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The other afternoon I was at swim class with my two older girls at the Y (otherwise known as the quickest way to suck all parental joy from one’s heart). Between the whining, the hair pulling swim caps and the tortuous showers afterward (“The water is too hot! The water is too cold! Too hot! Too cold!”), you start to wonder if knowledge of the doggie paddle is sufficient enough for youngsters.

So there I am at swim class and I text my husband with specific instructions for dinner for the twins (who are at home) and for my older girls because they will be starving when they get back to the house.

An hour later, I walk in the door and I say…

“Did you get my text?”

“No,” he responds.

“What?!! How is that possible? You are the man who looks at his phone so often for every breaking news item that you knew Dick Clark died before his family did and you didn’t see my text? I don’t get it. What is the point of texting you if you don’t read it? I wanted the twins fed and I wanted dinner ready for the girls. I’ve been at the Y for 2 hours and you can’t bother to look at your phone?!”

But then, somewhere between ranting and raving, I realized something…

Rick had fed the twins. And then he was so busy playing with them that he hadn’t glanced at his phone. He was truly present for our children.

And we could all use a little more of that.

Often I’m out with my kids at a playground or museum and I see a lot of this…

Parents looking down. Not a their gorgeous, growing way too fast children. At their phones. Which aren’t gorgeous. Or growing at all.

And it depresses me.

I have to fight the addiction too.

The other day, 5-year-old Summer asked me to play Barbie dolls with her. Unlike reading a book, playing a game, jumping on the trampoline or doing an art project, the imaginary play can feel a little bit… umm…. slow.

But I love my daughter and she loves Barbies so I said, “Yes!” And then I think I made it a whole 16 minutes before I glanced at my phone. In my defense, it was a very productive 16 minutes where I dressed a lot of Barbie dolls for a big party and they all had chicken and cake for dinner and then went horseback riding and then to their jobs as veterinarians.

Maybe we all need to put our phones down more often and start talking. Even if those conversations are about chicken and cake for dinner and then going horseback riding and back to our jobs as veterinarians.

In a recent New York Times article called, The Flight From Conversation, the author Sherry Turkle concludes by saying “Not long ago, people walked (on Cape Cod beaches) with their heads up, looking at the water, the sky, the sand and at one another, talking. Now they often walk with their heads down, typing. Even when they are with friends, partners, children, everyone is on their devices.”

Ugh. Have we passed up a sweeping view of the ocean to ‘Like’ something on Facebook?

I really hope not.

But I do think we all could type a bit less and look up more. Perhaps spend fewer hours focused on our smart phones and pay more attention to those gorgeous faces.


39 Responses to how did texting take over our souls?

  • Holy crap. That pic of Harlowe is precious. How does she have hair? And how do I get my daughter some hair? She’s almost 2.5 and she is STILL thin in the hair department.

    I love this post. This is why we’ve refused the three oldest the privilege of owning a DS or an i-pod touch or whatever other handheld devices they’ve deemed necessary for survival.

    Yes. We are THAT abusive.

    But, every time I think we should maybe relax our zero-tolerance policy, I see another family out sharing quality time…with their children completely engrossed in their electronics and everyone ignoring each other completely. The last time it happened was before school drop-off. A dad had his two kids out for breakfast at Starbucks and they were both entirely focused on their games and not interacting at all.

    But the cool part was I pointed it out to my eleven year-old stepdaughter. And she got it. Sort of. And then we had to make conversation with each other. Which is why those handheld devices are so super convenient!

  • Abby says:

    I can’t really comment as I don’t have kids, am addicted and sleep with my iPhone (he’s sexy!) and when I was a kid instead of our phones my family fought over who got to read the NYPost, People, US Weekly, or TV Guide while we ate dinner. Then when we drove up to Vermont we played on our Pac-Man video games. But I didn’t have a computer, had to call people on the phone, learned how to speak on the phone, and wrote and received letters that I’ll have forever. Life changes and evolves, and you’ve got to roll with those changes I guess!

    That pic of Harlowe is priceless! Gorgeous!!!! And speaking of abusive, my mom never got me a Barbie EVER!!!! She said she was a bad role model. 🙁 So Jen with the 5 kids you aren’t the only one depriving your children and I can tell you they will live! 🙂

  • Megan says:

    Guilty. I work all day so I (try) to put my phone away when I get home and focus on the girls. However, I suffer from an all too common disorder called FOMO (fear of missing out). So I check the phone and see if I have any new followers on Twitter – still hovering at a lame 45 – and I and “check-in” on Facebook because something isn’t cool unless my facefriends know I’m doing it, right? Thanks for this reminder, Kelcey!

