“Look. At. Me!”
I am looking at you, sweetie. I am. I’m looking up at you every other second, while I’m returning this text about this story I have to finish setting up for work.
“Put it down, Mom!”
I will put it down. In just a second. And I’m putting it down..now..wait a second..almost now…annnnnd…now.
I fear I am a 2015 version of the dad in Harry Chapin’s 1974 song, Cats in the Cradle. Remember that dad? The one who doesn’t make time for his son, so then his son grows up and doesn’t make time for his dad.
♫’My son turned ten just the other day. He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play. Can you teach me to throw?”I said ,”Not today I got a lot to do.”He said, “That’s ok, and he walked away, but his smile never dimmed, and said,“I’m gonna be like him, yeah,You know I’m gonna be like him…’♫
That damn song gets me every time I hear it.
I am with my children for hours everyday, but much of the time I’m not with my children. I’m working on scripts, setting up stories and putting out fires on other stories. The easy way out is to blame my career, which is not remotely 9 to 5.
The truth is far uglier. I’m addicted to my phone. So are you. Maybe not as much as me, but I’ve seen you.
I’ve seen you at our kids’ baseball games, looking down at your phone when your kid can’t see you from the outfield, when it’s between innings and you’d rather surf your Facebook feed than get to know the parent next to you.
I’ve seen you at the grocery store, strolling the aisles, pushing your cart, your eyes darting from the shelves down to your phone, and it’s not a grocery list you’re looking at. You even use your elbows to push the cart so you can type out that email or text, oftentimes while your child is in the seat right in front of you.
I’ve seen you on the playground, your child yelling for you to push them on the swing, and you distractedly mumble that you’ll be there in a minute, your eyes fixated on the 2 x 3 inch screen.
I’ve seen you at the amusement park, standing in line for a ride, engrossed in the phone while your child creates a solitary game of ducking under the ropes to bide the time.
I’ve seen you at the recitals at school, eyes on your phone until your child takes the stage.
I’ve seen you on the plane, in the car, in the hallways at work, on the street.
I’ve been that person — the Facebook surfing, elbow cart pushing, playground mumbling, recital attending idiot.
I justify it. I tell myself it’s important.
Just one more text. Just this email. Just that note. Just just just…
It’s a bottomless beast and it is eating up our social skills and our lives and our relationships.
I must now state a ridiculous fact.
Our phones will not love us back.
Our phones will not hug us because we look like we need it, play Barbies with us on a Tuesday after school, put a pink princess Bandaid on the boo boo we got from gardening, help us make our grandmother’s peach cobbler for the first time, or tell us that we are a pretty mommy on the day we feel a hundred years old.
Our phone doesn’t worry that we’ll get old and die.
Our phone doesn’t care.
But we can’t stop. So we are teaching our children that the world in our phones is more important than the one in which we live, that it’s more important than them.
It’s become a family affair. I’ve seen parents and kids at sporting events, in movie theaters, in pictures on Facebook — heads down. We’ve made it a joke. Look, isn’t this hilarious?! No one is looking at or talking to each other!
Technology is good. Must I even say that? It’s wonderful we can share events and moments from our everyday lives with friends around the world.
But if I were to equate this to some other vice, like alcohol, I would say that we’re not the person who enjoys a glass of wine at the end of the day, we’re the one who downs two bottles a night and despite the brutal hangovers and disintegrating life, we can’t wait for the next taste.
My name is Jaye and I’m an iphone-a-holic.
Some of you are already learning this, that it’s easier to harness the power of lightning with a wire coat hanger than to get your kid’s attention away from the phone or iPad.
I want you to think of one of the happiest memories of your life. Did it involve a phone? Was it something you read or saw on a phone?
We have taught them this.
Day after day, year after year, they see that the thing in our hand is the center of our lives.
Not them. The thing.
They will compete with it only so long. And then they will do what all kids do.
They will be like us.
I hope you’re ready.
♫’As I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me…’♫