By Christy Mactavish
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5
Yesterday, my boys attended a really cool program at the Back Bay Refuge called Biology Adventures. My husband and I were both so excited to see that all three of them were able to go together with their neighborhood friends, even though there was a wide range of ages. We were also thrilled that they were going to experience some cool hands-on science and learn about our area’s natural habitat!
And to be REALLY honest, we were ecstatic that we would have the opportunity to go on a little “day date” while the boys were away! That’s not so wrong, now, is it? 😉
About an hour into our morning, as I was trying to decide what sundress I would wear to lunch with my handsome prince, the “Noir” ringtone on my cell phone loudly echoed throughout the room, indicating I had a text. It was a message from my oldest son. He was informing me that my youngest son was not feeling well, and I needed to pick him up.
My first reaction was like Swiper on Dora the Explorer, OH MAN! Of course I wanted my youngest to be okay, but I was also pouting a bit because I really wanted this day date with my husband! I then proceeded to call his cell and ask him what was going on. But in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think about how odd this was…Before cell phones, they would have looked to the adults in charge of them at the camp for help! And then, if it were really an emergency, the counselors would have called me directly.
My oldest repeated that youngest was not feeling well–stomach ache. I asked to speak to my youngest. Then over the phone, I heard the voices of the counselors asking him if he was okay. I heard them instantly take action to get him some water and fresh air. And I’m sure you can guess the rest? THEY TOOK CARE OF HIM! No surprise! That’s what they are supposed to do. And he ended up having a fantastic time!
But then, throughout the entire morning, and into our lunch date, the “Noir” kept chiming as my oldest sent little useless updates about their day, even a count down to when they were coming home (like I didn’t already know when he was coming home?) It was definitely frustrating.
Of course, I’m thankful that if there were a real emergency, my children could contact me with the cell phone. HOWEVER! This is an excellent example of how instant contact through cell phones can break down the “chain of command,” if you will, and create more chaos than good. It’s the ultimate irony. This cell phone, a COMMUNICATION device, broke down communication! All my sons needed to do was go to the counselor and share that he wasn’t feeling well.
I can’t help but be reminded of many articles I’ve written about helicopter parenting, and the child who called mom in the middle of college English class to tell her the bad grade the mean old professor gave! (Yes–true story–You can read more about it here.) Instead of the child/adult learning to communicate and ask questions of the professor, they automatically resorted to mommy doing it for them. This same concept played out with my children at camp.
I’m sorry if I sound like some harsh cold mom who doesn’t care about her children’s fun at camp. I DO! But I have a visceral reaction to the thought of my son thinking he has to tell me every single move he’s making when he’s not with me. That does not foster independence in any way, shape, or form. And I really don’t want him to think doing this is the norm!
Cell phones definitely add a whole other dimension to parenting! Given the clear addictive nature of cell phones, we are challenged with teaching our children to discern what’s important and what’s not; what’s an emergency and what’s not; how to speak to speak to adults; how to stand up for themselves. Oddly, it really sounds no different than the task prior generations had; however, I believe our generation is faced with so many more challenges as we teach the basics of real communication.
What are your thoughts on this topic? How are you helping your children understand the importance of real face-to-face communication? What challenges are you facing with your children and their cell phones? What strategies could you share to help other parents?
We ask for your wisdom as we embark on teaching our children the importance of communicating. We praise you for all that you will teach us.
Click here for the first of five articles on helicopter parenting.