I don’t know if every generation says this, but it seems like families are busier than ever. We talk about the need to slow down, to get back to family meals around the dinner table, to limit screen time, to take on fewer commitments. And yet we continue to sign the kids up for more teams, for additional lessons, for new clubs, for whatever activities their friends are doing.
In this issue we take a look at uber-committed families and hear what the experts have to say about the toll that can take on kids and parents alike. We also take the time to explore some ways to calm the chaos — efficiencies that can be attained with apps and personal services.
With their extremely busy schedules and a lot of time staring at screens, I find myself wondering what social cues and cultural understandings my children might be missing. It occurs to me that without constant access to the screen as a child, I must have done a lot of people watching growing up. I watched how my parents interacted, how people behaved at the mall, how people acted in a busy restaurant and how people on the sidewalk engaged with each other as we drove down the road. How much of this watching and learning is lost on our kids as everyone is rushing from here to there, faces buried in the screen along the way? What social lessons are my children missing out on?
I watch my teenagers get on the bus, and every day they both rush to the bus door and my son hurries on before my daughter. And I keep thinking, one day he will step back and let his sister on first. But how does one learn chivalry? I mean, it’s his sister, so I realize he’s not starting the day thinking how he can be nice to her — but what if he’s missing this notion of “ladies first” because he’s simply not spending much time watching the people around him?
So I slipped into conversation with him that I hope one day he makes a point to step aside and let his sister on the bus ahead of him. I let him know that the notion of holding a door for someone, letting someone else go first, carrying a bag for someone, even just making eye contact and smiling, are small ways to be a more generous person who others like to be around and appreciate. I can’t remember if my parents had to come out and tell me that or if I knew it from watching the world move around me.
Then, several weeks later, it happened. My son beat my daughter to the bus, and he stepped aside and waited for her to get on the bus before following her. He gave me a look before climbing in, and I sighed in relief — he heard me and even though he might not have done it again for the remainder of the school year, I believe he “got it.” But I can’t help but wonder what else our kids are missing in their very busy, very digital lives. I’m doing my best to ensure chivalry doesn’t die at the hands of technology.