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The Politics of Dad’s Screensaver

Take a look at my phone’s background photo, and you get an idea of which child is in my good graces on a particular day or week. I like to rotate often, but little did I know my kids were keeping track — and keeping score.

I frequently change the home screen and lock screen background picture on my phone. The photo might be one of the boys in their football gear or one of the girls at a cheer or dance competition. Or maybe Laurie captured a good shot where the kids’ hair and clothes are looking good and the light catches their smile just right. Other times, I might choose a random photo of the child who is driving me the least insane that particular week.

Until recently, the background was an action shot of Jasmine during a dance performance. She’s performing midcourt at halftime for a basketball game. She might be 8 years old, but to me she looks like the dancer for an NBA team. This pic remained on my phone until yesterday, the afternoon of practice, when I told her to watch a video of her instructor demonstrating some new moves.

It’s too hard!” she huffs. “There’s too many changes.”

“Watch your tone,” I tell her. “Just watch the first five seconds of the video, get that part down, and then watch the next five seconds. You’ll have it mastered in no time.”

“But it’s too hard,” she whines again.

[Self-Test: Could Your Child Have Inattentive ADHD?]

So I give her a talking-to, send her to time out, and tell her when time out is over she is going to watch the video and practice. Then I pick up my phone to text Laurie what has just gone down, see my screensaver, growl in frustration, and change the background.

My current screensaver is Bennett, the 2 year old for whom Laurie has been the full-time nanny since he was born. Bennett sees our kids every day after school, and sometimes spends the weekends at our house. Our kids treat him like a younger brother: playing toys and giving him dum-dum lollipops.

With our youngest, Jasmine, just turning 8 years old, I’ve forgotten how much fun toddlers can be, especially when they’re not my kid. Bennett might throw a tantrum because he doesn’t like his lunch or we forget to zip up his jacket, but these tantrums don’t bother me like when my kids were that age. Obviously because I know he’ll go home soon. I feel the same way when I get overwhelmed by his toys strewn throughout our house, or when won’t take a nap. Well, I think, he’s not my kid.

This is what I imagine being a grandparent is like: swoop in, give out candy and make funny faces and noises, and then, when things start to head south, look at the clock and say, “Well, I think he wants his Mom and Dad.”

[Free Parent Resource: ADHD Discipline Strategies]

Bennett spent this past weekend at our house. And after we dropped him off at home Sunday evening, one of the kids says, “I already miss Bennett.”

“Me too,” I say.

“Yeah,” another kid says to me, “But he still shouldn’t be the screensaver on your phone. I should be.

“Or me,” the third kid says.

“I can’t remember the last time I was on your phone,” the fourth kid says.

I whisper to Laurie, “Are the kids actually arguing about this?”

“Yep,” she says.

Jasmine asks for my phone and takes about a hundred selfies. “There you go, Daddy. You can make one of these your screensaver.”

I scroll through countless pics of Jasmine’s eyes closed, Jasmine mid-sneeze, and Jasmine blurry. But I finally come across one shot where she must have told her siblings to lean in. She got a shot of all four kids smiling. The lighting is perfect, and each of them is giving a genuine smile.

“Look at this perfect shot!” I say to Laurie.

“Wow! That IS perfect,” she says.

“I wanna see,” one of the kids says.

“No give it to me,” another says.

Quickly, a fight breaks out over who wants to hold my phone and see the pic. Meanwhile, I rub my forehead and mentally promise myself I won’t let them ruin my new screensaver.

[Make It a Family Affair]

Updated on April 25, 2019

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