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The Technology Balance: A New Hope

As the “Summer of Mayhem” begins to wind down for my family and I, a few moments were recently taken to reflect upon a slight change in routine that I made towards the end of this unprecedented stretch of family events, weekend getaways, summer BBQs, 2 trips to Chicago, our annual family vacation to the Jersey Shore, an unplanned family event of a sad nature, and finally our boys’ fantasy football draft weekend extravaganza.

This change in routine I was reflecting upon was related to my recent, internal struggle with smartphone addiction.

Earlier in the year I wrote about technology in a broader sense; about how it pertains to my kids and what this instant access to any and all information means for their upbringing.  But recently I started internalizing this issue and wondered about how advancements in technology were affecting me.

Am I a different person now because of this unimpeded access to information and/or the ridiculous ease of communication that is available right in my hand, or more worrisome, my ever-growing reliance on it?

Long story short, such thoughts caused me to bag the cell phone for 90% of our weeklong family vacation (the other 10% was work related), and I have been “struggling” to get back to my previous level of activity ever sense.

The businessman in me lobbies for the smartphone and says that the more efficient and omnipresent I am at all times, the greater success I will have.  The philosopher in me argues that I am missing the here and now by obsessing over where I am going and what’s next.

For better or for worse I didn’t come up with any answers during this reflection, but rather fell back on the trusty belief that, as with anything in life, you need to find the right balance.

For example, as much as I’m starting to rebel against this new wave of technology, it was actually a lifesaver right before my wife and I left for a wedding in Chicago (1 of the 2 aforementioned trips).  My 4-year-old was pretty much losing his mind that we were leaving for the weekend because, well, everything is basically life or death with him right now.  It’s hard to fault him in this case as it was a pretty daunting situation to ask a kid so young, yet also old enough to grasp exactly what was happening, to handle without any sort of emotion.

I started to think of ways to stay in more frequent contact with him during our trip to help ease the separation (the amount of times I wish I was just able to text this kid is downright scary) and all of a sudden a random thought popped into my head – I can not only print to our wireless printer from my fancy phone when in range of our home network, I can also email it, when not in range.

A predetermined email address was given to me during the initial software setup that allows me to send my printer an email, and not only will it print the body of said email, but also anything attached.

I quickly found a picture of our two boys on my phone and emailed it to our printer as sort of a trial run before we actually left the house.  I then asked my oldest to go check the printer and sure enough he came back with 2 pages in his hands, 1 containing the actual email and the other the picture.  He had a big smile on his face at this discovery and I told him to check the printer often for I would send him more pictures all weekend of our trip to Chicago.

And I did.

Reports from his grandparents watching him were that he was beyond excited for these pictures and could barely wait for the next one.  I sent him a picture of the airplane we were about to board when leaving, our rental car upon arrival, random buildings in Chicago, the deep dish pizza we had for lunch, 4 jets flying in tandem from the Chicago Air & Water Show going on that weekend, a fire station in the city, a few pictures of just his Mom and I so he could see our faces, the church where the wedding was held, pictures of the bride and groom, and finally the airplane that would take us home.

With each picture I would also send him a short message in the email about what we were doing and how much we miss him and his brother.  He even made a booklet together with his grandparents to keep all of the pictures together.

All in all, a random grand slam for Daddy and a nod to the power of today’s technology.  Balance is hard.  It’s very easy to go to the extremes, as often seen in our diet and exercise routines as well as the age old work versus play tug-of-war, but finding that sustainable, middle range is the real challenge.

In this particular instance, the scales tip back in favor of technology and its advancement of the ease of communication.  It made my boy happy during a trying time, and that makes me happy.

My hope for the future of humanity is temporarily restored and all is right in the world.

To my incredible readers: My guess is that this balancing act with technology is far from over and that this post will turn out to be the first in a series.  Kindly keep an eye out for more and please share your thoughts and experiences on – The Technology Balance. 

Brad the Dad can be reached at bradmarmo@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter at keyword: readbradthedad

This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 8/26/12.

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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Brad the Dad, Chelmsford Patch

 

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Family Vacation as Told Through 80s Cult Classic Movies

I had to do a double take.

Was that Arizona born Rick Kane learning to surf Oahu’s North Shore despite harassment from local Hawaiians, or was it my oldest son conquering the waves of the Jersey Shore on his new boogie board?

Much like Rick, my son’s background and experience left him completely unprepared for the challenges before him.  Before heading to Hawaii, Rick grew up surfing wave pools in Arizona, while my son’s ocean experience consisted mainly of the cold, unforgiving shores of Southern New Hampshire where one doesn’t last very long in the chilly waters, let alone master its waves.

Fortunately for everyone involved, both stories feature overcoming the odds in the face of adversity by the end.  Rick overcame his outsider status and wave pool background by mastering the North Shore with the help of his wise and knowledgeable teacher, while my oldest mastered the intricacies of balance and timing waves on his boogie board with an equally wise and knowledgeable teacher of his own – me.

Watching him catch waves by himself and rush back out into the surf to do it all over again was a special experience for me that I will never forget.

But none of the above would have been possible if we didn’t rent our favorite beach house to begin with.  Faced with monetary pressure and a few other outside factors, this year’s family vacation was in jeopardy from the start.  Naturally, I asked myself what Hoops McCann would do in this situation.  Would he give up without a fight?  Would he let the evil Beckersted family take over Cassandra’s grandfather’s house and officially ruin what would affectionately become known as One Crazy Summer?

No.  Hoops and the Stork Twins would work tirelessly to save the day just as my brother, sister and I worked tirelessly to raise supplemental funds and coordinate an appropriate week for our family vacation in the face of an extra busy summer schedule.

While there was no epic boat race to end the summer, putting the kids to bed when they know it is the last night of vacation is something of a race to the finish in and of itself.

Speaking of races, a cross-country car race like that in Cannonball Run has nothing on the “race” that our cast of characters had on the way down.  Leaving from Massachusetts with 2 kids and barely 2 inches of vision out the back window above our bags, my wife and I were like J.J. McClure and sidekick Victor Prinzi cruising across the country in their souped-up ambulance as a cover, but in our case, using the guise of a mild mannered nuclear family in an SUV to evade the law.  Unfortunately, Prinzi’s alter ego, Captain Chaos, was played by my youngest son and was not available to get us out of jams, but rather create them.

My newly engaged brother and his fiancee reminded me of those characters played by Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.  Not a care in the world, full of mischief and nothing but the open road in front of them, this pair was only missing a red Ferrari and priest outfits to complete the simile.

Who would have thought that my parents would be the ones to resemble the car driven by Jackie Chan and Michael Hui?  In the movie, these two drove a tricked-out hatchback outfitted with all kinds of computers and gadgets and you honestly never knew when and where they would pop up during the race.  I’m 99% sure I left the mid-journey pit stop of my parent’s house in NJ before they did, but sure enough at some point during the trip we got a text message to beware of traffic at an exit that was at least 5 exits ahead of where we were.  Did they utilize their rocket-powered engine while in stealth mode to shoot right by us on the highway?  I guess I’ll never know.

In the end, it was another epic week on the shores of Southern New Jersey that will never be forgotten.  All movie comparisons aside, spending time with family and friends for an entire week with only the rumble of your stomach to let you know it’s time to stop building sand castles with the kids and grab some food is absolute bliss.

Now, about that extra 15 pounds I gained…

Brad the Dad can be reached at bradmarmo@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter at keyword: readbradthedad

This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 8/13/12.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2012 in Brad the Dad, Chelmsford Patch

 

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