A Tale of Two Numbers

Numbers populate the world of the Parent Imperfect.

4370–This is, of course, the total number of pages in the seven books of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Connie decided to discover this number right after she finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. She had completed the series just in time for the opening of the much-awaited film of the same name. She will join the throngs viewing the film today, along with a group of cousins and friends from school.

The Parent Imperfect can wish it wasn’t so, but the fact is that this unmatched example of global mass culture has played an important role in the development of Ms. Connie and her brother. The series took hold of Vince’s imagination at a moment in third grade when the challenges of reading were becoming a big issue for him. Over time, his immersion into the world of Harry, Hagrid, Hermione, hoarcruxes  and Hogwarts certainly helped him overcome whatever obstacle to reading had inhabited his brain. It wasn’ t just Rowling’s ravings (his excellent third-grade teachers also had a lot to do with it), but the power of the spell cast by these books was at least as powerful as “Expeliaramus!”

The books languished in a dusty pile for years as Connie showed no interest in them. But something motivated her to pick up the first one, and she was hooked. She made it through all 4370 in less than 8 months and at the end of it she created “A Hogwarts Halloween” for her ninth birthday party.

6781–This number, not unlike the number of Potter pages, represents the number of SMS text messages that passed into or out of Vince’s phone during the month of October. How much his world has changed since he put down the last of the Harry Potter books!

Text messages and Facebook define communication among Vince and his peers. Many of his friends most certainly reach a higher number of messages each month than Vince does.

For Vince, this number represents 6871 times that he broke with his immediate spatial reality to connect with someone outside of it. He is often much more focused on the next message than the thing that the person in front of him is about to say (especially when that someone is the PI). More than a few of these messages carry an after-midnight time stamp, so they interrupt sleep, as well.

Many of his friends seem to have the executive functions to multi-task in this way quite easily. The PI can’t imagine how this works. For Vince, howevcer, these are 6871 distractions from the here and now that can be hard to recover from. In many cases, the here and now becomes the SMS interchange.

The arrival of the first grade report from the nation’s oldest public school provided the perfect occasion for the frustrated parents to remove the phone during homework periods and at bedtime. By coincidence, a serious Facebook incident among his friends prompted Vince to suspend his account, as well (“I can’t deal with the drama”). The positive results of the partial fast have appeared almost immediately, but the text disturbance is far from over.



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2 responses to “A Tale of Two Numbers

  1. Heidi B

    Great blog! I worry about young people being so hooked into technology they may miss learning to develop real personal relationships with meaningful interactions. Can they stand 2 seconds to be in the actual “here & now” and enjoy the moment… do they actually ever get to know themselves without being bombarded by technology, media, friends input & opinions?? Adults are just as bad but at least there was a part of their development (way back in the dark ages) when they talked to real people with real language, not the shorthand (although I understand even in Shakespeare’s day they had a sort of shorthand similar to our current texting shorthand) , unemotional text of today. Boy do I sound like a grandmother or what??

    Be proud Vince made the very mature decision to separate himself from FB even if it was a fleeting removal. One of my teen students impressed me by making that same decision when she realized she was becoming obsessed and didn’t have enough time for homework. Alas, I have faith in these youngsters who will lead us into the future… a future with a hopefully healthy “marriage” of technology and meaningful relationships.

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