  • Emily says:

    My thoughts exactly. I cannot stand being with someone, somewhere, and being ignored because their face is shoved in their phone.

    Perfectly stated, Kelcey! Thank you.

    Also, I feel like this should be broadcast on the evening news. You know. Get the word out. I am not above assisting in a revolt.

    • I completely agree. This WONDERFUL post really made me look at myself in the mirror. Because frankly, I have a zero tolerance policy for people who text or look at their phones while they are talking to me or we’re out for coffee or something. Frankly, it makes me feel like crap. I don’t want to make my kids feel like the computer (I don’t do smart phones) is ever more important than they are.

  • Susan Kintner says:

    Magnificent! and an important reminder as to what matters. Blessings to you and your beautiful, vibrant children and those of all your mamabird subscribers. love, mom

  • Chrissy says:

    I am so over the phones and crap I want to just drop off the grid entirely! Sometimes. I have decided that a farm in Madison GA an hour out of Atlanta (where I am headed back to in June) would be perfect. And I would have an emergency internet connections that I would turn on for an hour a day so I can stay current. But I need something that automatically kicks me off. It is such a time suck and a waste!
    I love the sly pic of the mom on her phone. That does wear me out. I have actually had moms thank me for playing with their kids (and mine) while they played on their phones. Urgh!

  • Awesome post. Thanks for the reminder. Loved the part about Rick completely engaged w/twins …. I need to be way more conscious of this. Just last night, John-Jay and I and three of the kids went out front to have Popsicles and watch the sunset and I brought my phone. I don’t remember ever getting on it, but your post just had me realize how I shouldn’t have it as an appendage, constantly attached to me! I will now be more conscious of this …. At least for a little while. (please be sure to write another one of these brilliant posts again in a few months as another reminder 😉

  • Meg D says:

    Amen, sister!

    And I agree, the imaginary play can get slooooow and I don’t really like to do it. But I try to remind myself that before too long the little guy won’t want anything to do with me and I’d better try and be as present to him as I possibly can.

    Practice, not perfection, right?

  • Erica says:

    Less than a decade ago, you could walk across the campus of Texas A&M University and be constanting greeted by “hello” and “howdy” from students you’d never met. Now their heads are all buried in their phones/iPods and the daily community feeling is gone. It is defi itely indicative of what these devices have done to families and the consequences reach further than our own homes. So sad.

  • Steph says:

    Amen, sista! (i can’t actually pull that off) anyway, last night i’m out for dinner with a girlfriend who keeps checking her phone and texting. it kinda ruins the conversation. I don’t have a smart phone (yet) b/c I’m sure I’d do the same thing and b/c i’m cheap.

  • EW says:

    I’m guilty of not being present all the time although I have a caveman phone so technology isn’t the problem. I’m a stay-at-home mom and easily get distracted by laundry piles, dust bunnies, dentist appointments, trying to make healthy meals (or make a meal period!), etc. It’s hard to let the laundry sit and the dust pile up but I’m trying! Thank you for a wonderful reminder to take a breath and enjoy our little ones.

  • Sandrine says:

    I totally agree with you, that’s why I love my Treo, it’s still 2G, doesn’t get any signal anywhere, totally useless as a phone but it doesn’t disturb my life, unfortunately ATT is making me switch to a 3G, apparently 2G is so 2000s. But I’m being strong and not getting a data plan and if all goes well 5G will happen soon and I will have a useless phone again…
    Pretend play is soooo hard though and Milo won’t let me do or say anything, I’m always wrong and I just have to sit there and watch while my computer and the www is so close and so unreachable…Harlowe is sooo cute and looks just like you!

  • erinb says:

    should I no longer text you with Project Runway breaking news? :-} awesome pic of your sweet mini-kk. PS K is all into pretend play with barbies- damn it why arent we neighbors?

  • Alex says:

    I actually had this exact thought at the playground the other day with Noa. I pulled out my phone to start checking my emails and then very deliberately put it back so that I could watch my little girl do flips on the monkey bars instead. She asks me to play Barbies about 15 times a day, and will politely decline 14 times because I just don’t have it in me to do a whole impromptu scene with dialog and pathos. But when I finally do consent to sitting down that one time, I give it my all (which usually isn’t enough because inevitably Noa will ditch me and go to Bruce, who does a really good, method-acting Ken).

