“Mom! iPad Angry Birds?” – my two year old this morning

I remember the first time I played Angry Birds.  I was on the floor next to my two year old’s crib, hoping he’d fall asleep fast.  I had so much to do, but he won’t fall asleep without me laying there.  I borrowed my husband’s iPhone to check Facebook.  Up to this point, I had avoided playing Angry Birds.  I’m not a fan of video games, mostly because I’m not very good at them.  But it was a quite night on Facebook, and I was desperately trying to stay awake in the dark.  So I played.

I stunk at it.

So I played again.  And again.  And again until I beat that first level.

An hour passed.  My son was long asleep.  I was still playing.

The rush I felt that night was one that I had not felt in a while.  It wasn’t addiction or compulsion.  I could walk away.

It was more a sense of…accomplishment.  For the first time in a long time, I was feeling like I finished something.

A lifetime ago when I used to work outside the home, I had that feeling all of the time.  I would start a project and see it to completion.  The accolades and rewards would come in with a “job well done” from my boss.  Then I’d be assigned a new project, have more responsibilities, and see that through as well.  The reviews would come in, and I’d feel great.

At home, my sense of immediate accomplishment is non-existent.  Yes, I know I’m raising three incredible boys.  All this hard work will pay off many many years from now, when they become great citizens of the world.  But right now, there’s no instant feedback loop for me.  I do a load of laundry, there’s four more right behind it.  I clean one room, there’s five more that need attention.  I pick up 50 Hot Wheels cars, and in 10 minutes I’m stepping on them again.  I cook one meal, and there’s four people complaining about it.

But with Angry Birds?  I knock down those towers and crush those pigs.  I get a “yippee!” from the remaining birds, three bright yellow stars, and sometimes if I’m lucky, a new high score.  And a new level unlocks with a new challenge, and I do it all over again.

It’s not just me that’s getting this sense of accomplishment from Angry Birds.  One of Howie’s goals on his IEP from the beginning has been about game play.  Taking turns is incredibly difficult for him.  He cannot stand to lose.  I can’t tell you how many times his log sheet comes home with “Howie had a hard time when he lost at Candyland (or insert any board game here).”  He has a meltdown when he loses a running race, a car race, or just a race up the stairs.

But with Angry Birds?  No meltdown.  He just plays and plays and plays until he gets it right.  And then sometimes he’ll play the same level again just to get the score higher.  Or to knock down a watermelon.  Or capture a golden egg.

It’s been a wonder to watch him play.  It’s teaching him game play skills that he wasn’t getting from a regular board game.  He shares the iPad and takes turns playing levels with his younger brother. And we’re seeing it translate at home into better sportsmanship with his both of his brothers.

Not great, but better.

I know there’s a lot of naysayers about this new technology.  Some say it brings us one more level removed from each other.  Others worry that our kids have unfettered access to inappropriate content on the internet.  To them I say that I’m still my kids’ parent.  I set limits and watch what they do.

But keep the technology from them completely?  Not a chance.

Not when my five year old is learning physics and game play from Angry Birds.

Not when my nine year old uses the Pages app to write a one page paper on the American Revolution based on what he learned in school that day.  Unprompted.

Not when my two year old is using apps like Speech With Milo to help him pronounce words or Tally Tots to learn how to count to twenty.

Not when my friend’s son with autism was able to use his iPod Touch to tell his preschool teacher his favorite thing about her FOR THE FIRST TIME.  In front of the whole class and a room full of parents.

So if you need me, I’ll be on the couch with my boys and our iPad.  You might find us drawing a picture, listening to a story, or taking turns with a game.  Together.

And that is quite an accomplishment.

angry birds

"Mom! I got three stars and beat your high score! And I didn't even use the MIghty Eagle!"

If I stayed here with you, girl
Things just couldn’t be the same
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird, you’ll can not change
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

And the bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change
Lord knows, I can?t change” – Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd

This post was written as part of the Best of the Best edition 7 of the S-O-S Research Blog