in my backyard.
Now, if you’ll only look up “dangers of not declaring a trampoline” on Google for me…