Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A boy and his free iPad

"I want red iPad," Jackson announces. Not so much a request as a demand.

"I want red iPad."

We do have an iPad, a mini, but Jack wants our Kindle in a red case. They're all iPads to him. Sometimes, he tries to swipe on the television screen.

"I want red iPad. Please." Upping the ante.

The mini is supposed to be my toy. 

I'm ignoring him. There's an orange dump truck on the floor, a yellow digger askew in the truck bed. Three books all about Thomas the Tank Engine, one even has a steering wheel and makes chugging noises and horn toots are on the coffee table. Haydn's trumpet concerto in Eb Major plays in the background, because he declared "I want trumpet music." He's gripping a plastic trumpet in his hand. A blue and green Duplo Lego garbage truck rests on top of a chair cushion. Two toddler laptops sit open on the storage bench next to him.

Enjoying an app on the iPad
Enjoying the antics of the "Talking Ben" app.
We blame Grammar. She got him hooked.

I'm sitting on the couch. He climbs into my lap. He must want to cuddle.

Not exactly.

He cups his hand on the outside of my shoulder, looks deeply into my eyes, just inches from my face Coach instructing his player needing to explain, earnestly, ever so earnestly, he knows I'm slow on the uptake and he must help me understand: "Dad. Dad. I want red iPad."

So I've gathered.

Grammar and Jackson playing on her iPad
Creating a contraption.
We limit his screen time. Many days, even weeks, he doesn't see an iPad or Kindle at all. Sometimes he gets just a few minutes at a time. Averaged over a week he gets less than an hour of screen time a day (tablet or television), though he might hear music played over the telly or watch a few minutes of football or ballet or a travel show. I keep track of his usage to make sure it's limited. I'm actually kinda old school when it comes to his toys wooden trains, Play-Doh, balls, Legos, sticks and rocks so he doesn't garner much sympathy if he's whining for a tablet.

On the iPad at the Church of the Holy Rude
Kate and Nana admire the Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling.
Jackson completes a puzzle.
But there are times when the Kindle and iPad get a workout. Tablets have to be among the greatest, perhaps the greatest, sightseeing tools that parents could ever hope for. We strap the boy into his stroller, hand him an iPad, and can pretty much count on half an hour, an hour, or even more of uninterrupted time to see the sights. He'll play alphabet games, do puzzles, watch an animated movie, or swipe through pictures; meanwhile, we can gaze at a painting, admire an exhibit, or tour a building while actually paying attention to the sight we came to see. It also keeps him contentedly quiet in buildings where quiet is expected, such as art museums and cathedrals. So it's a tool that not only helps us as parents, but one that helps all the other patrons enjoy their experiences, as well.

Playing on the iPad mini at Salisbury Cathedral
Position Jack at an intersection of the nave and transept (like here at Salisbury Cathedral),
then wander freely while still keeping an eye on him.
It's not foolproof, of course. There are times when he wants to walk and wander, or demands to be carried in our arms. Sometimes he'd rather hold a toy. On occasion, he's even interested at looking at the pretty paintings or observing whatever has caught our attention.

When I'm touristing on my own with Jackson, he'll be playing a game on the Kindle or iPad and I'll get compliments about how well-behaved he is. Umm, lady, of course he's well-behaved. He has a stupor-inducing toy in his hands. I think they just appreciate that he's quiet and not disturbing their visit.

On a visit to the Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh, the staff/guards in every room were watching, eyeballing the iPad, peering at what had him so captivated. They were communicating via earpieces, telling the next room to take a look at this kid. They were paying so close attention that I actually overheard one of them say, "He's not playing with a car game now. It looks like a puzzle." When I glanced at the guard he pretended not to notice.

At Westminster Abbey, entire groups of people stopped to watch him as we slowly wheeled down the aisle. One guide stopped mid-explanation because her Japanese tour group had turned its attention to Jackson and his iPad. Several took pictures of Jack, even though photographs aren't allowed inside the cathedral.

