Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I just read an article on a study that concluded people these days are stressed about having too many sources from which to find information, and too many ways of communicating with others (essentially, too many things to "check").

My oldest is apparently not one of them.

The other night I found Anna in her room with Taylor Swift blaring through earbuds while she read a Harry Potter book. "How can you focus on what's happening in the story?" I asked her. Especially if she was singing along! "Oh, I can," she replied with confidence.

There's nothing like having a middle schooler to make you feel old. I hate writing stuff like this, because it's so cliché, so I'll just say it once: when I was her age, technology meant a black and white TV in my room that had a coat hanger for an antennae. Being social with a friend meant long conversations with my phone cord stretched to the closet for privacy.

This year and to some extent last, we realized just how plugged in kids her age are. We thought we were caving by giving her Dan's old cracked iPod with no phone plan and very limited online access, while several of her friends were getting iPhone 6's.

All of the old adages are true: Anna is already more tech-savvy than I am. Two weeks ago she figured out how to "FaceTime" her friends. When she started walking around the house with the phone so her friend could see Chloe, I scampered to get out of the way and thought, Wait a minute?? I got into my pajamas early! My house is messy! How is it that my child is on the phone and suddenly I have no privacy?!

I hate sounding like a curmudgeon. I don't want to grow old and cantankerous. But I would like to know: How in the world do kids today focus, because I know with one social media account, three email addresses and the limited amount of texting I engage in, I have trouble myself.

Yesterday morning within five minutes of waking up, I heard Anna's phone Ding! A friend was saying "hi." Then texting a bunch of smiley faces, and saying she'll see her in homeroom. In a half-hour.


Worse is during homework time. My girl, who already tends to be a little distractible, already has to contend with Chloe screeching, Ethan playing on the Wii or engaging in other mischief, and me cooking dinner (she insists she LIKES being with everyone else and doesn't want to study where it's quiet). And then there's the phone. Ding! Ding! Someone wants to know the Social Studies homework. Someone else wants to know if she's going to the Middle School Extravaganza on Friday (and Is you-know-who going?!). Someone wants to know if she can come over on Saturday.

The obvious solution (one we've already employed) is to turn the darned thing off during homework time. And dinner. And during any kind of family time.

I'm super happy Anna has friends. I'm glad she's adjusting to school. I know her generation approaches life a little differently, a little more quickly, a little more visually.

I just wonder about all of the "noise" sometimes. Because if we're always checking, and chatting, and looking, we're not ever being still.

And sometimes, being still, more than being plugged in, more than being aware or updated or in touch, is very, very important.

And sadly sometimes, we don't realize how important it is until we've forgotten how, and realize that maybe, we have spent a very long time talking but not listening; listening but not hearing; doing but not being.

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