About face

Published 12:42 pm Thursday, December 28, 2023

Warning: Boomer alert.

I don’t know if the following is a rant…it’s certainly not scorn or cynicism. I think perhaps it is incredulity, with an egg wash of despair. Yes, okay, I hear you. I’ll get to the point:

I recently spoke with the mother of a couple of teenagers. And during the course of the conversation about ‘kids these days,’ she admitted her son has been dating a girl for eight months.

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Wait for it….

And they’ve only been on a physical date twice. 

Wait a bit longer…

They live just 15 minutes away from each other. 

“So…” I began completely flummoxed, “are they both slammed with homework? Do they not have driver licenses?”

“They don’t,” she replied. “My son doesn’t seem to care about wanting to drive. When I turned 16 I couldn’t wait to get my license. He’s nearly 18 and he can’t be bothered. And she’s the same way.”

“So how are they actually dating?”

“They basically FaceTime most of the afternoon and at night. They go to sleep with it still on. It’s the weirdest thing to me and when I spoke to a couple of other moms, they said they’re going through the same thing. I mean, it seems like kids don’t hang out anymore. They don’t go to movies together, or football games or care about their prom…” Her voice trailed as she twirled the bottom of her glass with a straw.

“Yet there are lots of parents that spend every weekend driving their kids around to soccer games and scouting stuff,” I countered.

“Exactly,” she said. “And I used to sort of scoff at parents that structure all that play time and not let kids just do what they want, until a friend of mine told me that the reason she does it is because her kid would do nothing but stare at her phone all weekend. So this way, her kid has to get up, move and be outside.”

“Wowww,” I sighed. “That never occurred to me. I always just figured they were sort of controlling, you know? Helicopter parents.”

This conversation has rather haunted me since I was a part of it. Will the adolescents who live this lifestyle of impersonal connection consider marriage later on, or even live together? Will they be able to function in a home they physically share with a mate? If they have children, will they interact, in-person, with their child or will the entire family communicate via screen? 

On the other hand…by FaceTiming, are they more focused without distraction to whom they are listening, as well as speaking? Are they possibly more comfortable in sharing their personal truths, dreams, passions? Might this be their version of talking for hours over their respective laptops as we boomers did over our (non-cordless!) telephones during the first flush of love: “You hang up first. No, you hang up…” Maybe, just maybe, ‘kids today’ are far more skilled in the art of conversation than we give them credit.

“Hmm, I don’t know about that.” My friend grimaced when I tossed in that thought. “I’ve passed his room a few times while they’re Facetiming on their laptops and have seen them both looking at their phones.”

I don’t even know what to say to that. But I will say this: I’m now closing this laptop and not going near it until tomorrow.