A few Sundays ago, I sat next to a dad and his one year old baby in Gospel Doctrine. While the rest of us were intently listening to a riveting lesson on 3 Nephi, the baby started to get restless. He was a little noisy and a little squirmy. Now that I'm in my 40s, after having four noisy, squirmy kids sit with me in various church meetings, I've come to realize that parents are bothered much more by their babies' noises than other people are...at least most of the time. I didn't mind at all that this baby was making noise because he was cute and happy. But the dad, in an effort to keep his baby from disturbing anyone, pulled out his iPhone for the baby to play with. I probably would have done the same thing, especially if his mom had handed him over to me without a baby bag, which the dad definitely did not have. While I watched this baby play with his dad's phone, I was shocked to see him slide his tiny little finger along the screen and then wait for something to happen! He's barely a year old and he knows how to use a smartphone!!
And then a few days later I was wandering through Hobby Lobby and noticed a mom pushing a toddler in a stroller. The little girl was so surprisingly quiet that I found myself checking to see if she was asleep. When I looked closer I saw that she was holding some kind of an iThing and watching Dora (or whatever the current equivalent of Dora is these days.) At first, I thought what an amazing thing technology is and wished my kids had had iThings when they were little. It would have made those long days of running errands so much more pleasant for everyone.
But then, I remembered all the conversations, all the exploring, and all the teaching that happened when my babies rode in the front of a grocery cart with only me and some produce to entertain them. (Please keep in mind that having all four kids in the grocery store at the same time was never a great experience for any of us, but one at a time, the experiences were wonderful.) I was fortunate enough to have had really good babies who were chatty and engaging and didn't ever climb out of a shopping cart...EVER. Maybe with more active children, I wouldn't have loved those shopping experiences as much. But I can remember spending quality time with each of my toddlers before they were old enough to go to school, and a LOT of that time happened while running errands.
I am amazed at the current technology we have and the blessings it allows us. I am grateful everyday that my 16-year-old-almost-driver and her 14-year-old-middle-school sister are reachable at any time of the day or night when they are away from home (which, sadly, is becoming a lot more frequent as they get older.) I'm grateful that my kids will never have to wait by the side of a dark road, or be stuck with a crappy group of friends, or look for a pay phone and hope they have a quarter. I'm grateful that sometimes they text silly things during the day just because they can.
I'm grateful for music that I can hold in my hand while I'm taking a walk. I'm grateful for scriptures, Conference talks, and hymns that are accessible within seconds. I'm grateful for GPS directions when I'm lost (which is nearly everyday.) And I'm grateful for the instant access we have to just about anything we need or want.
But I'm also a little bit grateful that we didn't have all that iStuff when my children were babies because I think I would have missed a lot. I would have been so tempted to hand them my phone with an episode of Dragon Tales instead of having them bang cans of soup together. I might have talked to them less. I might have read to them less. And we definitely wouldn't have gone to the library as much.
I am amazed at how much knowledge this new generation of babies already comes with. I'm amazed that they are preprogrammed to use touch screens and wii remotes. And I hope the parents of future generations will be able to balance the blessings and distractions of technological advancements with the quiet moments that are so necessary in parenting.
Maybe that's why President Monson made this announcement in Conference on Saturday...
I couldn't help but be overwhelmed at that news. I thought about all the opportunities that girls (including mine) will now have to serve a mission without necessarily delaying their college plans, or family plans. Maybe we've moved past the point where it is a privilege for a girl to serve a mission and it has become a necessity so that the mothers of future generations are better able to balance all the challenges and advancements that are yet to come. And how amazing will that next generation of children be to be raised by mothers who have served missions?! I love that we have inspired leaders who make changes when they are necessary and beneficial. I can't wait to see what blessings and opportunities these changes will bring.