Unplugged

May 26,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Not only did our toaster give it up this past weekend, but our computer has also decided to cash it all in as well. Accepting this fact was a process that took us all through grief, anger, denial, and then finally acceptance. The computer's absence in our house for four days now has been both a) a curse and b) a blessing. At first I was scared. What would L. do without the computer? What would happen to those thoughtfully crafted after-school schedules we make, with the carefully alloted computer time that is the glue holding it all together? How would he function without the beloved laptop, and his daily fix of Wookiepedia and the NASA website and Ribbids? Then I was stressed. The loss of our computer, of course, is impacting more than just L.'s schedules and his after-school time. All three of my jobs require use of the computer. I have lots of documents and photos and videos and projects stored on the hard drive. Then there are the frivolous not-to-be-taken-for-granted things like my iTunes library--how will I access it? How will I live without it? While L. and I work through our own stages of loss, Scott is worried about the expense involved in replacing a home computer, and we're engaged in an ongoing squabble over desktop vs. laptop, monitor sizes, and the Mac vs the PC debate--we're a house divided when it comes to operating systems, that's for sure (dear Apple: can't you just lower the prices on your products so people like me can convince people like my husband to make the switch?). Only T. seems unaffected by the absence of the computer. She cared more, I think, about the toaster. As it turns out, L. is handling being unplugged much better than I am. Like most bad habits, if you remove the trigger, the habit itself miraculously seems to disappear. On both Monday and Tuesday he came home from school and, instead of shutting himself away in the office for computer time, he hung out with us in the kitchen for awhile. When restlessness hit, we came up with a list of Things To Do Without a Computer: 1. Go outside! 2. Talk 3. Make a snack together 4. Play in your room 5. Play in the family room 6. Play the Wii (it might seem that encouraging the Wii is just creating another bad habit to replace a former one, but the Wii really does encourage social interaction in ways the computer does not) 7. Read alone 8. Read together 9. Go for a walk (L. likes to just walk and talk, but T. likes to walk and look for things: you can make new challenges about things to discover for each new walk.) 10. Listen to music 11. Play a game So far we've made it to #5, with a little more Wii time and a little less making snacks together (unless you count helping your son open a box of saltines) and even less playing outside. But even though we're just on Day Four without a computer at home, I think we're adjusting pretty well. Sort of.