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How can I tell you?

Rectangles are everywhere in the living area of our house. Cell phones, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo DS, cords and chargers. New toys for smart boys. When playing, they are quiet and happy and focused.

I’m old school and don’t understand half of it.

I see the rectangles they hold in their hands as separating the twins from each other, from grandparents, from a sister. The boys look like they are here, but don’t let it fool you—they are not where they seem to be.

My first thought: they are being selfish and rejecting everyone in the room. Hard for me to watch hour after hour.

Relief comes when the dogs intervene, when we have meals with no electronics.

Communication, spare and rare. Where is it? Did the internet change my world? Or can I blame the rectangles?

Each boy is focused on a screen, clicking or scrolling. They cannot hear anyone with earbuds in ears. Who will let the dog bumping the door inside? I wait to see. One eventually moves toward the door. Things were not at all like I’d imagined.

After watching and waiting 24 hours, I set a boundary on the use of electronics: four hours per day. How else am I assured of ever having their ears and eyes, heart and thoughts? We only get them for three days.

Once the boundary is set, the boys watch the clock and give themselves 30 minutes here, 30 minutes there for electronics. The honor system. No reason to not trust them. And it is the holidays.

They make straight A’s in school. I listen when one asks the question, “Why didn’t you just ask us to help rather than putting a time limit on electronics?” Good question.

My response: “Because a part of me does not want to interrupt your good time, and I really hoped you would set your own boundary.”

Now as I look back on yesterday, I knew they couldn’t set their own boundaries. They are only fourteen. The toys are new. They must live it out. I must live it out.

I’m big on two-way relationships, even if it means being inconvenienced. It’s how we show love.

I don’t like one-sided anything, but especially relationships. Those are lopsided and lead to a dead end.

But how can a 14-year-old understand?

And every stage of growth is different. At eight, they were always ready to play a card game with others on the dining room table; at ten, they wanted to sit next to a grandparent and watch movies; and now they are into electronics. Maybe it will pass. If I remember right, our sons were into Atari and then Game Boy. Now it comes to back to me—we limited their time.

Suddenly, this is what I’m aware of: my sons grew up, and they communicate well.

Once the grandboys set the electronics aside, it is like the prodigals have returned home. We cook together, creating a wonderful meal, and they go off to town with their PapPaw while their sister and I take a walk and look for our dog.

I “get it” in my head. The boys were just looking for fun. They have a language of their own, and neither grandparent understands their games. Flying drones with cameras? Those, one grandparent does understand. Not me. I’m the one who takes care of someone’s ingrown toenail.

All of it, easy to forgive. And I am not rejected. It just felt that way.

What’s real is that I am not ready for this electronic world. I use a computer, cell phone, and camera.

These boys have stories to share. We grandparents have stories to share. We may be where we are for such a time as this. But we’re all bombarded with information, ads, games. I’m just not sure much of it will help us make a difference.

Happiness. It comes to me when one boy-man offers to chop onions and the other one adds them to the chicken salad, when we joke and see flickering smiles. It comes when their sister volunteers to set the table, when my husband comes home early.

There’s just no accounting for my happiness or where it comes from. It’s like a long lost uncle showing up unannounced, ready to play a guitar, sing, and dance.

Happiness even comes when grandchildren are sound asleep—especially when I ask God to put a life preserver on each one, to help them maneuver in the utter darkness.

May God bless you as you live a story that shows His love.

Pat Durmon

Photo of rectangles charging taken by Pat Durmon at her home, January 3, 2018.

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