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Local Column

Heimerman: Thoughts on Father’s Day; parenting in digital age

In the Heimerman household, there’s a strategy to getting to do the things you want on Father’s Day.

My wife is with the girls a lot more than I am, so when dad’s around, they tend to cling. I have no problem admitting I’m also the fun parent (not a self-compliment, by any stretch), furthering their desire to be around me.

So after we braved the heat to take the girls on a bike ride and the dogs on a walk Sunday morning, I somehow persuaded them to watch the tail end of the Germany-Mexico World Cup match, under the guise that I’d teach them about soccer during, and that we’d practice in the backyard later.

Here’s the charm of having 4-year-olds: They forgot about that latter promise by the afternoon, and thank goodness, given my fear of heat sickness.

As is typically the starting point when we watch sports together, I told my little Chicharitos who the guys wearing green were (the Mexican players), and who the guys dressed in white were (the Germans), and then explained why there was also a guy clad in red and a guy in orange (the goalkeepers), as well as a guy in yellow (the referee).

Then I explained some of the rules. They cracked up when I explained that they can use their head to hit the ball. I’m here all week, girls. And the week thereafter, and the next …

Then one of my girls asked why something kept switching from blue to red. Baffled, I asked what she was looking at. It took some time, but I finally figured out she was talked about the rotating, digital advertisement beyond the far sideline. We called them runner boards when I tried my darnedest to sell those ads during my time in hockey.

It hit me in the face like a Landon Donovan cross from point-blank range. This is why I’m so torn about watching sports during the day at home, let alone encouraging my girls to sit alongside me and watch along. Sports are as littered with advertisements as anything.

I remember being in middle school (more than 20 years ago – whoa) and being told I was subjected to more than 1,000 ads every day. Can you imagine how much bigger that number is now? Here’s an idea: According to “The Business Journals,” we see more than 4,000 ads every day.

Look, I understand where all this is going. I’m hardly a dinosaur, but there’s a big part of me clinging to the days of my childhood, which saw the advent of Nintendo, but we still used pens, pencils and paper through my college experience.

I’ll concede the fact that my girls will likely be issued a tablet by the time they’re in third grade, and that it will be the most important (tangible) tool in their education.

But I’m not going to say, Well, OK, we’re living in a suddenly uber-digital age, so why bother limiting their exposure to technology.

Call me crunchy, but my favorite activity on Father’s Day was watching their continued mastery of their balance bikes, and then giving them just a touch of assistance to cross the monkey bars.

Watching them swim and make friends at the Hopkins Park pool was a close second. Might have tied for top honor, if I hadn’t been a touch preoccupied with work while I was there.

I’ve got a love-hate relationship with my girls’ demand of, “Dad, watch this.” Sometimes, I wonder if I’m too hands-on, and that they rely too much on my attention and approval (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, after all.). Sometimes, I just want to park it on that park bench and see who’s wishing who a happy Father’s Day, and what they’re up to. But love usually prevails. Most often, I love tucking away that phone and watching every breakthrough with those little girls. It reminds me of being a kid. It keeps me young.

Although being young today looks so very different from just one generation ago.

• Christopher Heimerman is the editor at the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at cheimerman@shawmedia.com.

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