Don’t you hate it when someone begs, begs, begs for something, but then when he gets it, all he can do is complain about it?
Tough shit, I’m doing it anyway.
My kids came into the world and developed right alongside the development of smartphones and tablets, and they’ve had some version of those devices since they were old enough to operate them. (Not old enough to NOT smash the screens out of them over and over again, mind you; just old enough to operate them).
Mostly they’ve been a blessing more than a curse: they take pictures and videos and do all kinds of creative crap, they text and call and email and Snap and message me when they’re not around. But most of all, they play games. Hours and hours of games.
I’m not a total hypocrite here, so I can’t knock the games: when I was their age, my face was melted into the television from playing so many consecutive hours of Atari Video Pinball or Pitfall (ahem, young gamers, and there was no “Continue?” function back then either. You died three times and it was back to the beginning. AND WE LIKED IT THAT WAY, NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!)
But one thing that my parents had going for them was that leaving the house tore me away from my video games. Not so anymore.
So there have been many times where I slipped into old-crusty-parent mode and longed for them to get their faces out of their devices and go do something outside. Voluntarily, I mean — not just when both iPads are dead and they can only find one charger. (Chargers disappear from my house so fast that I actually have them on auto-order at Amazon Subscribe & Save…just send me a couple every month automatically and call it good, Amazon, I know I’ll need them).
Now I may have longed for it, but I didn’t expect that any analog item would actually come along and steal their attention from their devices. I mean, it’s not like the entire world population of children is just going to put their phones down and start getting hours of prolonged gratification from, oh, I don’t know, taking a bottle of water and throwing it up in the air 700 times in a row and watching it land on the ground.
Oh wait, that’s exactly what happened.
If you need any more evidence that life is entirely impossible to predict, witness the bottle-flipping phenomenon. Today’s kids have the world’s shortest attention span, access to all the world’s information and by far the most incredible array of options with which to entertain themselves…and the most popular is throwing hunks of plastic in the air.
Take that, Baby Boomer Dad and your Kick The Can! Take that, Depression-Era-Great-Grandpa and your stickball! Take that, destitute Third-World kids and your duct-tape-covered-milk-jug-impersonating-a-soccer-ball!
I’m sure bottle-flipping is fun when you’re the one trying to throw the bottle up and land it upright. (Judging by the reactions captured on YouTube videos, anyway, which range from “My team just won the NBA championship” screaming and jubilation to absolute “I just won the Powerball” nirvana).
But when you’re simply a nonparticipating civilian with the bad luck to be near a gaggle of bottle-flipping pre-tweens, the thunking and clunking sounds like seven kids dribbling seven different basketballs simultaneously on your kitchen floor. Except between every dribble there are communal outbursts of “AWWW!” and the occasional shriek of “YESS! YESS! OMG DID YOU GET THAT? POST IT! SNAP IT! POST-SNAP-TUBE-A-GRAM IT TO ME!”
But hey, at least that anytime kids are bottle-flipping, they always make absolutely sure to screw their lids on tight so that, despite the obvious propensity for spillage, all of the water, Gatorade, etc., stays in the bottle and not a drop ends up the HAHAHAHA JUST KIDDING, WE GOT RED POWERADE EVERYWHERE AND NOW THE FLOORS ARE STAINED AND NOW WE’RE GOING OUTSIDE TO DO THE SAME TO THE PORCH.
This is not a joke: We were at Discount Overstocks (my favorite cheap-groceries store) a couple of months ago, and they were liquidating small bottles of water for 10 cents apiece. Do you know what my kids said? They asked me to buy some crates of water because “those would be great for bottle flipping!”
No, I said. I said I’d rather buy you each a carton of cigarettes than do that. This short-circuited any follow-up begging that may have been on deck.
.So this is what I’ve learned, in sum, from the bottle-flipping phenomenon:
- Analog activities can be just as awful and annoying as digital ones.
- Red Powerade has to be cleaned off surfaces within 15 seconds or it’s going to stain and take a lot of elbow grease to get out later.
- Kids can take the most precious things in life — literally, the most precious thing to all lifeforms, water, that which sustains us and that which we cannot do without — and make you want to get rid of every last trace of it in your house.
- Smartphones and tablets can be muted; gravity’s thlunking of a water bottle on the ground cannot.
Now, kids, get your faces out of those water bottles, go inside and get some fresh Internet.
Some lovely, quiet Internet.