Dear Middle School Kids,
We want you to be bored on regular occasion. A lot of creativity starts with “nothing to do.”
Do nothing with some long deep breath, and see where it takes you.
We want you to work on something, anything – without being distracted by a Snap or DM.
We want you to wrestle with a question and think about it. Even if it’s easier to ask Alexa.
We want you to talk. Out loud. In complete sentences. And please, without the word like.
We want you to road trip and make conversation. Or go old school and play the license plate alphabet game. Or listen to a group audio book. Or look out the window at our huge wide world.
We want you to think about how to get somewhere. And back. Without Waze or Google maps, leading you step by step. You’ll need them when you’re old and tired, but not now.
We want you to think about your opinion. And go out and find lots of other opinions. Don’t wait for the “for you” to decide what you seek, or might need.
We want you to express every emotion you feel – as loud and long as you need. Without depending on emojis shares for: sad😔, mad😡, or anxious😟. And may you NEVER feel you have to excuse any emotion with LOL, or wait for a thumbs up, to somehow validate yourself. Emotions are crazy necessary to take action, survive, make decisions and support each other.
We want you to be uncomfortable sometimes. If we are late to pick you up or someone is acting crazy nearby, we want you to keep your wits and remember your strength – without being able to immediately dial parent 911. We know it can be scary but unfortunately you need this skill in this world. (And if it’s really scary, don’t fumble with your friend’s phone – run! Then ask for help from a safe place.)
When you go out with friends, we want to figure out a plan that works for you and us – before you leave. Not on the fly, with adrenalin running high and good choices running lower (and all phones somehow loosing all power right about then).
And when it’s the best day EVER with your friends, and you want to keep going forever…sometimes you can stay longer and sometimes it’s good to end it. BUT we have to talk, not text.
We want you to feel trust – our trust in you to make good decisions about what you do with your friends when you’re out. Without us spying. #findmyphone
We want you to practice speaking up. For yourself. For your friends. For your community. Whether you’re ordering lunch or noticing something wrong. Having a voice is cool.
We want you to read. Read long things. Things longer than 140 characters. Things you lose yourself in…maybe for days. Things where afterwards, you get up and have to stretch because you were a world away in your mind.
We want you to also enjoy watchIng something long. Something together in-person, with family or friends. At least as much as you can watch an endless reel of 15-second TikToks.
We want you to look up and around. Notice people. Notice what you’re passing. Maybe a cloud. Or some flowers. Or someone acting goofy. If you’re looking at what’s in your palm, you will literally miss reality. (And frankly, you might get hit by a car.)
We want you to do you. Without simultaneously comparing it to what everyone else is doing and sharing online.
Bottom line? We don’t want you to be instantly gratified. Or constantly engaged. Or easily findable. We want you to search and question and think and be creative and try to make decent decisions. And hopefully build some street smarts, and patience, and fierceness along the way.
To do that, you have to practice. You cannot practice this virtually. To become your best person, you have to practice in person. Ideally with people who love you and root for you. But practicing on people who don’t is helpful too.
You already have iPads to connect with teams, friends and family. And to deal with long flights. (We’re not crazy.). But you don’t have phones (yet) because you don’t need to communicate or stay connected 24/7 (or even 12/7 as the case may be, given how much teens and preteens sleep.)
One day you will…it’s the world we live in. Eventually you might have a job that feels 24/7. Or you’ll go far from our town and WE will wish for constant connectivity with our beloved babies.
But for now, our wish, our gift, our battle, is to try our best to limit screen time, and to hold off a little longer on that phone-badge-of-honor we know you crave.
And in the meantime, we hope your brain, heart and soul stretches just a little bit more each day.
We love you,
Mom and Dad
P.S. It would be WAY easier, and quieter for us to just say “fine.”