Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Parenting, Politics & Perpetual Texting



I woke up from my weekday post-work, cozy on the couch nap around 11pm, dozing off during one of the MSNBC shows and shuffled on down the hallway, to check in on my daughter.

Little O is 12 and she was hosting a school friend on a Friday night sleepover. I peeked in to find them laying on the foldout futon with their backs facing the door, shoulder to shoulder, an earbud in one ear, legs splayed and toes wiggling, their heads bobbing to a personal beat as they each watched a youtube music video on their separate smartphones.  

It was a picture worthy moment, the two of them, friends since second grade but now in different schools quietly enjoying themselves. The soft uplighting was perfect but flashing a pic, well, that just seemed invasive. So I resisted the temptation to reach for my camera and let the moment pass into memory. There was a time and it wasn’t all that long ago when and without any hesitation, daddy would have snapped that pic but my daughter is twelve now…… twelve going on eighteen?

Yeah, things are changing and they’re changing rather quickly.

Proceeding to the end of the hallway, I found Ms. O at her desk busy knitting away, as one eye kept an eye on a Breaking Bad episode she was watching via NetFlix on her MacBook. Glancing up, she grinned as I told her about the girls and she raised her eyebrows in that, ‘Yup, yup, I know’ expression she flashes me sometimes, when she’s kinda’ busy. I have one of those looks too. After 10 years of marriage most of us do, I hope.

Turning but still in the doorway, I stood there for a moment, murmuring,

‘We’ve become them?’



I’m not a big fan of commercials. I’ll be very blunt, I despise them. All of them. Shiny happy people dancing around holding yogurt containers, the squawking insurance duck and earnest spokesfolk for energy monopolies get an immediate MUTE from me, followed by a detour to Bikini Bottom until Rachel returns.

Spongebob and Patrick are silly but at least they’re honest.

SpongeBob Squarepants is always good for a giggle and a flood of good memories too. It was Little O’s favorite and lucky for me it supplanted Dora the Explorer. Always up for quality cartoon time, we would both slouch on the livingroom couches when she was younger and laugh ourselves silly. This room that doubles as my writing space and her bedroom when she visits, was totally decorated with SpongeBob paraphenalia. I still remember the day we both went to Target and filled the red cart with bedding,

a lamp and at the time, a huge stuffed SpongeBob.

For many years, it was her huggy I handed her as I tucked her in, that and the click, click, click, click of my keyboard, helped her fall asleep. She has a noise machine now. Stored away in boxes are all the neon yellow, SpongeBob items and this room is now being redone. Gone is the private loft and ladder I built for her, after removing the folding doors of an extra large closet. She’s grown so tall, so fast that she no longer fit underneath.

We still catch a few episodes of SpongeBob together and she still squeals with delight.

But this is the same twelve year old who, this past summer, lay belly down on that same futon editing a neatly stacked, clasped, inch thick manuscript of a book written by a classmate. Spending the better part of her weekend, she dutifully wrote detailed notes on the reverse side of almost every page. As a fellow writer, I was intrigued and a little curious about the novel and was told it was autobiographical, but not much else. I sensed she was being protective, so I praised her generosity and went back to my own writing, shaking my head trying to absorb it all.

And that’s a thing about parenting; it’s the click, click, click, click of the everyday, when you think maybe you just might have it figured out and then…whoosh!, it’s readjustment time again.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep up.

Not keeping up with technology is a pursuit I’ve been somewhat actively involved in. Sure, I own a computer, a reconditioned Samsung Netbook, snagged at halfprice online attached to a large Visio flatscreen monitor, also reconditioned and until six months ago, a not very complicated phone. I write, peruse the web and store pics. I don’t game, Facebook, Tweet or belong to any social networks, so my tech needs are very basic and I’ve liked it that way. I realize I might be an anomaly but I’m more than OK with that too, it wears well or at least it did.

I worry about our adherance to technology, worry about what changes are taking place in our relationships, our interactions and in our society in general.

I see it on the sidewalks in Chicago, the hordes of commuters doing the Smartphone Shuffle, headphones on, head down, texting or listening to tunes. They bump into others and just like a pinball, bounce off and continue walking without acknowledging the interaction. People in cars are texting and for some reason get annoyed and out comes the finger, when you remind them that the light has turned green. I’ve seen folks walk head down into an intersection and a cyclist texting with both hands, while riding in traffic.

Yeah, I realize these might be anomalies too but maybe it’s a symptom of something bigger, all of us retreating into a personal smart device cacoon and the slow, incremental technology creep infiltrating almost every facet of our lives. And despite my anxiety and my efforts to keep it all at arms length, it’s happened to me and my family too. The ‘We’ve Become Them’, technology creep began last year in three, unrelated and random events.

Ms. O and I are movie buffs and the last and best video rental store in our neighborhood finally had to shutter its doors, the result Netflix. Little O won an IPad in a school raffle and now to sync up, an upgrade to an IPHONE for Christmas. The company I work for went 100% digital and all our communication, updates and work orders etc., are now directed through our smartphones. Result, Little O helped me pick out a Samsung Galaxy Note, with a stylus that can be used on the keyboard to text, instead of my uncooperative thumbs.

