Is Engagement Extinct?
It is odd that a simple “life scene” that played out before my eyes in a doctor’s office waiting room would leave me near tears.
As I entered the waiting room I checked myself in, and without much thought I walked to the far portion of the waiting room and sat in a chair to the far left. The only other people in that portion of the room were sitting directly in front of me.
My heart immediately warmed as I quickly glanced at the young mother, her hair in a messy pony tail, her outfit casual with flip flops – my kinda mom! Sitting next to her was a four”ish”-year-old girl in equally casual attire and on the floor in front of them was a baby, sitting in a car seat carrier.
It was then that my now-observant eyes narrowed and my head tipped a bit sideways because I noticed the baby was totally disengaged. Sort of staring in the direction of his mother and sister but with a blank expression.
My eyes followed his gaze and what I beheld literally made my jaw drop. This sweet mother and her young daughter were both staring at iPhones that were mere inches from their faces.
And it went on like that while we dutifully waited in our waiting room.
The scene before my eyes never changed.
I found myself propelled back in time, some 16 years earlier and remembered similar visits to doctors’ offices with my own children. I remember taking books with me and reading them to my young daughter, who was quick to show the pictures in the book to her baby brother.
I remember conversations, explaining where we were, why we were there and what was about to happen. I remember interacting with others in the waiting room and my daughter engaging with a smile or a bashful wave. I remember playing “I spy with my little eye” and learning every inch of the color scheme of waiting rooms – I even recall singing, “Where is thumper?” to peels of laughter.
As the past blurred back into a memory and the scene before me came back into focus, my heart grew heavy.
Is this what we have come to now? The devices affixed to our hands have become our primary choice for connection in the course of our day.
It has been a few years since I wrote about seeing the toddler in the airport, his eyes focused on a tiny screen and never seeing the bus, the tram or the little old lady who was trying to catch his eye as we went from one terminal to the next.
Granted in either case I do not know the circumstance of the moment. And sharing my observation is not an attempt to judge others, but a cry to you, mom, to be aware.
As parents we need to instruct and guide our children to be engaged in the world around them. The sights, sounds, experiences and people they interact with daily do matter and they do have merit.
A child’s day should be filled with interactions and involvement, with each being a learning experience and an opportunity for growth and expansion. And more than that, a child’s day has the capacity to bring simple joy to those who observe the child. Children by nature provide hope and share uninhibited love with others – that’s what kids do for humanity.
Unless of course they are staring at a screen, in which case a waiting room becomes a dull boring wait for those of us waiting.
Do you see it? Do you get it? Or am I just a dinosaur?