The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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December 7, 2012

LEVINE: Technology from the past

CLINTON — The increased use of technology expands every day, and with it, comes a greater ability to connect with more people.

As a parent, though, it becomes difficult to create a balance between broadening our child’s mind with future technologies and maintaining the ability to interact without the assistance of a device.

Sometimes a few blocks sprinkled on the floor is just as good for imagination (even better in most cases) than shoving the iPad on my daughter’s lap and letting her explore the hundreds of apps devoted to furthering education.

My wife and I attempt to keep that balance, although it’s difficult in many cases because of the lure of technology’s glow. But one item that has permeated pop culture like no other since I was child still cannot compete with the old, tried and true models of yesteryear — the telephone.

Sure, my daughter will occasionally watch videos on our phones, but when it’s time to discuss the day’s events with Grandma and Grandpa over the “real” phone, it’s usually one word responses, and then she’s off to causing mischief in another room.

The real conversations between her and the grandparents happen in our basement, on the “kitchen” phone from the days when my wife was playing “house.” She usually sits me down at the table, spreads out a pretend cupcake with a candle, sings “Happy Birthday,” and then tells me to eat my cupcake while she makes a few calls.

She proceeds to punch the numbers in on the old yellow phone next to the microwave, and usually screams “hello,” as loud as she can.

“What are you doing?” my daughter asks.

After pausing, she responds to the phantom question on the other end with, “just hanging out, singing ‘Happy Birthday.’”

Another short break occurs until it’s “goodbye,” and she hangs up the phone, ready to call another grandparent, or Mom, if she’s upstairs or at work.

Every once in awhile, she will get an attentive listener on the other end of her calls, as noticed during a recent trip to the Felix Adler Children’s Discovery Center. A two-way phone is placed in the ambulance and the hospital stations at the Discovery Center, allowing children to call back and forth, and create a fun game where they transport the sick to the hospital.

My daughter was the dispatch service during a recent outing, and didn’t appear to be cut out for that job just yet.

“We have a serious problem over here at the hospital, this girl needs help,” one of the boys said from the hospital site.

“What?” my daughter asked.

“We need help,” the boy responded.

“I want to drive,” my daughter said. “Bye.”

So maybe being an emergency responder needs a little work.

Sometimes my daughter doesn’t even need anything resembling a phone, much like our encounter the other morning when I woke up to her staring at me while I was sleeping.

I was a little freaked out, and so I asked her what she was doing staring at me while I was sleeping.

“My nose is running,” she said, as she quickly grabbed a tissue.

OK, I said, and I told her to venture back into her room until morning arrived (little did I know that it was already her normal wake-up time).

Before she left, she grabbed my head and whispered in my ear, “I’ll call you later and then we’ll  watch movies in bed, OK?”

No more than a few seconds later, she was talking into her monitor in her room, ready to watch “Strawberry Shortcake,” while she attempted to sing the theme song.

Even though most of the younger generation’s noses are stuck in their phones, my wife and I at least have a member of our family still stuck in how things used to be done. And when she gets a little older, I may suggest using this same imagination when she believes she can’t live without a cellphone.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald.

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