A Good Friday
Why Raising Our Lovely Boy Can Be Really, Really Hard

In Which Charlie's iPad Takes on Water

Two iPads

There are many things that make Charlie not your typical almost-14-year-old American male. One of these is his decided preference for things that are his own, however beat-up, broken, worn down, non-working they may be.

The green shirt (which I've been calling 'string cheese' as that's all about that remains of it) and the brown pants are a good example. Charlie has stacks of soft t-shirts and comfy-loose pants, some new and barely worn, but given a choice, he'd most likely request the raggedy shirt and pants (which appear to be much more indestructible---not a thread hanging loose). As I've written, getting him to wear 'something else' besides the green shirt/brown pants combo has been the project of the past few months as his response to changing has been one of vehement opposition.

Over these days of Spring Break, Charlie has been very easy-going about wearing other clothes for some part of the day, and changing back into the green/brown 'uniform.' For the past few months, he had been adamant that he would only wear the green and the brown when at home, for the whole weekend and after school and I had to sneak them away at night to wash them. But lately he has been handing me the clothes with a 'give , Mom' and a smile, or piling them neatly in the laundry basket.

If Charlie did care about such things as the latest in sneaker fashion or denims, he would not be the one standing all day in line to get the hot new Air Jordans.

So when, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, Charlie was presented with a not new but shiny iPad full-loaded with his favorite albums and lots of photos, and with his smudged and malfunctioning iPad, he made it very clear that he wanted nothing to do with the shiny one and brought the kitchen garbage can to my desk so we could throw 'the other iPad' away.

The shiny 'other' iPad is actually mine. Friday night, Charlie's got a good soaking in our bathroom. He had major thymic trouble that had caused him in the morning to jump, howl, knock his head on us and the furniture, and seem desperate for deep pressure. These are, we have (finally) learned, signs of severe stomachache as a result of constipation so when, after getting through the morning storm, biking over 20 miles, and demanding one food item after the next, Jim and I heard Charlie in our (one and only) upstairs bathroom, we felt a collective family sigh of relief. 

Charlie has become insistent on showering on his own, with minimal parental reminders about soap, shampoo, and scrubbing. He often likes to take long showers (he remains a boy who dearly loves the water) and likes his privacy. We did hear the water running for quite a longer time than usual while various Disney and Kinks songs played. 

When I went up the stairs because it had really been awhile, I found the bathtub nearly filled and 'various' that one doesn't expect to find in the tub therein. I also discovered, neatly placed on the dripping wet counter, a dripping wet iPad.

I immediately took apart the case, which was wet all through. With Charlie looking on nervously, I snatched up a towel and starting drying things up, while keeping it 'peaceful-easy' so Charlie wouldn't be alarmed. He must have been feeling much better about his stomach and got himself dressed and asked for a walk. Jim went with him and I started bailing out the bathtub.

Otterbox deconstructed

Charlie and Jim returned and the first thing Charlie asked for was his iPad. Ase all soon realized, something was very wrong, as songs stopped and started in mid-syllable, apps opened and closed without a single finger swipe, and Charlie's beloved photos froze the screen. He would not relinquish the iPad so plopping it in the recommended rice-immersion was going to have to wait.

By that point, there were only a few inches of water in the tub but it was clearly not draining. We have been through quite a few plumbers' visits, most involving the toilet and something that Charlie had put into it (like the dupo Lego piece that made it as far as a pipe in the basement by the washing machine until it created severe plumbing havoc). We have a few plumbing tools which work to varying degrees (as I said, we have one bathroom in our house and plumbers' bills add up fast). We've also learned that excessive franticness about non-working household appliances is a sure way to get Charlie extremely excited and then anxious, and then really upset. We we have learned to lowkey such things (and to wish we had bought a house with at least a half-more bathroom; hindsight always hurts).

Charlie was tired after everything and went to sleep, iPad beside him. Jim and I set down the bucket and the rubber gloves and both sat down at our computers, Jim to read the news and me with one intent: Turning my iPad into a replica of Charlie's.

This should have been easy except the computer that I've been using to sync to Charlie's iPad is in a rather less-than-well-functioning-state and may indeed be finally beyond what the Genius Bar can do. I had stored a lot of photos and music on am external hard drive and started going through all that and then going online to download some of Charlie's much-beloved music. I also dug out the CDs---the Kinks Kronicles, the five-different-colored albums of Disney's Greatest Hits---that are Charlie's top favorites of late and started copying them onto Jim's computer (mine has no DVD/CD drive and, alas, I had not yet copied my files of those albums onto my hard drive). I found album art and added it to the Kinks and Disney files in iTunes. The album covers have proved all-important for Charlie, who has been fascinated that he can just tap an icon (of an album cover) on his iPad to pull up whatever music he wants.

