It’s hard for me to believe that Life on the May is approaching its first birthday. I thought that, to celebrate its special day, it would be fun for you to hear a different voice with a slightly different take on one of the things I think about a lot…..electronic devices. The voice is that of our son, Chip, and, as the father of two teen-age girls, he speaks from an up-close and personal perspective. I find encouragement in what he sees and says and hope you do, too.
A Shiny Glimpse Into the Modern Teenage Mind
My wife, Carrie, and I recently had the occasion to host 6 teenage girls (ages 13-15) on a week’s vacation at the beach in NC. Two of them were ours, and the other 4 were friends/guests of our 14 and 15 year-old daughters. As the only male in the house, I had some of the guests’ fathers wish me luck, tell me I was crazy, bid me farewell, etc.. But…I lived to tell about it, and what I have to tell is quite promising.
If you’ve seen a teenage girl lately, you’ve noticed the new permanent appendage they use all the time, namely their cell-phone. They are constantly “social-mediating,” as I call it, checking Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, text-messages, etc.. These are now all part of their everyday lives like none of us have ever seen before. To be off-line from these apps is to be disconnected, out-of-the-loop, and perhaps even anti-“social.” So, we knew that the phones were coming on the trip with us, and we knew they would be present a good bit of the time.
Now, keep in mind, these are good girls – they are ALL really good girls. They have manners, they work hard in school, they pursue various passions, they say hello/goodbye/please/thank you…all that stuff. But they also find themselves heavily involved in all their friends’ lives through the various media on their phones morning, day and night. In some instances, they would all 6 be together, but not talking due to their focus on pictures, videos and funny comments appearing on their respective phones. And, because they are all friends with each other, some of the things they were seeing/reading were posts from one of the other girls sitting right there NEXT to them. Crazy, right?!
Some time back, my mother had the courage to ask all the kids at the Thanksgiving dinner table to put their phones away, select a card from the box being handed around the table, and participate in the conversation that would proceed from the reading of each card. These conversation-starter cards contained great questions that ranged from ice-breakers to probing queries to right-out philosophical dilemmas. And, because somehow I have managed to surround myself with amazing women in my life, Carrie made a mental note to bring these same conversation cards along with us on this vacation.
It was baked-potato night, and the girls were so excited as they loaded butter, sour cream, bacon, and salt (lots of salt) onto their hot baked potatoes. This might have been part of Carrie’s great plan, using the yummy food as an initial distraction from the phones so that she could play her next card – the conversation card(s). She asked the kids to keep their phones down, select a card each, and one-by-one read their question aloud, waiting for conversation to have its way on the preceding card before engaging in a new question.
“Would you rather have a great wardrobe or an amazing car?”
“Is there life on other planets?”
“Is it better to be popular, or respected?”
The questions went like that, and they were all great, but the response was even better.
These girls – as though they had been starved for intellectual engagement/discussion – jumped on these questions so immediately, it was a delight to see. They each – to a one – had compelling responses, follow-up questions, creative thoughts, and even a respect/interest in what the outnumbered adults at the table had to say on each topic. The table of 8 yielded multiple conversations at the same time on each question such that it was hard to even hear/focus on the one conversation you were in…and Carrie and I enjoyed a couple moments of great gratitude as we caught each others’ glance across this most-impressive scene. It was magical, in a way…or at least it was inspiring.
And for all that talk, all that engagement…it made for the best night of the trip…
…until 2 nights later when they asked if we could do it again! 🙂
I’ll see you next week…..