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The Parenting App

February 3, 2011

For years, I couldn’t deal with iTunes. There had been a large technological revolution and because I couldn’t remember my password, or manage to get my operating system upgraded, I couldn’t participate. I mean, I even had an iPhone and couldn’t manage to knuckle down enough to get apps. Aside from being slightly ashamed, I didn’t care all that much: the phone alone is pretty amazing. I didn’t need to make it into a mirror or a cowbell or a flashlight to be a happy human.

(Not that I am always happy, but I don’t know that those things would help me out, long term. Not like a pair of boots might.)

Recently I got a new computer. With it came a new operating system, and I became determined to figure out apps.

I’d heard of some amazing ones. My friend Mark has an app wherein, if you put your phone under your pillow, it will map out your REM cycles based on how much you move around while you are sleeping on that pillow. Once the phone is charting your sleep cycles, you can ask it to wake you up in a more humane way than a standard alarm clock would, and even a more humane way than another human would.

That’s because people and clocks normally wake you up according to what time it is, or because they need you to be awake. But the phone would wake you up at a shallower point in your sleep cycle when it would be less jarring and painful and exhausting to wake up. (Yes: the app is basically the opposite of a child.) Simply by giving the phone a window during which it can wake you up, rather than an exact time, you can start every day fresh and clear-headed and happy! And get right to work on examining your REM cycles, like Mark does.

I thought that this sounded brilliant. What a scheme!

Then I talked with his wife about it. These discussions happened, in fact, right before she had their second baby.

Meg loves Mark. She knows he works hard! Yet she was driven insane by this system because it is his job to get their older child ready for and off to school. He can’t do that if he doesn’t get up because his phone is being so deeply respectful of his sleep cycles—more respectful than necessarily makes sense if you are the other parent.

I can’t really put my finger on why I found this story so wonderful. For one, I guess that it illustrates a relationship situation in 3D. Since it is not my relationship problem, I got to benefit from all of the funny and none of the actual frustration. Thanks for the laughs, Meg and Mark!

It illuminates some key things about marriage, and how marriage and even more than marriage, parenthood forces two independent people to do things in tandem. Not only do you have to be with your child all of the time, you have to be coordinated with your spouse all of the time.

Let’s say that marriage is cozy. It’s like a cozy hug! Parenthood and the attendant work and responsibilities and lack of time comes along, and can up the ante into a low-grade smother. Okay, that sounds terrible. Let’s say that it’s like a three-legged race. Overall, the forced coordination and teamwork that parenthood spawns is, like your actual spawn, a really amazing gift. It’s like why dinner parties are so much better than other parties: you are forced to sit next to someone and really get to know them, and that can be pretty excellent, whereas at a normal party, if someone isn’t forced to endure your company by dint of sitting next to you, you or they might float away and not experience the same level of interaction, which usually ends up being pretty great.

So yes, parenting can be excellent and rewarding on many days. But on other days, it is like having your leg tied to someone else’s leg. I already said that, but that’s part of the point. You do not get to untie your damn leg from my damn leg in order to escape my hackneyed metaphors. And that app you love so much? It’s cramping my style.

I asked Meg if I could write about the sleeping app here. She said sure, though she confessed a “scandalous caveat”: she is now obsessed with the app, too. She admitted to being afflicted with the zeal of the converted just before offering to send me one of her sleep graphs.

She also told me that Mark recently shared his concern with her that I’d violated the sanctity of marriage when I publicly implied that Matthew undersalts the pasta water. And that in doing so, Mark also managed to indict her for undersalting their pasta water for the last 15 years.

If “they” can make a sleep app, surely “they” could make a salting app. As for a marriage and parenting app, it’s probably in development. It’s too complicated, though. When it comes out, it will only have 2 stars and it will cost like $3.99. Apps for patience and laughing are more likely the way to go.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2011 6:55 pm

    i love this post so much i want to make it an app all itself! the how to be honest without being whiny app — i wish i could do it!

  2. Hillery H permalink
    February 4, 2011 9:16 am

    I totally think of you (which is weird since we haven’t technically met yet) every time I salt my pasta water now – I say to myself encouragingly, “salty, like the salty sea.” Great post 🙂

  3. meg permalink
    February 4, 2011 10:35 am

    You’re welcome! The app usefully doubles as my martyrdom app, as the many violent spikes out of deep sleep represent how many times a night the children wake me.

  4. Amy permalink
    February 5, 2011 8:05 pm

    This is great, Meredith. Just great. And I’ve never even seen an app! I just like the 3D relationship, three-legged race stuff.

  5. Michelle permalink
    February 6, 2011 12:39 pm

    One of your best, Meredith. It made me feel great about sleeping and marriage and things that are funny to other people, or later on in the week, but NOT AT ALL funny while you are discussing them with that annoying person tied to your leg. LOVE!

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