The Rockwood Files: Real-life remote control

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

A few years ago, a friend told me I absolutely had to get a DVR, which is short for “digital video recorder”. Some people call it TiVo. “It will change your life,” she said. I was skeptical.

But she was right. It has changed my life because it lets me speed through pesky commercials. I save about 20 minutes of time during a show that would otherwise take an hour to watch. And when I watch fewer commercials, I decrease the likelihood of hearing about “occasional constipation” or getting the Chili’s Baby Back Rib song stuck in my head, and that alone is a gift.

My inner control freak loves the DVR because I can pause live television anytime I need to yell up the stairs to warn the kids about what will happen if they don’t go to bed right this instant. Once I hear the pitter patter of feet trot back to their respective beds, I resume the show right where I left off. As technological advances go, this one is right up there with microwaves and cell phones.

I’ve become so dependent on my DVR and the ability to control time that I find myself reaching for those powerful buttons in real life where they don’t really exist. Sometimes when Tom is talking and I didn’t quite catch (or wasn’t listening to) what he just said, I reflexively reach for the “jump back” button which backs up television action by 10 seconds so you can replay what just happened. Sadly, Tom didn’t come with a “jump back” button. I checked.

And when I attend the kids’ school assemblies and the principal or teacher’s speech goes on way too long, I wish for that wonderful “fast forward” button so I could skip ahead to the most important stuff.

If real life did have its own remote control, things would be so much simpler. I’d push the “mute” button to block out whining and sibling squabbles. I’d hit the “guide” button when I wasn’t sure what to do. And if I needed to be in two places at one time? No problem. That’s what the “picture in picture” button is there for.

But I’d get the biggest benefit from that powerful “pause” button. When work piles up and the house gets chaotic, I’d press pause – and stop, breathe and be still. Then, while the world was standing still, I’d do all those things we promise ourselves we’ll do when we have more time, when things slow down. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel like I’m playing an endless game of “catch-up” where the finish line is always just beyond my reach.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who feels continually behind – with work, with laundry, with projects around the house, with phone calls to friends, with articles I should read. I have this dream of what it must feel like to be caught up on the tasks I want to get done – the Holy Grail of personal productivity. I wonder if anyone has ever felt it. Does it even exist? Am I not doing enough or is there just too much to do?

I may be able to freeze Ryan Seacrest in mid-sentence but I can’t keep real life from zipping along at breakneck speed. The best I can hope for is to stay on top of the things that matter most and let the rest of it race forward without me. There is no “pause”, and there is no “jump back”. In a world with no remote control, we’ve got to press “play” and learn to enjoy the show.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.