Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Low Tech, Low Fat Kids

My wife and I recently won two tickets to go see the Sacramento Kings play the visiting Portland Trail Blazers at Power Balance Pavilion. Since real babysitters cost money, and both sets of grandparents were out of town, we decided that I would take our seven-year-old, Son Number One, to the game and she would stay home with the other two. Win for me!

They were really good seats, down close to the court, so I was almost as excited as the seven-year-old, but he beat me out on the excite-o-meter since it was his first professional basketball game, and he got to stay up way past his bed time, on a school night, no less.

Almost immediately after we sat down in our seats, I became skeptical about the appropriateness of our surroundings for my son. The rap music that was blaring during the pre-game show contained some language that was less than desirable, and I had to answer some pretty interesting questions about the Kings' cheerleaders’ dance moves. Then there was all the swearing from the stands once the game started. (Actually, that was me. The Kings couldn't get a rebound to save their lives.)

It ended up being an enjoyable evening all around, but it served to reinforce my belief that I need to keep my children insulated from the hip-hop/sultry dancer/foul-mouthed sports fan side of life for as long as possible. There is a lot of trash out there, and it is just waiting to be a major influence on my kids if I let it.

The way I see it, the main way that the trash is attempting to enter my home is through the television and the internet. Technology, in general, seems to be my enemy in the battle to raise mentally and physically healthy children. Technology and fast food seem to be my top two foes. Anyone who has witnessed the crack addiction-like effects of television and French fries on a five-year-old cannot argue that point.

My kids sometimes think I'm being mean when I tell them they can't have a Wii, or can't eat every meal at McDonald’s and Taco Bell, so in an attempt to explain my position, I offer them this:

An open letter to my children

I love you very much, and I want you to grow up to be strong and smart. That is precisely why I have these rules:

You will be the last kid you know to have a cell phone. You don't need one. There will never be any hypothetical emergency situation that you can dream up that will change my mind. For the rest of your life, you will always be within three feet of eight other people's phones. You may get your own phone when you can afford to buy one and the airtime plan to go with it. It will be a flip-phone with no Internet access of any kind. If those are no longer available ten years from now, you will be out of luck.

You will never have an iPhone, an iPad, and iPod, an iTouch, or an iAnything. Apple products are expensive -- arguably overpriced -- and you don't have any money. My money is not for buying you iPads. My money is for buying you heat and shelter and food.

We will never own a Wii, an X-box, a DS, a PS3, or any other random string of letters and numbers denoting a video game console. The reason for this is two-fold. For starters, you get enough screen time as it is, since your mom and I taught you how to turn on the Disney channel in the morning so we could sleep in every once in a while. We're not proud of that, but when you have kids of your own someday, you will understand. I do not want you becoming pasty-white, fat little drooling slobs. At our house, your Wii is the back yard. Secondly, I do not want to spend my money on video games. I know you will get all the video game time you will ever need at your friends' houses, and that is a much more financially prudent solution for me.

You will be allowed to have a Facebook account when you are 18 years old, and not a minute sooner. You will be allowed to use the Internet under strict parental supervision to research school papers and look up cool videos of lions attacking zebras and such, but other than that, it is off-limits. If you need to talk to your friends, you may ride your bike to their house, or talk to them at school. If you are the only kid at your whole school that doesn't have a Facebook or Twitter account, I will take that as a sign that I am doing my job. If you don't like that answer, you may get your own job, your own house, and your own computer, and go crazy.

You have already eaten at more fast food restaurants in your few short years of life than I did in my first eighteen. As much as your mom and I try to avoid them, they are somewhat a fact of life these days, but the food at almost all of them is bad for you. I know it’s delicious, but it will kill you early. That is an important life lesson in and of itself. This is the reason that you have to eat all of your broccoli at home, and you never get soda. You will notice that whenever you complain about eating your vegetables, I smile. That’s because doing my job makes me happy.

In short, in an effort to make sure you grow up healthy and fit, your mom and I will feed you right, and strive to make sure that the only technology you ever own as a child is the GPS tracking device that we will have surgically implanted under your skin to keep track of you in your early teen years. You’re welcome in advance.

With love,

P.S. – No, you may not go get a second opinion from your mother.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!


  1. Marc- If I didn't know that we were related already, our parenting philosophy would confirm it in a heartbeat!! The only one we caved on for a cell phone was Katelyn (last child, only girl) what can I say.

    Loved your blog!

  2. I always knew you were one of my favorite cousins for a reason! Having only boys, I will give you a pass on caving to the high school-aged girl. I would probably do the same thing, although, if I had a daughter I would probably give her a cell phone, a tazer, some pepper spray, and a hand gun.
    Say hi to everyone for me!

  3. great article! I totally disagree with your methods but I appreciate your conviction on the matter. It is important to build a strong relationship with our children that can withstand the pressures of the world, it's a lot like how Jesus views us! Keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks, Andy! I assume that if you totally disagree with my methods, that yours is one of the houses where I can send my kids to get their Wii fix. Is Saturday good for you?
    Thanks for reading!

  5. After 32 years, everything you said it true! And funny!!