Because I Wanted to Play with You
By Tamiko Pettee
Genre: Picture Book
I review a lot of books on Amazon, so periodically self-published authors will reach out to me to ask me to read and review their books as well. I don’t always have time to read longer books, but generally I say yes to children’s books. It’s tough being a self-published writer, and compiling the reviews you need to be included in Amazon’s algorithms is pretty important to your overall success.
Speaking of which: If you’ve read my book What’s that Mom?, but haven’t reviewed it on Amazon yet, please do. Reviews are astoundingly helpful.
Recently, Tamiko Pettee reached out to ask me to review Because I Wanted to Play with You in exchange for a free ebook copy of it. Although I normally restrict these sorts of reviews to my Amazon and Goodreads accounts, I decided to highlight her book on Caterpickles as well. Her deceptively simple little picture book touches on a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
What the book’s about
Jake Hedgehog loves playing with his best friend Sam. But when Sam receives a smartphone from his parents, he loses all interest in playing with Jake. All he ever wants to do is play games on his new phone. No matter how nicely Jake asks, Sam just won’t play with him.
One day, Jake gets so fed up, he hides Sam’s phone so that Sam would be forced to play with him. As you might expect, Jake’s plan doesn’t work out quite the way he’d hoped.
In the end Jake admits what he’s done, returns the phone, and apologizes. Sam forgives him, and in the process, realizes that the people around him are more important than the phone in his hand.
Jake’s solution to this in this book — to steal Sam’s phone — is both believable and obviously a terrible idea. And that makes this book a great conversation starter for parents looking for a way to talk to their kids about balancing their electronic devices with their real world relationships.
But while reading Pettee’s book, I found myself thinking about that scene in the 2009 film adaptation of Coraline where Coraline is doing everything she can to get her parents’ attention, but they are too busy working to notice her. However important Pettee’s reminder that people are more important than electronic devices may be, this isn’t a new issue. And it’s not just a problem for our kids.
How can we teach our kids to put real-world relationships first when we adults also seem more interested in our devices than the people around us?
Here at Caterpickles Central, we’ve been trying to balance our virtual and physical worlds for quite some time. Given what we do for a living, and the world my daughter is likely to step into, it seems pretty important to figure this out.
We’ve started by setting a couple of simple boundaries to protect family time.
1) No phones at meals. We put away our phones when we’re eating as a family. If you absolutely positively have to use one, you ask for an exemption. If everyone agrees, fine. If not, whatever you wanted the phone for has to wait. We’ve been doing this one for years, and I’m pretty happy with how it has worked out overall.
2) One screen at a time. Sometimes we’ll be watching TV, and I’ll glance over and find The (now) Twelve-Year-Old playing games on an iPad. Or glance down, and find myself scrolling through Twitter on my iPhone. Whenever this happens, I can’t help but wonder. If whatever we’re doing on the main screen isn’t worth our full attention, why are we doing it at all? Hence the one screen at a time rule.
These two boundaries are a good start, but not a complete solution. I would love to also limit overall screen time, but in practice I find limiting screen time nearly impossible to do. Most of my daughter’s school work has to be completed online, and she’s started using a computer to write her own stories as well. Which means I can’t tell just by looking at her whether she’s doing homework, working on her latest story, or just chatting on Google docs with her friends.
I can’t always tell what she’s doing any more, but I can tell how many screens she’s using to do it. For now, I’m hoping keeping her to one screen at a time is good enough.
I’d love to hear from you. How do you balance tweens and screens in your house?
Before I forget… A note on availability
Pettee’s ebook does something I’ve never seen before. It restricts downloads to color- and popup-capable e-readers. Which means you’ll be able to download a copy for a Kindle Fire or the Kindle reading app on your iPhone and iPad, but not for a regular black and white Kindle. Fortunately, there’s a print version available for $10.99.