Monday through Friday my days couldn’t be more urban. I spend my daytime hours and, courtesy of an understand wife, many evenings in Manhattan. I consider myself damn lucky that way. On Saturday mornings, however, I do what a lot of suburban dads do; I take my kid to basketball. It’s not my favorite activity but it’s important to my 7-Year Old that I be there so I go without complaining [too much].
One afternoon, she came off the court for some water and said, “Dad…you didn’t see me make a basket. You were looking at your phone.” Don’t you hate when someone holds a mirror up and you don’t like what you see? I was actually pretty crushed. I made a vow. From the time she goes on the court until the final buzzer, my phone stays in my pocket. It’s not easy when I feel it vibrate, but I haven’t cracked yet.
Last week, a mom parked her stroller next to me. While one daughter ran onto the court, she handed an iPad to the tyke in the stroller. The little one donned a set of pink earphones, adroitly plugged in, and zoned out.
She spent the rest of her time playing idiot games while mom, what else?, got on her smart phone to text and peruse Facebook. Neither of them looked up once to see her daughter/sister play. They couldn’t have cared less.
After the game, daughter the first came over and sat on the bench. Mom took the iPad away from daughter the second and you should have heard the blood-curdling scream she let out. You wouldn’t think such a banshee wail could come from such a little peanut. The only way to silence her was to stick another gadget in her hand. The three of them sat there ignoring each other.
Do you know how you’re supposed to be all humble and not think you’re better than anyone? That you shouldn’t judge someone unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes? That you’re not supposed to feel superior? Well, sometimes it’s really hard to not do that.
I see episodes like this all the time. Children will never know what it’s like to just sit and enjoy the quiet. They’ll never learn how to connect with flesh and bone. If we’re not careful, all of our most important relationships will exist on the internet. That can’t be healthy.
The Half King. W. 23rd/10th Ave. 12:20 p.m. Saturday, January 11th
My 12-Year Old daughter has a friend whom I adore. She’s intelligent, polite and can stand her ground in a conversation. Not all 12-year olds can do that. She’s an excellent influence. The kind of kid you’d want your kid to spend her time with. Her father’s a hell of a nice guy, too. He’s a successful investment banker. My daughter extended an invitation on Saturday but it was declined because her friend was away skiing in Vermont.
Skiing is an activity for wealthy, white people. I’m doing okay, but not take-my-family-to-Vermont-for-the-long-weekend okay. This is where my daughter will start to learn what the term economic disparity means. As they get older, my daughter and her friend will start to move in different circles. Their friendship might dissipate like vapor under the weight of their different lifestyles.
I try to teach both daughters that wealth is a lousy barometer for happiness and that of all the unhealthy emotions, envy is the one that will rot your soul the quickest. But it’s hard to practice what you preach sometimes. This being a family-provider stuff can really fuck with your head.