I love Doctor Seuss books. I always enjoy the clever way this iconic author uses rhyme and meter to tell a story in a way that is certain to capture a child’s attention and stimulate the imagination. When my daughters were young, these were my favorite books to read aloud.
If they had trouble choosing, I would always default to “Green Eggs and Ham” or “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” Selfishly, the books made bedtime a bit more fun for me too with all those Gacks and Yings and Sneeds and Things. And who can forget Marvin K. Mooney? I don’t know if he ever did get on his way, that Marvin K!
Back to Seuss, whom I have a new admiration for now that I’ve decided his children’s classics can be applied to teens as well. In fact, with just a little tweak here and there — forgive me, good doctor — I’ve taken “One Fish, Two Fish” and decided to make it a bit more relevant to my life with two teenagers, who have deemed the adults in our home largely irrelevant when compared to their electronic devices.
Yes, after 13 and 15 years of making our daughters the epicenter of our universe, they have relegated us to mere accessories. We become important only when we are serving a specific purpose — like buying them something, driving them somewhere or figuring out what we can drop from our monthly budget so we can afford their data plan. Oh, I’m also OK when I can take a picture of them doing something completely random and inane with their friends so they can post it on Instagram or Snapchat as a memento of their special evening eating “FroYo” or watching “Abby Lee’s Dance Competition.” These are moments they’ll want to relive in adulthood I’m sure.
So here is my attempt at what I would read aloud today.
Just a few random excerpts from “One Fish, Two Fish” that I took some creative license with, thinking you might relate if you have kids with revered gadgets. But please excuse my inexperience at mastering the anapestic tetrameter Seuss employed, since I don’t have a clue what a tetrameter even is, let alone making it anapestic.
One phone, two phone, iPhone, YouPhone,
Black phone, blue phone, old phone, new phone.
This one has a little app.
This one has a nifty map.
Say! What a lot of phones there are.
Yes, some are slow and some are fast.
Some are dull and some a blast.
Some are fad and some are rad
And some are very, very bad.
Why are they fad and rad and bad?
I do not know, go ask iPad.
Who Am I? My name is Teen.
I do not like my little screen.
This is no good. This is not right.
My friends stay up and Skype all night.
And when I call them up, Oh Dear,
My head gets all cut off up here.
At our house, we open apps.
We have to open many apps.
And that is why we have a Zaps.
A Zaps for Apps is very good.
Have you a Zaps for Apps? You should.
I could go on, but you get the sentiment I’m trying to convey here. Adults are now like a one-dimensional phone app that pays for meals, activities and college tuition but doesn’t speak unless spoken to, especially in front of other teens who might figure out the blood lineage.
Here we are killing ourselves to be good parents, to spend quality time with our kids, to engage them in countless activities and to raise them with the morals and values that were instilled in us. And yet, they are much more concerned with having an intimate relationship with their phones, which they never use to actually call anyone since calling is apparently so yesterday.
I, for one, am going to continue the good fight, assuming that between those bouts of DoodleJump and Ruberth, they are hearing, absorbing and even applying some of the things we are teaching so they will be better prepared when they go off to discover their adult selves. From another great Dr. Seuss book (from which I will not veer from the original):
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’ll look up and down the streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
At least not without your iPhone.
Sue Tabb is an account director with Thomson Communications and a freelance writer. She lives in Newburyport with her husband and two daughters. You can visit her blog at www.parentpill.com.