Am I a Normal Parent?

People holding phones

Now that it’s 2020, I have read several posts on social media playfully acknowledging this date in time as a period within which to view the world with increased visual clarity.

As I age, so too do my eyes. Even with my glasses on, I struggle with seeing smaller print on menus, especially when the lights are dim. I regularly visit specialists to discuss cataracts and various other changes to my eyes.

However, having increased clarity is not just about making sure that we take good care of our eyes so that we can enjoy and appreciate all that nature and people and culture has to offer. Increased clarity also means becoming clearer about what we want our eyes to see and what we may be missing by not scanning the world around us.

I remember once waiting in our dentist’s office with my husband. He was on his phone, likely checking emails or playing a game. I may have been too. After we had seen the dentist and were waiting to pay for the visit, my husband overheard one of the receptionists mention the name of another patient to a coworker. He recognized the name as someone he had grown up with in another city. Casually, he enquired about her and was so disappointed to learn that she had emerged from seeing the dentist, paid for her visit and left the office all at the same time that he was looking down at his phone. What a missed opportunity to reconnect with an old friend.

Despite many years passing since then, this will always stay with me as an example of what we may be missing by looking down at our screens and disengaging from the environment we are in. There are so many others that you might recall too. Perhaps a time when a car narrowly missed hitting you as you crossed the street looking down at your phone? Perhaps missing an opportunity to see a beautiful new structure or graffiti art work in a city you rarely visit? Perhaps missing a magical moment that can never be recaptured?

Looking up, around and ahead will not only help you gain visual clarity of your environment and allow you to live in your moment, but will also allow you more opportunities to connect with others.

I challenge you to a couple of exercises as 2020 unfolds.

  1. Begin looking up, around and ahead more. Notice what others are doing. When I’ve performed this exercise, I notice that the vast majority of people around me are looking down… at screens. You will notice this too if you put your phone away in the doctor’s waiting room. In the line up at the grocery store. In the bus. In restaurants. Waiting for children at their extra curriculars. The list is endless. Notice how even when couples are dining together, or families with children are present, one or more people will be on his or her phone – often throughout the meal or with few interruptions.
  2. Now that you have this new awareness, think about what you can do to make a difference – in your life, in your partner’s life, in your children or grandchildren’s lives and in your relationships with your friends. Instead of looking down at your phone, perhaps you can engage in conversation with the person in front of you at a line-up. With your spouse or your child. Daydream.
  3. I challenge you to experience boredom and be ok with it. We are all so used to filling every second of our alone time or waiting time (or even times when we are out with others) with being entertained by what we see on our screens. We have forgotten what it is like to be a little bored, a little bit not entertained. This will take time. At first, you might feel agitated, alone because you will see that most others around you are looking down at their phones. Instead, close your eyes. Take a break from staring so intensely at a small screen. Plan out your next vacation in your head. Do nothing.

I know that you may think “what’s the point. Everyone is on their devices, so why not me?” Well, it starts with you. You’re not only a model for your children and grandchildren but for people around you. And ultimately, your eyes will thank you. Your neck will thank you. Your brain will thank you. And I will thank you for helping to grow increased awareness of the importance of connecting with fellow human beings.

I wish you increased clarity in 2020 and the opportunity to soak in many life experiences.