I drove my kids to school this morning. This is a daily event. Every morning at 7 am, we pile in the car with backpacks and phones in hand. I put mine in my pocket - But I have it, safe and sound, sitting on my hip all cozy in its fleece covered holder, begging me to let it come out and play with all its email alerts and text tones. I ignore them and resist the urge. It can wait.
My oldest is in the front seat with me, my youngest, in the back of our Hyundai Sonata, along with two neighbor friends who join us on our daily sojourn to public academia. They all squeeze into the car together and struggle to shut the door. I begin to wonder with their almost six-foot bodies if I should have bought a bigger car, but no matter. It’s good practice for them. Having to sit close in uncomfortableness is a good thing. It’s temporary and necessary I tell myself, and the reality is, I’m not buying another car.
I put my foot on the gas pedal and we slowly pull away from the curb. It’s quiet. Too quiet. Two of the four children are looking at their phones and sharing memes on their devices. I can’t see what they see, I’m driving, but they are laughing at whomever or whatever is being made fun of this day. My stomach twists a little. I don’t want to lecture or interject this time, so I don’t. But I do ask them if they would please turn off their phones for the ride and just look up. I told them I didn’t want them to forget the way to school or the places around them here in our little town in case they ever get lost. I told them from now on in the morning when we drive to school for the whopping 10 minutes it might take, we’ll leave our phones off and look up so we don’t forget what is directly in front of us in the real world, and not the virtual, agenda filled realm that takes up way to much space and time in our heads these days. We’ll maybe even have a conversation about things, perhaps school work, adventures, worries, complaints, etc. Or not. We can just simply drive, in silence, looking up. (Is this lecturing, I wonder?)
They politely acquiesced, and we sat in silence for a few moments. But then it happened. Something beautiful, wonderful, and natural, and simply amazing happened. They started talking TO each other and not ABOUT the virtual world that berates and forces its way in on them every day. They started talking about something at school - Nothing big, just matter of fact stuff. A connecting conversation began, and I started to visualize neurons in their vast brains sparking, lighting up in different areas and mental workspaces, expanding their horizons. I wanted to break out the cigars and brandy in celebration of these future masters of the universe and congratulate them on this first step, but instead, I glanced in the rearview mirror and smiled.
I felt victorious, if only for a moment in the on-going battle for my kids’ attention and all attempts to steal their mind, body, and souls. I’ll keep fighting this good fight, one morning at a time.
To all who fight this fight with me, I wish you God Speed and don’t forget to look up.