  • Dorothy says:

    This is a huge pet peeve of mine! When I’m with my grown kids (30 & 32) they know not to be checking their phones all the time. You’re with me, not them, that text can wait! Be here, now. You can never get those moments back that you spent texting something stupid to someone.

    I drive all day and see everyone in this town walking with their heads down. Surprise! They’re texting! They have no idea what the sky looks like, what the air smells like, what the flowers smell like never mind that they forgot about their children sitting in the stroller or trailing behind them unnoticed. Sad. It’s sad they can’t be where they are whole heartedly instead of half-axxed. What can possibly be that important that you can’t disconnect for a few hours a day?

    One time I was in a restaurant waiting for a table…across from us was a family of 5 also waiting. Every single one of them was texting or staring at their phones. No conversation. Nothing. Why were they even there together?

    What do you suppose we all did when the phone was tethered to a cord? LOL We engaged each other in person. Novel idea!

    There. I said it. Don’t hate me. My kids and 13 yo grandson hate it when I get on this bandwagon. Your fault Kelsey, you started it lol.

    Ok I’m done.

    Except your daughter is precious and look at the joy on her face. Wow. Love it.

  • Loukia says:

    Well said… and I totally agree. I never turn my laptop on when I’m home and the kids are awake, but my iphone.. different story.. I hate that I am so addicted, and I do try really really really hard, especially on weekends, to not have it that easily accessible. I will put it in my purse and not tweet about things and not look at texts, or anything. I try, and want to really change it so that it’s even less than that.

  • Lotte B says:

    I actually heard that it is called “parenting at key” when you go to playground with your kids and spend the time on your smartphone.

    I do it too…not with my laptop, but on my iPhone – but – hey – the camera is good, so sometimes I look up and take a pic of my kids!
    Yes – let’s put the phone down and start talking!

  • I’m doing so much better lately. It’s almost an addiction and quite sad. I don’t want my phone/text behavior to be modeled for my kids so when they get phones I am the one being ignored, right? lol Seriously. Great post. So important. xo

  • NPRMommy says:

    at the pool last summer i would marvel at the number of moms who managed to ignore the incessant calls of “MOM! Look what I can do!!” or “Hey MOM! Wanna come in the pool with me?” They were just absorbed in their iPhones and wouldn’t look up for what seemed like hours….it made me really sad…it’s one of the reasons i haven’t gotten a smart phone, because I’m afraid i would turn into one of those moms!

  • Robbie says:

    I got on the texting bandwagon waaaay late..like less than 2 years ago. I always said i don’t lead the kind of life where I need to be in constant communication with ppl. fi they need me they can pick up a phone. i am either at home or at work or they can CALL me on my cell. And yet…as a laid off momma living thousands of miles from my husband texting is often the only adult communication i have all freakIng day. i don’t let it take over my life but it helps me endure my current situation.

    Sorry for the novel…

  • N and Em's mom says:

    Unfortunately, if you want your teenagers to talk to you and tell you the important stuff, you have to spend years of listening to the really boring and inane stuff. Turn off the phone in the car and condition your child to spill their guts.

  • Lanie says:

    It is so hard to stay present and connected. Technology helps and hurts us. Hoping for a better balance. I love love that picture of Harlowe! xoxo

  • Stephanie says:

    I read that NY Times article as well and really appreciated the message.

    Thanks so much for the excellent reminder to be more focused on the relationships right in front of our noses.

  • Arlene says:

    Kelcey, I turn to your excellent (is it called a) blog from time to time and find your writing to be insightful and smart. I don’t always comment…..texting — hmmm, I agree wholeheartedly. Looking up (being engaged) is so important, not just for our kids (mine are your age as you know) but also just for humanity! I see teens “together” at a table texting; I see moms with their kids in restaurants and museums texting; I saw a young guy working out at the Y yesterday who couldn’t stop texting long enough to do one rep on a machine; as soon as the bell rings to signal the end of school (yup, I’m still teaching!), the students take out their devices to start texting. Oh, well, I guess I sound as old as I am. Keep up the good work. You, Rick and your kids look terrific. Arlene

  • Leigh Ann says:

    Guilty too. It’s sad that when my husband is working from home, it keeps me in check and off my laptop so I’m more present with the kids. But when it’s just me I’m guilty of checking that one email or notification. I rarely sit on the couch to watch a movie with them without my phone.

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kelcey kintner