Do’s And Be’s Aside

“… then have Alexa read your kid a good-night story so you can have a few moments to yourself.”
 
“What?” my shotgun kid said in disbelief.
 
I had to double-take myself. I’m so used to rewinding to see or hear again, I reached for the remote control. Realizing that we’re driving and that radio doesn’t rewind, I repeated what we thought we heard one of our local personalities say to the rousing agreement-exclamations of her on-air buddies, “I think she just said to have Alexa read to your kid at night.”
 
“That kind of defeats the purpose don’t you think?” She’s seventeen and would probably still stop for a sit and listen if a book is being read out loud – which we sometimes do, though not often enough. Still, she thought out loud, “What’s next? Alexa run my laps. Alexa brush my teeth. Alexa write my paper,” and laughed. “But read to your kid? That’s a kind of gross,” she concluded
 
I get the need for convenience. And, I fully understand the need for down time. But the thing about reading with your kid – it has so much more to do with relationship than anything else. Until we allow the ever-growing list of do’s and be’s with all their inherent product-pressures to rule. It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that people aren’t products in today’s society driven by resumes, transcripts, bios, Abouts, etc. Good things can quickly be twisted and made to be a badge or belt-notch.
It is good to read out loud, together, next to each other. To escape via written word and to visit another land like Narnia, side-by-side. To feel the agony of a cliff-hanger at the end of a chapter that will just have to wait until tomorrow. But all that good can get lost in the act when it becomes a checked box on a list of do’s or be’s. When we reading is done to land on a list like Signs You’re A Good Parent (Grandparent, Aunt or even Sibling) or Ways To Increase Your Child’s IQ OR fill in the blank.

And it’s not just reading. We’re encouraged, rightfully so, to eat dinner together. It’s good to eat meals together since it’s “The Most Important Thing You Can Do With Your Kids” But we can even trip that up by lathering on caveats – it must be at our kitchen table, at a set time, home-made, organically grown produce, in our own backyards. Because that’s what we often do – add to the list so we can be better, beyond just what needs to be done. Then, the small problem of enough comes into play – and enough is elusive at best.  But, great meals can be had on the fly. It’s the breaking of bread, together, conversing – the relationship part that matters. Because a good meal can even be shared in the carpool line while waiting for a brother to be let out of school.

Or volunteering. It’s good to volunteer. But the good can get lost in the doing primarily to check a box. Since we Spring Break staycationed (a common theme in our home for a lot of reasons) we had some free time. So, one of the days we hopped in the car and went to a favorite place to help out. It’s an easy spot to pop in and help clean or stock shelves or so many things. So we did. And we weren’t the only ones. Which could possibly prove that EVERYONE didn’t go out of town (though I get why it feels that way) and that I’m not the only person who thinks volunteering can be fun. But, truth be told, almost all the volunteers were there to check a box – get the hours. Which honestly is fine and a terrific requirement by schools and certain organizations since such things widen the scope of opportunities as well as understanding need. But, when we make volunteering a means to an end – like filling out a resume or checking a box – we make it about ourselves which takes away the beauty of and secret to service – eyes off us. Volunteering, like gratitude, can be such a powerful tool in our arsenal against so much of the world’s mis-messaging so often centered on getting ahead.

It can be a challenge to straddle such wonderful things in life that come with product-pressures. Especially when the “product” is a person. The pressures are real. And we actually need to do these good things, not only for proven health and well-being but also because they’re good for us. Some are actual requirements to graduate.

Maybe the secret is to weave into the mix unexpected moments of doing simply as an act of being.

Volunteering just to do it out of the kindness of our hearts and for the experience. With regard to our Spring Break helping out, I’m not sure any of us will soon forget digging through a palette of cabbages, discarding the rotten, pulling back slimy leaves to salvage the edible. Just remembering the smell alone ushers in groans and laughter that bring lingering smiles – no counting hours, simply being together and helping others. Leisurely reading and enjoying the person sitting beside who only moments earlier moaned and pleaded No, I’d rather play my game – until the story caught their attention since that’s what good stories do. And letting that carpool-lunch “count” (whatever that means) as a family meal since any time together – especially in the car where eyes tend to focus outward and honest thoughts easily flow – equals relationship.

Relationship – the one thing each and every human craves. Here’s to fighting for it in the midst of all the do’s and be’s.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

– Kay

[Side-Note: Sorry for the radio silence of late. I’ve been putting final touches on a new book – a fun, but daunting prospect. I would really appreciate your prayers. I’m not kidding about my gratitude for walking the road together.]

