How a Treehouse Reminded Me to Put Down my Phone

A bright yellow sunbeam pattern on vintage paper.

Recently, I was driving home from my son’s robotics class.  As usual, we were enjoying the sunshine on an open country road.  Just ahead of us, traffic slowed down for a moment as a school bus ground to a stop.  Its doors opened, and a girl -12 or 13- stepped out.  She reminded me of my daughter – back-pack, pony-tail, tennis shoes.  But what intrigued me most as I looked her direction was not her, so much as what lay just past the house she was walking toward.

Just to the right of her gravel driveway was a tree-house.  A well-designed tree-house, yet one beginning to show its age.  Boards warping.  Wood dulling.  Paint peeling.  Beneath the trees were a handful of stray pieces of ply-wood that had fallen  and were lying, forgotten.  And as traffic picked up again, I was left to contemplate:

Once upon a time, that tree-house was new and the girl was small and excited.  And now she is grown, and the tree-house is worn.  And the years are over.  Fast.  So fast.

treehouse steps


Put the Phone Down

NPR recently posted an article on plugged-in parents.  Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician specializing in child development, has become concerned about the digital generation’s parenting, and set aside a Summer to observe families.  She and two other researchers studied 55 sets of parents in restaurant settings, finding that 44 sets of parents pulled out their phones immediately upon being seated.

“They looked at it, scrolled on it and typed for most of the meal, only putting it down intermittently.”  Not surprisingly, Radesky also noted that of those 44 sets of plugged-in parents, behavior in their children was more disruptive and chaotic than in the families whose parents were not plugged in.

emma brown dress


Plug into Your Kids

What will be the long-term effects on a generation raised by constantly distracted parents?

There is no way to know, but here are 2 primary concerns I have:

1.  Children will not feel validated and listened to, while little.  This will create ambivalence in their minds as to parental authority in the older years.  After all, if Mom has always texted her friends before responding to your need, and if Dad has always said: Hang on a sec, while he scrolled his Twitter feed, why would a response of parental validation suddenly develop in a child?

Children require enormous amounts of encouragement and affirmation.  And there is room for little beyond a response of irritability in a parent who is endlessly plugged in.

will green shirt

2.  Children will find answers independently.  There is no room for conversation in a room with a Mom and her phone.  Uh-huh, is the response.  Just a minute, the constant reply.  But kids will not wait til your thumbs stop texting, to grow and develop.  Their minds are always on and ready to engage.  They are naturally inquisitive and insatiably curious, eager always to piece together information about the world they live in.

Parents are needed to read, to think, to respond, to ask questions back.  Children will demand answers, and if their parents come up empty, they will find answers somewhere.  Among friends, Internet, their own phones.

But this begs the question: Do we really want them looking? 

Back to the Treehouse

What does any of this have to do with a treehouse?  Well, once upon a time, the middle-school girl stepping off the bus, was little.  But now she is not.

As Sally Clarkson reminds, the second law of thermo-dynamics states that all things are plodding along, yet wearing out as they go.  Your kids’ child-hoods are not forever.  And they are wearing out, as they get closer to adult-hood.

There are some things we should live to regret: our sin, our harsh anger, our poor choices and our arrogant words.  But there are other things we should fight to protect from regret.

And our kids’ childhoods, full of life, love and listening, are one of them.






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18 thoughts on “How a Treehouse Reminded Me to Put Down my Phone

  1. That is why I am thankful I still don’t have a data plan. I don’t know that I ever want one. When I am out with the girls I cannot access anything. (Although I am guilty of texting or talking on the phone which is still ignoring them)
    Grace recently posted…Where I thought I Would beMy Profile

  2. So so true. Matt and I are trying to be very intentional about this. He keeps talking about canceling our data plan. Since I get upset when he says that, we probably should! I am in Marietta today doing immunization training for Walmart and I thought about you. I hope we will run into y’all soon!

    • Ha, Betty! That cracks me up! I sometimes want to throw my lap-top off of our deck, because I am drawn into it more than I should be. Please let me know if you are ever in ATL!

  3. An excellent post Maryanne! We also need to learn how to ask good questions so that we have glimpses to their thoughts

  4. Great post! I too don’t have data when I’m out but I’m so often home that its still such a temptation. I’ve been using the “do not disturb” button more often and I feel that the more intentional I am in my online time the smoother my home seems to run.

    • Same here, Lindsey. I think the isolation of being home so many days in a row, can definitely draw us into our phones, computers. But then again, so many good and healthy things to be connected to – so definitely a balancing act!

  5. This is a great post!! Families need to be talking more face to face. You can tell a lot about a person by listening and watching their body language. Children grow up so fast.
    I enjoy “For Your Tomorrow” daily. Keep up the good work as a mommy, wife and writer. Proud of you. Love

  6. The best part about this is that you are driving your son home, wait for a bus stop, and get an article in your head. Love how observant you are Maryanne, thanks for this great post.

    • Aimee, most posts appear while driving :). Something about the busyness of the house can curtail creative thought. Loving reading your book, btw! Can’t wait to write about it at the blog.

  7. Ok, thanks for the guilt trip!!;) just kidding! But so true as I type through my cracked phone… Bc nothing’s going to stop me from using it?!? Wow, pretty ridiculous! Thank you little tree house for the reminder:(!
    Thanks Maryanne!

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