Dear Millennial Mom,
I realize that I am more than twice your age and might not know what’s going on. I admit that I don’t even own a smart phone. Maybe if they sold wise phones I might buy one. At 60 years old, I grew up during the time when phones were stuck to the walls, you needed to buy film for your camera, and computers were monstrous machines hidden in IBM basements.
I want to ask you to please put your phone away.
This letter is written after deep reflection. My need for you to put your phone away culminated when we met after the Christmas Eve service. I was so happy to see you and meet your two-month-old son. Last time we met, you were preparing for his birth. I was delighted to see his head covered in dark curls. He was sleeping soundly despite the festivities around us. Your husband was so proud. I bent over the little one in his stroller and marveled at his creamy skin and calm breath. Baby’s fingernails have always fascinated me. Like tiny rose petals topped with a perfect quarter moon. I gently brushed his cheek and whispered hello.
And then you dug into your purse and whipped out your phone. You had to show me pictures of your son right after his birth. Photo after photo slid across the small screen, which I can’t really see because I have become farsighted. You wanted me to marvel at his pictures. I wanted to marvel at your son.
It wasn’t long before your 7-year old niece reached up for the phone. She wanted to show us the photos. But what she really wanted was our attention. You begrudgingly handed her the phone, and all the adults quickly circled around her. We watched as her nimble, practiced fingers zoomed in, zoomed out, sped by photo after photo. Meanwhile, I stood beside her, stroking her hair, gently caressing her back, inwardly sighing. Why did we have to all relate to each other over this little shining piece of flashing metal? Longingly I glanced at your son, alone in his stroller, asleep in the corner while we gazed at his photos.
I wanted to scream. Right after the Christmas Eve service. Oh! Holy Night. I wanted to grab that stupid phone, thrown it down on the floor, and stamp it to pieces.
But you know that I didn’t do that. Then I would have been, not just an old woman, but a crazy old woman.
So, now I ask you. Kindly. Quietly. Please put your phone away.
Stand before me and talk to me. Be there so I can see you. Let me stare into the face of your child so that I might know him. Let me see you so I might know you. Every time you are tempted to look at your phone, please turn and gaze into the eyes before you – the heart before you. Thank God, no one has figured out (yet) how to instantly capture a digital photo of my feelings for you. Only you can do that.
Please count to 20 before you pull out your phone.
I ask this as a humble elder who believes in relating to whomever is with me in the here-and-now. Who has experienced all of eternity held in a single moment of deep understanding. Who knows that a phone cannot capture or store this deep human connection.
In the end, I just want to be with you. I want you to be with your son and your husband, your niece and whomever might stand before you, including old friends, like me.
Please put your phone away and just be yourself. Just be with me. Just be.