I was eating breakfast at a diner yesterday when I noticed a cute three-year old boy sitting at the table next to me. He was playing with the little cream containers and then tossing them on the floor. As I usually do when I see toddlers I made goofy faces at him, which is not much of a stretch for me. He was making them right back as he gleefully tossed more cream onto the floor.
Of course his parents were oblivious to all this activity. The mother was yakking on her cell phone, I think the conversation centered around a pair of Uggs she just had to have, while the father was staring at his phone in rapture as he texted away. Here I was, a complete stranger, and I had more interaction with their son during breakfast than they did. Not to sound too old fogey but what is it with this new generation of tech-addicted parents?
It is one thing to see these North Face clad young adults walking around town with their text ready cell phones held out in front of them, as if making an offering to an unseen god. It is quite another to see them morph into parents, but still be as tethered to their gadgets as a junkie to his spoon. In the playground, dads absentmindedly push their kids on the swing with one hand while staring at their screen and texting with the other. Is checking your Facebook status or getting a Tweet from a college drinking buddy more important than interacting with the real live human being right in front of you?
I see mothers jogging with those running strollers. Their child leads the way, delightfully pointing something out in a child’s awed gibberish while mom is oblivious, wrapped in a set of headphones connected to her iPod or nattering away on her ear phone.
It all reminds me of the Harry Chapin song Cat’s in the Cradle. You remember that one. The father is always too busy for the son, but as the son becomes a man he is too busy for the father. Chapin wails away at the end, “My boy was just like me.”
Someday these parents will wonder why their kids don’t have time for them and who they learned that from. Look at the reflection in your shiny Android screen and you’ll have the answer.
So parents, I implore you: unless you are calling in for a medical emergency or a tactical air strike against a nearby terrorist cell, nothing you are doing on the phone is more important than interacting with your child. Take it from someone who was not fortunate enough to have kids of his own, those moments are too precious too squander.
In the meantime, thanks for listening. Tomorrow we will return to our regularly scheduled blog.