Hold your child’s hand … not a cellphone

Does it bother you when you see a parent spank their child in public?

I think it bothers most people, but it is legal (to a point) and it is none of our business.

But I would love to be able to get that parent’s attention for just one minute and tell them spanking is not necessary if they are just consistent with their child.

There is something else that I see on the streets and it bothers me just as much. But, again, it is none of my business, so I say nothing.

But I don’t need to restrain myself with you, dear reader: what bothers me is seeing parents and guardians talking on their cellphone while they are walking with their children.

Such a wasted opportunity. It is so sad.

If the child was playing in the sandbox, fine, they need time for self discovery and to sharpen those skills to amuse themselves. If they are reading a book, great, quiet contemplation is a good thing.

But a walk is different. It is exercise, sure, but it is also downtime, quiet time, when a parent and child can discuss important things like why those leaves are this colour and those aren’t; why we have curbs; why that man walks with a cane; and how tall the sky is.

Even when we don’t have an answer, it tells the child that knowledge isn’t something that adults have and children don’t; knowledge needs someone – just like them – to seek it out.

And walking with our children is a chance for us adults to re-discover the wonder that this world is, and our children are more than happy to show us.

Yet these opportunities are squandered by a parents talking on their cellphone.

They send a very strong message that someone else, who isn’t even there, is more important than you.

I know the message has been received because many of these children have given up on running back to their parent and squealing, “Look, Mommy, a butterfly!” or “Come here, Daddy, what’s that?”

I sat at the Education Building one day, waiting for someone, and watched three such pairings walk past.

The parent seemed to be the one doing all the talking on the phone while the child trudged along at the steady pace that didn’t allow for careful observation of bugs and dust devils.

All three children seemed to feel this walk was a chore and not the voyage of discovery it should have been.

All three children did not hold their parent’s hand, something that, at this stage of my life, I miss dearly.

And all three children had a look of boredom on their faces.


They are walking with one of the people they love the most, along a grass- and tree-lined street full of big trucks and goofy-looking cyclists in their helmets and sunglasses, and they are bored.

They would rather be back at home with the one thing that unfailingly talks to them: the television.

These parents are not bad, they just formed a selfish worldview, somehow. Perhaps they were latchkey kids who were home alone after school until their parents finished work. Well, many of those parents didn’t have a choice, many needed two paycheques, or maybe there was only one parent.

But when you are walking with your child, you do have a choice. You can choose to leave your phone at home.

I will bet $10 with anybody, anytime, that they will enjoy their walk more if they talk with their child and not to someone else on their cellphone.

And if I have to hand over a $10 bill to someone, I will also ask this question: “What happened to you?”

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