Smart Phones: Friend, Foe, Freedom

Kids and phones are and have seen the best of times (I mean, really – sitting in a germ-infested doctors office is MUCH less stressful with a kid’s hands occupied rather than free to the room) to the worst of times. We could probably fill the page with the latter.

  • social media pressures
  • seemingly unavoidable access to damaging apps
  • argument inducer that accompany almost every limitation setting
  • even addiction

There’s also a new term, “nomophobia” meaning NO MOre PHone phOBIA – as in debilitating fear when the phone is gone. Seems a stretch, but who can make this stuff up.

 

Of course none of that is limited to kids. But it’s always easier to see others’ issues before our own. Or maybe it’s the major warning signals flashing brightly, letting us know that something is off, something is stealing from us, something threatens harm that has smart-phones in the headlines and at the top of social media feeds weekly, if not daily.

But there are Apps (may the irony not be lost) for that – dealing with cell phone addictions as well as legitimate forced limitation for families. I had a friend over yesterday who recently put OURPACT on her phone to help manage screen time and stop naggy push-back with her teenage boys. The app a free but has a fee for increased ability to customize. She’s not trying to over-insert herself into their lives, but is trying to help them find balance and adhere to boundaries – so they can finish their work or actually participate in life – as in live conversation.

Because, honestly we sometimes/often need help. I wish there was an App to stop me from finishing off that last piece of pie. Or an app to stop me from saying that one little extra piece of info that just didn’t need saying.

My kids still won’t let me live down a moment when we were all in the car passing through a security gate. The guard asked for our name, then searched and searched through his long list. We’re accustomed to waiting since our last name is Wyma. So I lightly joked with the kind gentleman about our being last. Even went to far with telling him that my maiden name is Wills and that I went BACK in the alphabet. Then went further by saying I dreamed of being a “B” or an “M” as a child. He didn’t need to know that and certainly didn’t care. But I totally blew it when – after he had smiled, raised the gate & waived us on – I stopped the car while driving off and yelled back. “We carry up the rear.” Why do I do that? It’s horrifying. I’m sure he heard the moans and groans of our entire car, “Mahhwwmmm!! That’s so awkward! Just stop talking.”

Yeah, where’s the app for that?!

I was just talking with someone yesterday who thought parents should agree to ban phones until kids are in 8th grade. I’m not sure that could even happen; but she had a point. The conversation stuck in my thoughts. Then as if on cue, I heard this piece (A School’s Way to Fight Phones in Class: Lock Them Up) on the radio while racing from one place to another. It’s about a product called Yondr – a little pouch that literally creates phone-free spaces.

Graham Dugoni founded the company Yondr four years ago, after he was annoyed by people using their phones at concerts. Turns out performers were, too, and now, hundreds of them, like Chris Rock, Alicia Keys and Ariana Grande have been forcing fans to lock up their phones. Or, as Dugoni would put it, freeing fans to really enjoy their shows.

It really is forced freedom – which seems crazy, but it works and is now being tapped by schools to create classrooms for learning and communication and contemplation – free from phone distraction, kids able to engage.

At the City on a Hill Circuit Street charter school in Boston, students entering school in the morning are met by administrators fanned out at the front door with their hands out. One by one, they take students’ phones, slip them into a soft pouch, and lock them closed with a snap that works like the security tags you find on clothing at department stores. Students take their pouched phones back, but can only unlock them with a special device at dismissal time, nearly eight hours later.

Of course kids are outraged and have tried just about everything to open the pouches and retrieve their phones. But the positive upswing has been undeniable. There are even some students who admit it. One said that with her phone gone during the day, she forgets about it completely, finding herself less attached to it even at home.

Senior Yalena Terrero Martinez went on to tell the reporter, “I don’t reach for my phone as much,” Martinez says. “Because if you don’t feed into the habit, the habit eventually slows down.”

Martinez says the pouches are also making a big difference socially.

“Oh my gosh, all my friends would be like on their phones during lunch, and I was just sitting there staring out the window, waiting for a conversation to spark up,” she says. “But now, like, we talk a lot more.”

That’s exactly what the folks who make the pouches were hoping for.

Interesting stuff. Would love to know your thoughts.

As always, thanks for walking the road with me!

-Kay

Great News in Today’s culture

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas! We’re still working on addressing cards and delivering a couple of neighbor gifts – hot chocolate, better late than never, right?!. And, I might have even found a gift or two that got lost in the mix. The still unwrapped items just might be saved for a later since their absence never mattered to begin with.

As expected, the most special gifts were the ones the kids picked out and payed for each other. The best was probably this math equations nerd-shirt. The kid instantly put it on then chuckled throughout the evening at a couple of the equations. Apparently they’re real – and funny. Who knew?!

