NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 15, 2014

Parent Pill: Not so easy to unplug

Parent Pill
Sue Tabb

---- — Edward Snowden could learn a few things if he lived in my house. Leaking sensitive information is a fine art form within these four walls, and my daughters have become the supreme masterminds behind this emerging form of perpetual invasion. It’s like Big Brother meets Twisted Sisters — and the sisters are winning hands down.

Let me explain.

When I am emerging from the shower and walking half-naked through the upstairs hallway, I can wave to my daughter’s friend on Skype. First thing in the morning, when I am looking like a raccoon who spent the night in a heap of trash, I can convey a jolly “Top of the Morning!” to the neighbor on FaceTime. And when I am having a heated discussion (in which I am laying out all the reasons I am right) with my husband, I can be certain that someone is on speaker phone studying with my daughter for tomorrow’s history quiz, and perhaps taking notes on the art of marital discord.

Either way, it has created the need for a “no electronics” curfew in our home. There are just too many points of access, too many ways I can embarrass myself in a place that is supposed to be sacred. This is a place of refuge, a sanctuary, a shelter from all that is evil — like Snapchat and Vine and anything with video capabilities that allow people to secretly film someone. That might be the absolute most devious form of malicious behavior. Especially when the person is a middle-aged woman who is singing and wildly gesturing to a Kesha song. Who knew such a video could get 83 likes? Maybe it’s my striking good looks or unique interpretation of the lyrics. But I’m pretty sure it was the dance moves.

Anyway, I digress. We must get back to the curfew that is now looming over my daughters’ heads like the Grim Reaper. At 8:30 p.m., regardless of how many texts, pokes, emails or Instagram messages are waiting to be answered, we must retire our electronic devices. (TTYL!) This is family time, and we are going to pretend we enjoy spending good, old-fashioned quality time together if it kills us. And by God, I think it might.

By 8:35 p.m., I’m ready to hang myself. My older daughter is spinning wildly in the kitchen, practicing some sort of pirouette I’m paying thousands for her to perfect. My younger daughter is teaching herself how to play the piano, which requires her to repeatedly strike A or C or whichever key sounds like a cartoon character tiptoeing. My husband is hiding in the basement watching season four, episode two, of “Dexter,” which chronicles the life of a deranged blood splatter analyst who strategically kills serial killers. Are you following all of this? I am looking for a sharp object to back into ... slowly.

In my fantasy world, we were all going to be sitting in a circle playing Yahtzee, or reading from an old classic novel or singing “Kumbaya” while knitting caps for the needy. Instead, we are arguing over which reality show to watch, eating Cheez-Its and placing bets on who will expel gas first. My daughters are not speaking because someone borrowed a sweater without asking, and now it can’t possibly be worn the next day because exactly no one would notice.

This is not the way Norman Rockwell painted it.

But that is the reality we are living. We feel like mere shadows of ourselves without our devices. We don’t know how to conduct business or converse politely or find the answer to “What Does the Fox Say?” (wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow) unless we are plugged in. #goaheadandgoogleit

So my husband and I have created quite an interesting conundrum. Do we endure the fighting, spinning, burping, why-are-you-wearing-my-leotard evenings or do we buckle under the pressure? Wait, it is after curfew and someone is stomping in defiance and slamming doors as I write this very sentence.

That seals the deal. Everyone, grab your iPhone and run. Let the quiet evenings begin again. If I have to compromise my privacy for a little sanity, well, so be it. I’ll just have to remember to stay fully dressed at all times.

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Sue Tabb is an account director with Thomson Communications and a radio personality at Magic 106.7. She lives in Newburyport with her husband and two daughters.