Charlie and Jim were sound asleep when I finished downloading and installing everything onto my iPad, made a few more attempts to deplug the bathtub drain (no luck), and blogged about the New York Times Magazine's article on Andrew Wakefield (yes, that is one way I deal with stress).

Rainy morning ride

Rain was predicted for all of Saturday. Jim and  I woke up to hear (happily) Charlie's iPad playing. After some back and forth about who would call the plumber, we made a few more attempts at the tub drain and then I heard a low gurgle somewhere deep down: Success!

Well, partial success. In the course of the going in and out and soothing Charlie's anxieties about having to wait one more day to go back to school on Monday---he has already backed his lunchboxes and set them in the refrigerator---the iPad (which he was watching really closely lest devious Mom try to sneak the other iPad his way) took on some water again. I tried taking off its case and putting it on the other one but Charlie made it clear I had better take that case off immediately and stick it back on his iPad. (He used lots of the word 'give,' which is a sort of fallback verb for Charlie with meanings of 'take it,' 'do this,' 'get it away from me,' and, yes, 'give.') I turned on the other iPad and showed Charlie the photos and music on it and still got a forceful 'no' coupled with 'bye, Mom.'

This boy accepts no replacements. None. At. All.

For the rest of the day, there definitely seemed to be a 'ghost in the machine,' as photos on Charlie's iPad turned on without a touch; certain songs kept repeating over, over and over; the screen froze so often Charlie kept asking me for help (I had to turn the iPad off and on several times).

After first thinking we should bring the iPad into the Genius Bar at the Apple store forthwith, Jim and I have concluded, it might be best to wait. The iPad does sort of work and Charlie has been showing the patience and focus he can have it getting it do so. There was one point around 4pm when, after tapping and swiping away with no results, Charlie burst into tears, but that was the extent of how he showed how upset he was.

So I have now been spending too much time looking at waterproof cases for the iPad. I've found one that looks promising but it's not due out till the summer. Some of the other waterproof cases look pretty much like mega-Ziplocs and I have a feeling that Charlie will yank them off with a definite 'give' but it would be good to have one should he (as he sometimes does now) want to take the iPad on one of our walks, and rain is likely.

As Jim and Charlie went out for bike ride #3 just as the sun (which had made a faint and welcome appearance in the later afternoon) was starting to go down, Jim reminded me of how balky Charlie is about riding a new bike, even if the new one is the same color and model as his old one. 'He adapts,' Jim said. 

I've concluded, the best thing to do is to get another Otterbox case for the other iPad and just keep it at the ready for when Charlie's conks out. He's gotten so much enjoyment from the iPad, of course he's distressed at the thought of having to give it up.

Good thing, too, that I've got a thirty-pound bag of rice in our kitchen.

This was their third ride of the day



OH NO!!! I saw your tweets yesterday about waterproof cases and wondered. Oh dear.


"I've concluded, the best thing to do is to get another Otterbox case for the other iPad and just keep it at the ready for when Charlie's conks out. He's gotten so much enjoyment from the iPad, of course he's distressed at the thought of having to give it up."

Kristina, hopefully the advise I gave you to buy the Otterbox wasn't in vain and you have been able to giv Charlie many hours of worry free enjoyment. If you backed up the iPad the last time you connected to iTunes, you can put it all on the new iPad. The iPad2 is so much better in so many ways that this may be a "blessing" in disguise.

Kristina Chew

@Niksmom, quite to our amazement, the iPad still works, more or less. It freezes occasionally and the sound sometimes doesn't work but restarting it seems to help. Fingers crossed!

@Kent, the Otterbox case has been fabulous. I just wish it were waterproof! Charlie is a bit interested in the separate parts of the case and how they fit together.

Unfortunately the computer that the iPad is synced to was damaged when one of the bookshelves fell on it. I am taking the computer in tomorrow to the Apple Store---it's not in very good shape. I'm kicking myself for not backing up Charlie's iPad on another computer. Not sure he would take to the next iPad---he is very insistent about his old one, for sure, and stayed up late yesterday using it very happily, as it was working again.


Could you give me some more info about the waterproof case you found? (Work with a family who could REALLY benefit from one).

Kristina Chew

This is the case, LifeProof, not available yet though:


i have pre-ordered one, for sure.

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