Returns have already commenced. Especially since I accidentally ordered 2 (TWO!) beanbag chairs – the special gift for 1 (ONE) kid – oops!

I thought I share a little something special with you today, too – thoughts on how Christmas informs not only a celebrated holiday, but also every day.

John Stonestreet carpool-diemed with our SaySomething crew a few weeks ago, but we saved it for Christmas. John is president of the Colson Center, cohost with Eric Metaxas of BreakPoint, and the coauthor of several books – the most recent with Brett Kunkle called: A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.

As we celebrate the day that Hope arrived alive and well on the scene, John shares how Hope informs today and every day. Especially when things like technology, social media platforms, political impasses, strained relationships and so much more seem to be so powerfully on the scene.

“To take seriously the cultural moment without losing hope is to realize that this moment is part of a larger story. And that story ultimately is culminating in the fact that God will, in Christ, make all things new.”

I hope you enjoy his message as much as we did.

THANK YOU for joining this and so many of our other conversations! Praying many blessings for you and your family today. I SO appreciate traveling the road with you.

Kay

Gift Guide – Simple Rules

“What are you getting the boys?” a friend of mine asked. We bumped into each other at the pharmacy. My fingers are still crossed, hoping we’re done with the flu!

“That’s the question of the hour,” I shake my head. “Funny thing,” I started in, “I was in Tuesday Morning last week picking up a lamp for my mom. Our rearranging of her furniture opened the perfect spot for a lamp by her chair. And I totally scored with the perfect lamp for that spot.”

“I love Tuesday Morning,” she sighed. “It can be hit or miss. But when it hits, it’s a home-run for sure.”

“I know. So happy.”

Birds were singing, we smile-nodded, all was right in the world.

“If only all shopping could be as quick and productive as that lamp-run,” she said.

“Fact,” I shuh-replied.

Yeah, my friend looked at me weird, too. Sometimes my thoughts travel right through my head and out my mouth. I still think about Amena Brown’s chat with us on SaySomething. She was SO cool. And I just loved her phrases. Apparently, I’m trying to capture some of the cool by adopting her swaggy “FACT” response as a nod of agreement. Works beautifully for her. Me? – not so much.

I quickly move on.

“While I was looking for the lamp-aisle, I saw the rows of toys. An end-cap had tubes of Match Box cars. Those would have made my boys’ Christmas not so long ago. I stood looking at them, remembering, maybe even a little longing for, the simplicity of those days when the smallest item could capture their attention for days on end.”

I keep going, “Granted, those days were physically exhausting, but looking at those cars reminded me of how un-complicated they were compared to now. Until I remembered so much of the stress and pressures on deck then, that just aren’t now. And I found myself telling myself, don’t let the worries and pressures of today take any ground or steal a single moment – even if it comes in the form of getting the right gift.”

All of it reminded me to savor and to enjoy and to not worry about much – especially the gifts. Of course I want to get them something, but maybe BIG isn’t the thing. Maybe a little more meaningful over trendy-cool is the way to go. Why not search for and find whatever it is that will help them remember how they are seen & known & loved.

It’s true.

For my mom, just spending time with her and moving the furniture that she would have whipped around the house and moved herself not long ago was a bigger gift than I could have imaged – to both of us. Because she can’t do that anymore. What an unbelievable blessing and treat it was for me to stand beside her, to be her hands and feet, to struggle through putting together a World Market end table together. I already cherish the memory, even though it was only last week. (Sap Alert!)

For my kids – just watching their thoughtfulness toward each other has been inspiring. One of the kids got her brother a wallet ($11 on Amazon) in which she put 10 crisp one dollar bills for him to use in the school’s vending machine. Things like that mean SO much more than a “big” gift. He’s going to LOVE it. Another is giving her sibling a couple of tiny blank-page notebooks since she’s been watching him doodle on note cards. And a brother wiggled with glee as he sat me down to find exactly the nerd-fest t-shirts he and other small sundries he wanted to get his siblings – heart-warming. (Don’t say anything! – banking on them not reading this – eek!)

The truth is – they know each other. They belong (though it’s far, very far, from a perfect setting – there’s been a lot of crabby amidst all the test-stress.) They are seen. Which honestly, these days goes a L O N G way toward much needed grounding in this ever-shifting landscape.

I don’t know what it is in your house, but I think as far as gift-giving goes, exciting-big is fun – no doubt – but, it’s the simple stuff that lingers. Simple stuff reminders: I know you, I love you (even if/when we fight every day), I see you.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

– Kay