Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Looking Up

This morning, I sat next to Flowering Buttercup in the van on the way to Seminary.  She was already deeply entranced by the little iThing in her hand, and it was not yet even 6:00am.  We drove the ten minutes to the East building without saying a word and she never looked up from that tiny little screen.  

On the way home from taking one of the other kids to school, I noticed a middle school aged girl walking to the bus stop from her house, the same familiar little iThing in her hand.  She didn't look up from that thing even when she arrived at the bus stop, and I'm not sure that she noticed the handful of other kids who were already gathered.  I wondered if she's ever talked to them?  I wondered if bus rides to school are now eerily silent with iThings replacing that archaic conversation we used to have as teenagers.   I wondered what all those kids who don't have iThings do while they're walking?  Are they socially unacceptable because they make eye contact?  Is it a whole new level of insecurity to not have texts to check or statuses to update?  

While I watched that girl at the bus stop and waited for the next round of kids to carpool, I remembered a story from a Conference talk a couple of years ago...
At the end of a particularly tiring day toward the end of my first week as a General Authority, my briefcase was overloaded and my mind was preoccupied with the question, "How can I possibly do this?"  I left the office of the Seventy and entered the elevator of the Church Administration Building.  As the elevator descended, my head was down and I stared blankly at the floor.  The door opened and someone entered, but I didn't look up.  As the door closed, I heard someone ask, "What are you looking at down there?"  I recognized that voice - it was President Thomas S. Monson.  He had seen my subdued countenance and my heavy briefcase.  He smiled and lovingly suggested, while pointing heavenward, "It is better to look up!"  - Carl B. Cook General Conference, October 2011

What a huge challenge it is to get these kids to look up!  Not even all the way to heaven, but just at the people around them.  What an odd generation we're cultivating who communicates primarily via text.  I worry all the time that boys will eventually lose the skill of asking girls on dates.  And then dates will become obsolete.  And then no one will get married and any chance I have at being a grandmother will be lost!  I worry that my future missionaries won't have a clue how to knock on a door and teach the gospel because they will have spent their entire teenage years looking down into little screens in their hands.  

Currently, only the two older kids in our house have cellphones and only one of those phones is an iThing.  June is now 12 and rapidly becoming more social, more involved, and less at home.  She petitions on a regular basis for her own cellphone so that she can better communicate with her chauffers us when she's away.  And I have to say, the thought has crossed my mind more than once to give in and upgrade Spell Girl to an iThing and hand down the older phone to June so she isn't left on some curb waiting for us to pick her up.  But then I think about how difficult it already is to get our ONE iPhone user fully engaged in personal interaction now that she has access to the entire world in her hand.  How can I compete with Pinterest, Netflix, youtube, the Mormon Channel, and a text from her current love interest all at the same time?  I can't.  Imagine if all the kids had those?  We would just gather around the table with our phones, upload a youtube video for FHE, listen to the scriptures from the Gospel Library app,  text our testimonies, and never look at each other again!  It's kind of horrifying.  

So, what's the answer?  How can looking up become more enticing than those little phones?  Maybe that's the test of this generation...and their parents.  

I came home this morning and read the rest of that Conference talk.  It's not about cell phone usage or teenagers or even communication.  It's about trusting in Heavenly Father.  
"As we parted, the words of a scripture came to mind:  "Believe in God; believe that He is...; believe that He has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth."  As I thought of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ's power, my heart found the comfort I had sought in vain from the floor of that descending elevator."  - Carl B. Cook
It is impossible to find that comfort on a little screen.  You can't adequately convey love and appreciation for someone in an email.  Sometimes that has to be done in person.  Prayers cannot be texted and answers cannot be received on an iThing.  Heavenly Father waits patiently for us to turn off all that stuff, set aside our worldly distractions, and look up to Him for guidance and direction.  That's my goal this week...not to be more exciting than youtube, or funnier than Netflix, or more interesting than a text, but to remind my kids that it's good to turn those things off every now and then, and just be still.  That relationships are more important than status updates.  That Amazon does not know them as well as their parents do.  That the things that will bring them the greatest joy and comfort and hope are not found on Google.  They are found in the quiet moments spent with Heavenly Father and connecting in person with the people around them.  

Phew...this motherhood thing is so hard sometimes.  I'm grateful to have the guidance of a loving Heavenly Father to help me with all the hard things.  I know that He has entrusted me with these four little people and that He has an even greater interest in their futures than I do, so I'm sure that if I look up and ask for help, He'll help me figure this out.  
"Experience has taught me that if we, like President Monson, exercise our faith and look to God for help, we will not be overwhelmed with the burdens of life.  We will not feel incapable of doing what we are called to do or need to do.  We will be strengthened, and our lives will be filled with peace and joy.  We will come to realize that most of what we worry about is not of eternal significance - and if it is, the Lord will help us.  But we must have the faith to look up and the courage to follow His direction." - Carl B. Cook

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