I am certain that every generation of parent at some point utters the same phrase. It may be different based on era, culture and colloquial factors, but the thought is exactly the same. Depending an where you are from it might have sounded like one of the following:
“What is wrong with you?”
“What are you thinking?”
“Are you out of your mind?”
“Boy – you crazy!”
I personally think Bill Cosby said it best; “It’s brain damage”
Now don’t get me wrong, most of the biggest breakthroughs in human history has been preceded by one of the well-worn phrases listed above. It’s simply hard for me to imagine that we will get this from kids who are so incapable of multitasking that they stop chewing mid-mouthful because they can’t watch TV & eat simultaneously. The need for immediate gratification in this country is being feed by the very people who can’t understand it. Are we raising a generation of people who may not be able to hold a conversation with you unless you wave something sparkly at them while talking?
If this is true, then we are to blame. We. Us. You, me & the parent standing next to you. We start out limiting things like TV time, then install one in the car.
We encourage reading and less video game playing, but ask them to do it on an iPad. We tell them to keep their head out of some device & pay attention while we ourselves are answering a text for work. Be honest – you’ve done it. Technology has given us fantastic ways to communicate, gather and disseminate information – entertain, inform and enlighten. It’s also provided the mother of all distractions. I call it iCrack.
This was never proven more true to me than last week as I was driving across town. I pulled up next to the Mercedes SUV that had suddenly stopped in the middle of the road in front of me, I was concerned that something bad had happened. The vehicle came to an abrupt stop in the middle of the road forcing me to swerve around them. Even though I was the only other vehicle on the road at that moment, I’m riding a motorcycle that is very big, very loud, and very yellow. Kind of hard to miss. I look like a chrome plated highlighter. In the driver’s window I expecting to find the driver having a heart attack, a seizure maybe – something that would justify stopping abruptly in the middle of the road. I found none of the above. Through the ‘soccer mom’ family cut out decals and the WWJD bumper sticker, I noticed that the SUV was filled with teenage girls. This had to be new driver situation. None of these girls looked 16, especially the driver who had just recently discovered the rear view mirror to check her lip gloss. I doubt she knew it also doubled as a – you know – rear view mirror.
Apparently the girl in the passenger seat wanted to get closer to the driver and the two in back who had grouped together behind the driver for an ill-timed Selfie.Nope – not kidding. Pulling over had never occurred to them. They had absolutely no idea what was going on around them. No clue that they were in the middle of the road, or didn’t care. No clue how dangerous it can be to leave the driver door unlocked while you are leaning against it. No idea that a large bearded stranger on a motorcycle could easily open the driver door & scare the hell out of all of them…
It’s at moments like this that I am keenly aware of the differences in one’s self before & after having children. I paused for a moment,decided on refrain & hit the throaty throttle to get their attention instead.
Traffic was closing in from behind. I thought about photo-bombing them instead of opening the door but was running out of time. So I let go of the throttle and hit the driver window… Hard. They all jumped and screamed as only teenage girls can do. The phone dropped and they all instantly shifted to the other side of the vehicle.
I looked at them and pointed toward the road ahead as if to say; “You might want to think about moving that way…”.
The driver regained her composure, looked around and realized where she was. Her face got really red. As I took off I heard her apologize while she rolled down the window, but I was gone. Keenly aware of the fact that I was more pissed at her parents than at the teen and feeling very old as a result. I was glad that they were girls. If they were boys I might have opened the door…
There are lessons that we teach our children directly. Intentionally. Others they learn by observing – mimicking their parents and those around them. I can only hope that when my child starts driving I am paying more attention to his skill behind the wheel & ability to pay attention than the look of the car I’m letting him drive.
‘Course that’s just how I see it. Your view may be different.