So waking up that night, leaving my own TV and now smartphone accompanied cacoon, finding Little O with her friend in theirs and my wife in hers was, a tad…. unsettling.

It reminded me instantly of another recent commercial I dislike.

A ‘typical two kid mom and dad family’, all frowned and frustrated because there isn’t enough couch space for the four of them to watch a movie together, a compromise choice they all dislike, so no one’s happy. They upgrade to a 4g service that allows them to record and view, four separate shows in four separate rooms. Suddenly, shiny, happy faces break out simultaneously in all four rooms and life is so much better.


See, the thing is, I’ll still take that detour to Bikini Bottom and continue to despise commercials. But slowly, imperceptably, there’s no denying that ‘We’ve Become Them.’

We didn’t plan to but here we are and I still worry about the effect of so much tech in our lives. But I’ve also, slowly, come to enjoy my smartphone and it’s 4g features. Will I now become a Smartphone Shuffler, text in my car or while I’m riding my bike. No but I think NEW RULES need to be adopted so that we don’t fall into the ‘tech cacoon in separate room family’, all the time.

Me and Little O, who has now become a perpetual texter, have a new texting relationship we didn’t have before. She doesn’t enjoy talking on the phone and neither do I, if I can help it. We make all our plans now without her mom as a middleman and I’m proud of her. It’s a big step for a 12 year old.

Oh and then there’s that cool app from her school that alerts her mom and me, if she’s no longer getting straight A’s and is in danger of sliding off the deans list!




I got a text from her a while back, asking me to sign and pass along the petition to protest the awful ‘Kill the Gays’ law in Uganda. I clicked it, passed it on and thanked her for caring about such an important issue.

Click, click, click, click……whoosh!  

That’s a thing about parenting; sometimes you have to keep up.


  1. That’s a thing about parenting; sometimes you have to keep up.

    Is so true.

    Donna and I have worried – as much as it is our business to do so – about the children of friends who cut them out of the communications world their peers are growing up in. Whether us old codgers like it or not (get off my lawn!) our children will live their entire lives in an increasingly connected environment, and it will not surprise me to see as the decades unfold a gap between those who had grown with this environment and those who did not.

    That gap is concerning when we look at children the same age here and in Yemen, for example, where until the Arab Spring there was virtually no Internet service (1.8%). A 17-year-old boy in a village outside Sana’a has nothing like the exposure to the world as Damien, and is entering adulthood where catching up to his international peers gets harder with each passing year. Compounding the poverty he is undoubtedly experiencing is a wall that keeps him from taking advantage of the opportunity to have a career where he is involved with people around the world, further increasing the odds that his life will follow an all too well known path.

    In Sana’a in November I gave a lecture to almost 500 students at Sana’a University in Yemen. These students are privileged among their peers in-country to be able to go to college at all. They toppled their dictator from that very campus and crowded in to hear how they could find a path that held more than the cloistered corruption their parents’ nation offered them. They are not asking that we keep up with them, they are demanding it.

    As parents we need to keep up with the world our children live in. As adults we bear the same responsibility for all children, keeping up with the world they live in so we can provide guidance to their futures, rather than our pasts.

  2. nannyboz

    do, however, have thoughts and feelings.  

    I loathe texting.  Why?  Because my step kids use this as their go to mode of communication.  No phone calls, not even email anymore… no, we text or we perish.  I find it cold.

    My Mom will soon turn 92 and is the last of the real letter writers, snail mail if you will.  It’s a lost art I must confess I haven’t partaken in for years.  Yet folks love Mom’s letters as do I and we live 5 minutes from each other. It’s special because of the thought and effort it takes.

    Our kids and grand kids text, IF THEY HAVE TIME.  That’s sad.

    Not saying anything negative about your post, which I love, but about our communication, or lack of, any more.  Mom is the last of a WWII generation and much more.  And the last real communicator, IMO.

  3. dear occupant

    i have an awful headache right now.

    That’s a thing about parenting; sometimes you have to keep up.

    we have always taken little o’s lead with whatever she expressed an interest in, knowing full well that us ‘old codgers’ needed to be as supportive as possible. the environment i grew up in is light years away from the exposure she has, with the diversity she’s experienced in such a short time and i’m profoundly happy she has the opportunity to learn so much, so quickly.

    as a person who so often can see 2 sides of an issue, this piece was a slightly tongue in cheek attempt to have a conversation with other parents and non parents alike, about how they deal with this issue in their families. if they have some of the concerns i do.

    i’m a cautious person by nature and right now, my everyday concerns have more to do with safety and manners. we were crossing a very busy street the other day and i reached for her hand and it wasn’t there, she was texting. 🙁

    i applaud your efforts to bring your expertise and enthusiasm of teh tech to the children of Yemen. your pics put a bit of a lump in my throat.

    good on you.

  4. taylormattd

    a wonderful diary, thank you.

    I have some thoughts on this too, given I have two kids – ages 12 and 17, but I’m too lazy to put them all down right now. Having said that, I would say that I largely agree with you, even though I am constantly falling into the trap myself.

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