We also unleash the Kindle and iPad on days where we have long periods of travel. That might be a train, a plane, or an automobile. Maybe even a ferry boat. Usually, we try to keep him occupied as long as possible with toys, snacks, coloring, or other activities before the big guns come out; once a tablet is opened, everything else pales in comparison.

Watching a movie on a Kindle on the Jacobite Steam Train
Watching The Lion King on a train in the highlands.
Completing a puzzle on the Kindle on a Cal Mac ferry
Completing a puzzle while riding a Cal Mac ferry between the Isle of Skye and Mallaig.
Watching the Kindle in the car
Get out of my seat after three hours in the car?
No, thanks. I'll stay here and play an alphabet game.
Sometimes we bring an iPad or Kindle to restaurants, particularly if we're eating with friends or if the restaurant is a quieter/fancier establishment. We can converse with adults, and other customers can eat, without an earful of boisterous toddler. We don't allow tablets while we're eating, so these are quick breaks to tame the squirmy beast.

Occupied with a Kindle at a restaurant
Dining at the Firebird in Glasgow. Coloring got rejected.
Looking at pictures won ten minutes of adult conversation before the entrees.
It was at a brunch with some of Kate's colleagues that Jackson dropped the iPad. It simply slipped off his lap. Struck the metal table leg with a crack! that paused all of us.

We knew. Didn't have to look at it. Folks around the table waited for our reaction.

We shrugged.

We were expecting it to happen. In fact, we were surprised it took so long for the iPad or Kindle to suffer an injury. Both had suffered drops before, though only a couple. Jack is fairly careful while handling them. He just doesn't yet have sufficient coordination to always meet his intentions.

Cracked screen on our iPad mini
Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
Since we expected mishaps, we had gone ahead and bought Apple's repair warranty for the iPad. I'm typically a hater of such extended warranty offers; they're usually not good value for a microwave or television or some other appliance. But we knew the iPad would be in regular jeopardy. The AppleCare plan allows two events requiring complete repair or replacement of the iPad, during a two year period. We just need to pay a $50 charge. Warranty purchased!

Lounging with the Kindle
Lounging in an IKEA shopping cart. Mommy is so slow.
Then came the hard part. Our warranty was purchased in the States. Technically, it was not valid in the U.K. Oy vey. An epically-lengthy phone call to Apple's customer service in the U.S. you would think this scenario had arisen before, and wouldn't require multiple consultations with managers resulted in telling us that we could mail it to my parents in the U.S., who would then mail it to Apple, who would then mail a repaired/replaced iPad to my parents, who would then mail it to us. Of course, by the time we paid those shipping charges, we could pretty much buy a new iPad.

So I headed to the Apple store in Glasgow. After a few minutes of discussion, they replaced the iPad on the spot. Took all of our data and apps and photos off the old iPad and loaded them onto the new one. Took less than half an hour. And, amazingly, they didn't charge us for it. I offered to pay. It was refused. I pointed out that I ought to pay something. They refused. They'd get credit for it in their system, I was told. Well, okay then.

And so we headed out the door with a free iPad.

Our tablet use has continued without much adjustment. Jackson now understands they're fragile; he makes no complaint if we insist on them being secure. The iPad and Kindle help us shop, or keep occupied before the building opens, or wait for a haircut. Santa is going to add a LeapPad into the mix this Christmas; we'll see if it passes muster.

Enjoying the new free iPad
Keeping busy while Kate and Grammar have tea at the Botanic Gardens.
Free iPad in use
Awaiting a haircut.
"Daddy. I want red iPad. Daddy. Daddy. I need red iPad."

The word "need" has become synonymous with "want" in Jack's vocabulary. At this age, anything he wants is, irrefutably, a need.

"Jackson, I have an idea." His grin collapses. It's not yet a pout, but it's in ready position. "Let's hit balls with the spatulas."

He smiles. Smashing things with blunt instruments is a favorite pastime, but often pooh-poohed indoors because, y'know, stop hitting the table, stop hitting the wall, stop hitting the dog, and so on.

"Hit ball!" The excitement level rises. The iPad is forgotten.

Old school.

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