Family ties to technology

I didn’t have a good weekend. It rained all day Saturday and we were running around all day Sunday because it was Mother’s Day. Of course the daughter decided that Sunday would be a day she would grind against the grain of everyone else and, as much as I love her, single-handedly ruined an otherwise good day with family. I’m starting to notice a pattern though and will be putting in some strict restrictions on the use of anything that contains a screen and run on electricity. She lost her iPhone for 4 weeks because of her last quarter grades. We both noticed a marked improvement in her attitude and behavior that regressed literally an hour or two after she got it back. The girl is hopelessly addicted to all things screen and her typical “I’m not stopping until I want to” attitude always gets in the way. My wife doesn’t help matters either as she is just as addicted to her mobile as well and it’s been a struggle to hold a conversation with her that wasn’t disconnected and unintelligible. I’ve since refused to talk with her when her attention is on the phone screen as I already know, you can’t multi-task with an electronic device, it just isn’t possible. Anyone out there who thinks they can multi-task; verbal conversation and use their phone, they’re just fooling themselves and doing two things barely mediocre.

My level of frustration the last few weeks has unfortunately gone up. My wife tells the daughter to stop yelling at her, yet my wife yells at her to stop yelling. It really is counter-productive in my opinion. I, on the other hand, have manged to keep my tone and outward display of anger to a minimum (for the most part) as it tends to get better results. Our daughter is old enough to know and understand the impact of what she says and how she says certain things, so there really is no excuse for downright disrespect for the sake of exercising control despite her losing the privileged of what she’s trying to control. The whole thing is just counter-productive and doesn’t really make any sense to me. The daughter refuses to do anything when she’s on her phone, playing what I consider real stupid time-suck games, and only listens to either of us once we’ve taken the phone away. Then of course its a fight to get her to do what we’re asking because now she’s angry she lost her phone as a result of her own actions; but it’s our fault, always.

The evaluation of technology in my life is taking a very dark and negative turn, to the point where I get frustrated with anyone using a device near me when I’m trying to say or do something. I’ve respected them by putting my phone, laptop, etc. down but rarely get that in return. The old adage “lead by example” just doesn’t seem to fit when technology is involved. I’m not even going to the “do unto others” space right now. My wife has conveniently forgotten, consistently, that I deleted Facebook and has conversations with me based on Facebook information. When I say I’m not on Facebook anymore, she’s reminded that I abandoned the platform and just stops talking; the subject doesn’t change, she just stops and returns to the screen. I just don’t get it. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, at least that’s what we’ve been told for years, but all I ever see is the negative side of it. People who can’t hold a conversation unless it’s in text form. Social gatherings consist of an entire table of people on their phones. Parents hold up iPads at recitals to “record” their children without a seconds thought of the 9.4″ of blocking capability the iPad produces for the people behind them. Having a conversation with someone under the age of 30 consists of “so”, “like” and “uhm” being practically every fourth word. Call me crazy, but I don’t say any of those words when holding conversation with people. Hearing them tossed at me just derails my train of thought and makes it difficult to actually listen.

There are days that I wish someone would set off an electro-magnetic pulse bomb rendering anything electronic essentially a brick. Our civilization would literally fall apart in the span of a few days though, so it’s not a wish rooted in logic. It’s a wish rooted in frustration, as in “See, technology doesn’t make anything better, none of you can actually hold a conversation to literally save your lives.” Our futures in this world are in jeopardy if we can’t learn to ride the fine line between technology assistance and technology addiction. The Internet was commercially available around 1992, anyone born after that date has never lived without it. What ever happened to learning the hard way first in order to appreciate the easy way second?

No one lives forever

My Dad called me on Monday evening to tell me that my Grandmother had passed away.  I had already known she was not doing well for several months with multiple problems stemming from her life long smoking habit.  My reaction was somewhat cold and it surprised me if I’m being honest.  I felt detached and removed from the whole situation and my expression of emotion mirrored that.

