We see it all the time. How many times have you joked with friends when you point at a table in a restaurant filled with 5 or 6 teens or young adults and every one of them is on their phone? You wonder if they’re having a conversation with each other via text, or what? You have so many human beings around a table to share a meal and not one of them is in the same room! It is an amazing and tragic destroyer of interpersonal connection.
A recent event, though, has prompted me to write this post. Suzi and I were traveling home yesterday from St. Louis where we attended the funeral of a dear friend who died way too soon! We reminisced and mourned the lost opportunities to connect with him in the future while we drove.
As we approached Kansas City, we decided to stop for a bite to eat. We pulled into a Chick-Fil-A and went inside. When we sat down to wait for our meal, we began to notice what was going on around us. To the side of us was a table with two toddler age girls, cute as buttons, sitting with their mom. We knew she was their mom because they called her, “Mom.” Now Mom had done quite a bit of work on her hair, but her little girls … not so much. The sad part of this story, though, is that Mom was on her phone doing God knows what the whole time we were there. Those adorable little girls got almost no attention. One of them got down from the table and went over to the door of the play area. She worked, and pulled, and tugged until she finally got it open only to hear from Mom who had just noticed what was going on, “No, come over here.” She almost got to play! Then she started to push a high chair around. Mom got an idea from that and put her in it. No more roaming around for this one!
Soon a grandma and her granddaughter walked in hand-in-hand, cute! Grandma took her granddaughter over to the play area and opened the door for her little doll. As she went in to play, we overheard grandma say, “Be kind to everyone.” “Wow!” we thought. That was cool. Grandma took a seat behind Suzi facing the play area. After a few seconds, the little granddaughter climbed to the top of the climbing area and quickly looked out the window at grandma her face beaming with delight over her accomplishment. But, grandma was on her phone. The little girl waited for a few seconds to be noticed but grandma never looked up. The little girl’s face fell and with a shrug she turned to continue playing. I wonder if she felt less important than a phone or more alone than she had when she came in. She probably didn’t form those thoughts in her head, but those seeds were planted.
Sitting behind me, Suzi noticed a Dad with his little Auburn-haired daughter. Maybe a daddy-daughter date? Cute. They sat across from each other eating. You guessed it. Dad was on his phone. The little girl’s auburn ponytail bounced around as she chatted to her Dad. He didn’t seem to notice. Really? Now, this story takes a wonderful turn. Dad eventually put down his phone. His little girl came over to his side of the table and sat with him while they worked together on the puzzle that had come in her kid’s meal. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Like I said at the beginning, we see this all the time. What brought it home to us more powerfully this time was the realization we were experiencing from our friend’s funeral (not to mention a dear aunt I just lost and a great friend who was the husband of Suzi’s cousin) that life is too short. Don’t waste opportunities.
Parents, please put down your phones. I guarantee you will find in your children more entertainment than any Tic Toc video, more connection than any online instant message, and more education than any training program. You will have to engage them, to be active because relationship is inter-ACTIVE. Read to your kids, play with them, point out interesting things and people in their environment. Let the level of that interaction develop as they grow, but do it. The return on that investment will be children who love and honor you and who will be there for you when you’re old. Can you say that about any of the online “influencers” you follow?