One day, when I was in first or second grade, I walked home from school by myself, which was not all that unusual an occurrence back in the day. My memory may not be entirely accurate, I read a study recently saying that they rarely are, but I feel like it was later than the normal release time because the sidewalk was empty, and there were no other kids around. We didn’t live far from the school, maybe it was a ten minute walk for an adult, but I remember thinking that day that I would never be able to make it home. And then I saw my mother’s car approaching. And then I watched my mother’s car drive past. She didn’t see me jumping up and down and frantically waving, and she didn’t hear me yelling for her to stop.
I doubt that scenario could play out today. We gave our daughter her first cell phone when she went to middle school. It was the idea of her crossing a very busy street without a crossing guard that pushed us over the edge. Maybe we thought if she got hit by a car she could call us. That was five years ago, and we had held out longer than most. Today, I’m betting most kids in elementary school have their own phones before they hit first grade.
With the phone came a couple of rules; she was to call us when she left school, and call us again when she got home. We were both working, and we wanted to know that she had gotten home safely. She didn’t mind keeping in touch that way. As a matter of fact, she called a lot more than we asked her to. For instance, if we were supposed to pick her up somewhere, she would call us before we had left to remind us. Then she would call to ask if we had left yet, and she might even call to ask if we were almost there. There was no way we were going to drive past her on the sidewalk.
For the first year that my daughter had her phone, I wondered why we were the only people she ever called. I was worried that she didn’t have any friends to call. It took us a while to figure out that kids don’t actually talk on the phone. They text. Once we sprang for a texting plan, it turned out she had lots of friends.
Working parents love texting. They can communicate with their child while they’re in a meeting. It only takes a second to tap “no” and hit send, and it doesn’t interrupt the meeting the way a phone call would.
Kids love texting, too. Our daughter texts my husband when she has a question, needs information, wants to know why I’m not answering my phone, or is just plain bored. And therein lies the rub; not only can we stay in touch with our children, we can not get away from them.
I am not saying that my mother saw me that fateful day and chose to ignore me. Really, I am not saying that. Nor am I saying that there are days when I wish I could ignore my child. If, however, my mother did see me that day, and chose not to stop, well, I can almost see how it could happen. That’s all I’m saying.