Youth Digital - There Goes Our Morning Routine

We’re in week two of me being home Dad. The first week went pretty smoothly. The morning routine was settled into almost immediately with me getting up at 4 and getting at much writing done before jumping out of my skin when the sound of “DADDY!!!!” echoes through the house. That’s the call for morning cuddles and a carry down the stairs. My heart rate has usually returned to normal and my fight or flight response has abated by the time we make it to the play room. I deposit his cuteness into his morning nest, and turn on the morning baby-sitter (aka PBS Kids) and start making “brekies."

I’d feel guilty about using a screen to keep the boy occupied, but have you seen the quality of children’s television these days? Think about it. You can still find Mr. Rogers on, but that’s about it. Sesame street is still around, but almost none of the segments from back then are being recycled. You know why? Because we were fed a lot of schlock. Or in the case of PBS, we were fed a lot of stuff that the experts at the time thought was “good and educational,” before they did real, longitudinal studies.

Have you seen “Martha Speaks,” or “Word Girl?” They’re better written than all but a couple adult sitcoms I can think of.

Anyway, back to the routine. Petie watches some TV while I make him some breakfast. It’s usually just toast, but at least the bread is home made. I also fire up the Keurig and make Mrs. ‘Struction some coffee. Some mornings, she’s down before I’m done, but lately I’ve delivered her coffee and toast to in bed.

Next comes The Making of The Lunch. Summer camp is providing lunch, so it’s just Mrs. ‘Struction who needs her bag packed. I’ve been sending her off with a reusable insulated tiger bag we got from the zoo with a kid’s meal: very professional. She doesn’t seem to mind, and seems to appreciate the notes I sometimes sneak in.

Then it’s helping Peter get dressed. Admittedly, that’s mostly a matter of throwing clothes at him and saying “get dressed,” but some mornings there are challenges. He’s VERY particular about his socks, and some mornings they are inexplicably wrong. Just wrong. There’s no other word for it. There is some fiber, or placement of a seam that he just can’t tolerate. This can be a real problem toward the end of the week, or when I haven’t sorted the laundry enough to ensure readily available backup socks. There are some mornings where it seams like there just is no sock in the world that doesn’t threaten to reduce his feet to bloody stumps within minutes if he didn’t whip them off. That’s what I infer from his reactions anyway. There is apparently some trick that Mrs ‘Struction knows to easing the socks on and “smoothing” them out, but I haven’t learned it yet.

The final ritual we’ve had is The Application of The Sunscream. That’s what we call it in this house anyway. It’s gotten better since he got old enough for Mrs ‘Struction to explain very calmly, while pointing to a mole on my back, that "Daddy’s going to have to have that cut off. It’s because he didn’t always put on sunscreen when he was your age.”

“Will it hurt?”

“Yes. A lot.”

Thanks. A lot. Like I said, things are better now, but it’s still not a pleasant experience. Can I just say that spray on sunscreen is a lifesaver? I mean, possibly literally since it lets us get it on him in sufficient quantities. Ditto with the big sticks. There’s much less struggle getting sunscreen onto his face with those. We’d use the sticks for his whole body if they weren’t so expensive.

Now for the disruption. We heard about Youth Digital from Julia. They have a set of online courses targeted to children, including modding Mincraft, app design, animation, and 3D modeling. We mentioned it to the boy, showed him the videos on their website, and got an enthusiastic response. Later we parents had a bit of a conference and decide that at seven, he was a bit under their recommended age, and given that he still has some anxiety about his reading skills (which are actually better than he gives himself credit for), maybe we should wait a year. Besides, we’re trying to be conservative with money until we have a good idea how this whole one-paycheck-family thing works out.

Later, the the boy came to me with big soulful eyes. “Remember those classes you can take to make Minecraft Mods? I really, really, REALLY want to take it.” We had a talk about being patient because he wasn’t going to be making a mod the first day, and that he couldn’t freak out about having to type in long words (God! Java’s verbose!) or getting errors. He was very insistent that he could be patient and that he’d be good. We also agreed that some of his allowance money would cover part of the course.

So I pretty much completely caved. I caved hard. I signed him up and and set up the login on Mrs ’Struction MacBook Air that he’s pretty much adopted. We showed him the first introductory video just before bed. I think he vibrated himself to sleep.

Which brings us to this morning. It started like usual. I was up at four with my hot, slightly sweet tea doing my best to get my main character from point A to point B without making it too obvious. It wasn’t flowing, but I managed to slog on and started making real progress. At 5:45, there was a soft footfall behind me.

“Hi Daddy.” That was it. Just a matter of fact greeting. No yelling, No racing heart, apart from the brief moment of suddenly realizing that there was an unexpected person RIGHT BEHIND ME!

“Hi. You’re up early.”

“I woke myself up so I could have more time to take the class.”

And that was the rest of my morning. We took the laptop downstairs to his morning nest, and made our way through the videos in lesson one. He still needs a bit of help navigating the menus, so I think I’ll be learning how to Mod as well. Still, in the end, he took the quiz by himself and earned 4 points. I could hear the sound of “YES!” coming from the other room while I hurriedly and belated made breakfast. I managed to get breakfast into him, although I burned the toast bit. He also didn’t leave the house naked, although I think Mrs “Struction deserves more credit for that.

This evening he came in and immediately proceeded to do “The Java Dance.” The musical accompaniment, which goes

Java Java Java!
Java Java Java!
…

sounds suspiciously like the Super Mario Brothers Underground Theme.

I’ll have a more informed review when I’ve had more time with. All I can say right now is that Youth Digital seems like an amazing resource with a fun instructor and nice bite-sized lessons.