The last time I saw her was over two years ago when I went with my father to visit her in the nursing home.  It was Thanksgiving and it was just the two of us.  My wife had written off the situation as she has strong opinions about nursing homes and due to impressions over 15 years ago, my Grandmother wasn’t her favorite person.  I learned very early what a prejudiced and bigoted person acted like by observing my grandparents.  I was able to look past that and worked to avoid topics that would surface the negativity within both of them.  My wife on the other hand would be the antagonist and get both of them fired up.  Anyway, my recollection of the day is hazy as I found it hard to concentrate.  At this time, she had lost both legs above the knee, couldn’t see anything more than a few inches in front of her and was generally checked out mentally.  We were there over a half hour and had the same conversation four times.

My only real concern on Monday was that my Dad was okay.  He wasn’t.  I could hear him fighting back the choke in the throat that most men get when they’re emotional.  That affected me more than hearing she had passed.  I think my confusing non-emotional reaction threw him off though as he quickly moved onto the planning of the funeral, which is his comfort zone.  I know she wasn’t in any pain when she passed.  She was a horrible mother to both my father and his sister (my Aunt) and routinely abused them verbally and sometimes physically.  His reaction to the events was puzzling until I realized that it was his mother.  That fact will never change regardless of past events.

In the end, when he saw her the most vulnerable, I think he forgave her for past events.  At least that is what I hope happened, otherwise he won’t ever get past this.  I’m not looking forward to the funeral.  One line that sticks in my head ever since I saw it was the movie “A Fault In Our Stars” and it goes:  “Funerals are not for the dead, they’re for the living.”  That makes sense.

Logical

First, sorry for the gap in posts.  This time of year has always been quite chaotic and finding time to sit down and write let alone thinking about what you want to write at the same time is sometimes next to impossible.  With Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in a row without much of a break is tough for almost everyone.  I’m sure anyone with kids can relate completely to what I’m trying to say.

That brings me to my first thought and I’ve been working on this for years.  My career in technology, some 14 years, has turned my thought processes very logical and as a result my actions seem methodical.  I approach most “life things” with that type of logical thinking almost automatically without much thought to it.  For work, which is appropriate, it works fine and lets me get a lot of work done rather quickly.  The problem lies in when I do the same for non-work stuff.  Anyone with a family (all of us) knows that logic often doesn’t apply to most situations and results in descriptive words towards oneself from others like withdrawn, angry, depressed, etc.  Negativity sucks, especially when its not an intention outcome.

What brought me to this brilliant flash of the obvious (pan to head) was the latest problems I’ve had with my brother.  An exact polar opposite of me, generally we never agree with each other and have that pesky stubborn streak from Dad that prevents us from seeing the others point of view.  It’s led to a strained relationship and now that kids are involved on both sides, has led to an isolationist attitude where the line “Well, if he’s not going to come to xyz, then I’m not going to his abc!”  Ridiculous when you actually look back and reflect on it, but in the heat of the moment it seems like the right decision.  Neither one of us wants to be the bigger person and step outside of our boxes and make the first attempt to sort of agree to disagree.  That is, until now.

It’s sad when thinking about it and putting it into words that this point has actually been reached.  One of those things I imagine that we’ll both look back on in 20 years and have a “remember when…” conversation.  But that doesn’t change what I know I need to do to get past it.  I’m willing to forgive the things that has made me angry in the past few years to get us both to this point.  I’m willing to step into a role that doesn’t have my every decision pitted against what exactly he would NOT want me to do.  I’m willing, period.  My fear is that he won’t be willing.  He won’t want to make things better and will immediately become defensive to the point where no progress will be made.  He will be pushed farther away than we already are…..

The worst part of all this is that my parents are stuck in the middle.  Brother is in PA, I’m in PA, parents are in North Carolina.  When they visit, its a battle sometimes to get time with them.  I’ve resorted to falling back on the main reason they’re visiting, and then backing off when it logically doesn’t involve me (see previous comments).  It often makes them think that I’m mad or don’t want to see them, an unfortunate side effect of being knee jerk logical.  I’ve tried to explain it to them, but they’re my parents, all they see is their first born no matter what I try to explain.

Wow, its out of my head and I’m still as confused on what to do next.  Whatever my decision, its going to be soon and definitely before Christmas because stuff like this, once its in my head, doesn’t turn out well when given some festering time.  Depending on how it goes once I do make the final decision, might make it on here.  That is after all the main reason I do this online.  Technology at its finest!