I have really had enough of it. I hate the amount of screen time my children are engaging in lately and when I look at them, I am pretty sure I can see their heads shrivelling with the lack of brain activity.
“Right!” I tell them, “Put Dad’s phone away, it’s bath time.”
I put The Baby in the bath and as I wash him I call a family conference. “Ok! I want every person in this house to come in here, please.”
Slowly they assemble and the children reluctantly get into the tub. “Listen up,” I tell them, “I am about to say something that I know none of you will like, and it goes a little something like this: For the next week, there will be NO playing on cell phones, no other electronic games, and the television will only be on when I say so. Do you all understand?”
They stare at me like I have grown another head.
But then, I can just about see the sound waves as the bathroom suddenly reverberates with an ear-splitting screech from Thing 2. Every last drop of blood in his body floods his waif-like face.
“YOU!” he screams, irate, “You always say we have to stop staring at screens! You are not allowed to take them away from us!”
“I am and I am,” I state, holding my ground.
I watch with fascination as my offspring begin to thrash wildly in the bath, howling and grabbing at their own skin. Wow, these little addicts sure don’t like being denied their fix.
“We’re NOT going to use our imagination!” Thing 2, the self-appointed spokesman warns me, “And… and I am going to call the police and make them take you to jail!”
Behind me, Thomas starts to laugh and Mr 5 rounds on him angrily, “You can go to jail too, but leave your phone here,” he tells his father.
“Cool!” I say cheerfully, “And then what?”
“And then… you will stay there and we will get in the car and go down to the fish and chip shop and get fish and chips.” Thing 1 says, starting to calm with the formation of a plan.
“You can’t see out of the front window or reach the pedals,” I remind him.
“Oh. Well… we will walk,” Mr 5 looks smug.
“What money will you use?”
Thing 2 has it all worked out. “The money in our money tins!” he exclaims, “And then we will come back here, and we’ll EAT OUR DINNER ALL UP!” He makes some chewing motions and rubs his bare belly.
“Oh, ok. And then what?” I want to see where this will lead them.
As the three of them lick their chops, imagining their greasy meal, the plans unfold. They will eat their dinner and go to bed. No, wait! There are no adults about, so they will play on their dad’s phone and stay up all night every night, only sleeping during the day like “Octurnal animals”, according to Mr 5.
“And then what?”
“And then the next day we will eat everything in the cupboards and fridge, and we will eat everything we like. Especially all the salty and sugary foods that you only let us have as a treat.” More lip-smacking.
“AND,” Thing 2 tells me, “We will drink up ALL the milk!”
“And then what, when you run out of food?” I love to prod their little minds.
“And then we will go to McDonalds!”
Seriously? Do these children SERIOUSLY think of nothing but junk food?
“Aah. But you used all your money on fish and chips,” I say, “What about paying the bills?”
“Oh we’re children. We don’t pay bills.” Mr 5 rolls his eyes at the ridiculousness of it.
“That’s ok, no big deal, they will just cut the power off,” I tell them, “You don’t really need the lights anyway, right?”
“You’ll have to have a bath in the dark,” Thomas adds.
“But it will be cold, without electricity to heat the water,” I shrug. “Oh. And the heating in the rest of the house won’t work either. And you’ll be getting hungry.”
They stare at me quietly for the longest time, and then Mr 5 slowly says…
“All right then, we don’t have to stare at screens. You can stay.”
Thing 1 and Thing 2 nod their agreement.
“Well isn’t that lucky for you?” I say, “I was just about to make dinner.”
I stand up to leave the now quiet bathroom.
Parents: One. Children: Nil.
Thomas high-fives me on my way out the door.