Monday, January 24, 2011

Cell Phone Negotiations

My daughter is somewhat obsessed with cell phones.

It started with a conversation a few months ago when she told me she needed a cell phone so she could text her boyfriend. (Keep in mind that she is 6.)

In the few months since then, she has told me repeatedly how much she really needs a cell phone -- for a variety of reasons. She has not been happy with my response that we won't even begin talking about a cell phone for several more years.

So when she finally got a chance to use a gift card she had received for Christmas, I wasn't very surprised that she bought herself a toy smart phone -- complete with "texting" ability.

A few days after her purchase, we were sitting at the dinner table when I noticed she was playing with something in her lap.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Nothing," she replied in that too-quick way.

"What's in your lap?"


I leaned over to find her new "cell phone" in her lap. She was "texting."

"Put it up," I said as she gave me the "really, Mom?" look. "Put it away. Cell phones -- real or pretend -- don't belong at the table."

She rolled her eyes as she got up to put it away. (Just exactly where did she learn to act like she's 14?)

It's hard for me to understand how my daughter is already so attached to the idea of a cell phone. Her father and I are of a different generation. We have cell phones -- but they aren't lifelines and they certainly aren't integral to our social lives.

My daughter, alas, will be part of the generation that can't imagine life without a cell phone. I'm sure that much of her socializing will be done via text, or on Facebook, or through some other form of social media or instant messaging. And I'm mostly okay with that -- although it's not, and probably never will be, how I choose to socialize.

I'm sure we'll have many disagreements. I do believe there are some conversations that are best had in person (i.e., you can't dump your boyfriend by text) and I think there are places and times that cell phones just don't belong (i.e., the dinner table).

I just wish those disagreements could wait until she actually has a (real) cell phone.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Civil Discourse

"Be compassionate to each other."

Those words came from the leader of a memorial walk for those killed in last Saturday's shootings in Tucson. She urged those gathered at the event to "starting tonight and for the rest of your life, be compassionate to everyone."

In the week since the shooting rampage, debate has raged over whether the current tone of our political environment played a role in the shootings. And there's certainly enough blame to go around -- on both sides of the fence -- for a toxic political climate.

But questioning whether ads with cross-hairs or comments about "second amendment remedies" might have caused a mentally unstable young man to open fire at a supermarket makes the debate too easy -- and absolves the rest of us from our role in creating an often contentious climate.

It's too easy to turn those who disagree with us into demons. Too easy to write off those we don't understand. Too easy to let snarkiness pass as real commentary on those issues about which we're passionate. Too easy to forget about compassion.

I want my children to learn to be passionate about the issues that are important to them. And I want them to have opinions -- even strong ones -- about the world around them. But there is a certain amount of hypocrisy when I call some conservative politician or pundit an idiot, and then reprimand my daughter for using the same language about her brother.

I want my children to know that we can disagree with people without demonizing them.

I want them to learn compassion, and respect, and kindness. I want them to know that everyone deserves those -- even the people we disagree with the most, even the people whose opinions drive us the most crazy.

And it's not just politicians who need that lesson.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011


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