Look up and smell the roses

We recently took the boys on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Universal Studios. I feel truly blessed to be able to do this for our kids. When I think about the memories we are making, and how they will look back fondly on these fun times, it makes me so happy.

But there was one aspect of the trip that just made me sad: So many people staring at their phones.

Granted, when you go to a major theme park on a holiday weekend there is lots of waiting. It can be tedious and frustrating. My patience was tried a few times, the boys got bored, and a few times we had to remind ourselves to just breathe and enjoy it.

But the number of people staring down at screens really struck me.  It was just sad.

During a 45 minute wait to get into Hogwarts, a group of young girls in front of us spent the entire time each engrossed in their own screen. Occasionally, one of them would show something to another, they’d laugh, and go back to their own phone. There was no conversation. No excited chatter about the upcoming ride, no talk about boys, or school or what they had done the previous day. (Unless, of course, they were texting each other.) I was astonished, and even my son mentioned it.

In another line, there was a very young girl with her mom. Her mom was on Facebook pretty much the entire wait. The girl had her own phone, but she tried to talk to her mom a couple times without success. So she kept opening and closing apps, not really doing anything on the phone, but staring at it nonetheless. I think that made me saddest. She seemed to be either mimicking what she was seeing around her and wanting to fit in, or she was resigned to the fact that her mom wasn’t engaging and was just bored. What a wasted opportunity!

(And no, I wasn’t being nosy. When you are stuck in close proximity to someone it’s very easy to see with a glance what they are looking at on their phone.)

Those are just two examples of what I saw over and over again.

We really are having a zombie apocalypse, but instead of some mystery virus, it’s our smartphones that have turned our brains to mush. Did I mention how many times we ran into or had to walk around someone because they were doing the zombie shuffle, or stopped in the middle of the path to look at their phone? Maddening.

I’m not perfect. I wasn’t always 100% engaged with the kids. Yes, I pulled out my phone to text my husband who had the younger one on the other side of the park. Or to take a quick picture and post it to Facebook. And frankly, there were times during our waits that I wanted to sleep. (Sleeping in the same hotel bed with a four-year-old? That’s for another post.) Or I didn’t really feel like engaging because I was thinking about how much my back hurt from all the standing, or I was people-watching.

But most of the time, we enjoyed each other’s company. We talked. My older son and I made up our own versions of the rides we were about to get on. We talked about why he can’t see Deadpool.  (And he didn’t cry this time. Whew.) We dreamt up our own movies or stories. We laughed.

I would not have traded that time for any app in the world.

What are we doing, people? These are the memory-makers. These are the times we should be laughing and talking and sharing (IRL not social media sharing).  When else do we have time to just hang out with our kids without having to rush here and there? And we’re spending it on our phones?

It just makes me sad.

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