816 Opinion

Emily Parnell: Thanks for those iPads, educators. Now I’ve got another not-so-great idea ... puppies for every kid

Kids can responsibly use an iPad (with some parental supervision) ...
Kids can responsibly use an iPad (with some parental supervision) ... AP FILE PHOTO

Hey, you, powers that be who make big, fat financial decisions about my public schools.

The ones who, amid a budget crisis that has slashed staff and specialists, were able to do the fancy financing needed to provide every single child in your district a brand spankin’ new iPad or laptop. My kids brought their iPads home this week. You should SEE the excitement on the moms’ faces in the parking lot when they see their kids staring at their glorious new iPads on a 72-degree day. To think, just last week, they couldn’t wait to play with their friends on the playground.

Do I have your attention? This one’s for you!

I have another educational idea for you. And guess what, I’m going to go ahead and implement it myself — you guys can be my guinea pigs! We’ll try it out on you and your families. Kids, grandkids, whatever you have. You are going to love it! Open your front door — your special gift is on your front step right now. (Ha ha, just kidding — made you look!)

I’m going to get every single kid in this district a brand new puppy. Can you even imagine how awesome this is going to be? The kids will learn responsibility and kindness, they’ll learn how to scoop poop, how to measure dog food — the benefits will be extraordinary. And every single family will get to have this puppy in their house each night.

Oh, sure, there will be some things you’ll have to do. I’ll spring for a collar and a leash. I’ve struck up a deal with the people who made those iPad cases the kids got. They had some leftover rubber and will make dog collars from them. You’ll just need to provide food. And pay the vet bills. Or you can buy the veterinary insurance.

Here’s the thing you’re really going to pay attention to. The discipline. Puppies are, well, not the brightest. And even grown dogs can’t read. They’re better at playing and you’re going to find that when they’re supposed to be performing their duties, they’ll be wanting to play, play, play.

There will be battles: You’ll have to set rules, then argue about the rules. Then the rules will start seeming blurry because sometimes playing looks like learning and sometimes learning looks like playing. But that’s your problem. You can ban all play, but I guarantee, you’ll be missing out on some of what your new puppy has to offer.

Another word of caution: There are some social implications to watch out for. If your kids hang out with a dog all the time, they may forget how to interact with people. We all know how socially awkward that kid who was raised by wolves turned out. And look at Tarzan — with all the hollering and crazy outfits. And apes are even, arguably, probably better companions than dogs.

You may try to tell me that not all families are right for puppies. Some just don’t have the right personality for a dog. Some kids aren’t ready for the responsibility of taking care of a pet.

There will be daily arguments. Some families will think it would be better to start with a fish and work up to a hamster, then a turtle, and then, oh, who knows what these crazy anti-dog people would want to do?

To all that, I say, “Hogwash! Suck it up! Deal with it.”

Allergies? Oh, well, again, these dogs are going to have to be one size fits all. Even if the dog and your kids don’t get along. The dog might make your kid STARK RAVING MAD, or you might be worried about ADHD or the fine motor skills of handwriting or something lame like that.

Anyway, I see no reason to pay attention to scientific studies. We all know that a runny nose is from bad parenting, not a reaction to some external element. Just like they try to say too much electronics is bad for kids, and many parents claim screen time makes their kids stark raving mad. Bad parents make the lamest excuses.

Are you seriously telling me you don’t want me to bring you a puppy? I already have it — with a bow around its neck and everything.

I’ll tell you what. I have this iPad. They’re cool and all, but my kids didn’t have one already because they aren’t ready. My 8-year-old doesn’t need to learn to instant message; nor should my 10-year-old be required to use electronics we’ve been so diligent to keep him away from during the week.

Yes, I can control my own children. But I don’t want to control them. I want to give them freedom to explore within limits chosen by yours truly. I want to tell them everything they can do, not have to harp on them and install protective software and worry about what they shouldn’t do.

So, fine, I’ll swap you real life for the electronics. Your kids can download a virtual dog.

Mom and freelancer Emily Parnell writes regularly for the 816 editions.

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