The little boy had a Spiderman backpack and raced up and down the sidewalk, while his mother held tight to her dog and leaned against a neighbor’s fence, her head down looking at her smartphone.
Coming back from a coffee run, I drove past several small groups of moms and dad, all different ages and backgrounds, waiting for their kid’s school bus. The parents were all in a very similar pose. The children played or talked by themselves and the adults were all heads down looking at their phones.
When I got to my street, the yellow school bus in front of me came to a stop. The boy waved goodbye to his mom and jumped on the bus. I desperately wanted to get out and make a suggestion to the woman and the other parents I saw, but I thought better of it.
I wanted to tell her to put down her phone.
My time has come and gone, my kids are all grown. However, I would give anything to go back in time and wait with them for the bus or drop them off at school. I’m not crazy though. No one likes a know-it-all, especially related to phone etiquette or parenting do’s and don’ts, so I kept my thoughts to myself.
Breaking the chain
Apple came out with the first smartphone in June 2007. Cellphones and personal assistant devices existed prior to 2007, but the smartphone took the capability to a new level.
My wife and I have made a lot of parenting mistakes, but if we did one good thing, it’s that we weren’t chained to our phones like many are now. Now I’m guilty as anyone at looking at my phone. I can pull out my phone anywhere, anytime, without thinking. When our kids were young though, I tried to limit my phone usage.
My wife handled drop-off chores much more often then I did, but one of my fondest memories is my youngest son giving me a hard time in middle school because I made him put away his phone. While we waited in my cramped car for the bus to arrive, I used the time to ask him questions:
- Who was his favorite teacher?
- What was his favorite subject?
- What games did he like to play in recess?
- Who were his friends?
- How was his homework coming?
I took out my phone only to take a selfie of the two of us. He hated it, but I found that it made us closer. If nothing else, it showed him that I was interested in him. Heck, if nothing else, it showed that I cared about him more than the 2.4 by 4.5 inch computer in my back pocket.
Oh, I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I’m addicted to my phone as much as anyone. In many respects, we got lucky. My wife and I were late to the phone game. We always seemed to be behind the latest and greatest technology. We weren’t addicted yet, so it wasn’t the problem that it is today.
Feel for parents
I have sympathy for parents, and I know I’m making a big request, but it can pay back huge dividends. The more we showed our kids that we cared about them more than work or the latest social media trend, the closer we got over time.
So, I may not be the coolest dad, but I speak from experience: smartphones are great, but sometimes all a kid wants, is mom or dad.