The solution to saving the next generation may begin with a Ziploc bag.
When I asked, “Is it okay if I substitute a salad for the French fries?” The teenage server looked baffled. His eyes darted around the restaurant, then finally said, “Oh! You mean Fries!” I guess adding “French” was a little too exotic for him, or perhaps he only knew “swap” instead of “substitute.” Those two extra syllables can be tricky. Whatever the problem was, I got my salad — after I sent the French fries back.
If you haven’t noticed, the communication skills of those under 30 have gone the way of ironing clothes and setting a proper table.
Using Ziploc bags to promote better communication came into play in the Seattle airport as I observed the tale of two families. As we waited to board our plane to New Orleans, One family with two children held electronic devices while the other family with three children quietly carried on amusing conversations.
High-tech mom stared at her own phone, while her two young sons used a tablet and phone. They sat in silence.
Low-tech mom had organized backpacks for her three elementary age children who were excitedly watching the planes take off.
One low-tech brother asked his sister, “I wonder where all of these planes are going?” She authoritatively said, “they go everywhere, but I think these are on their way to Paris.” Her brother thought about that for a while and said,”I don’t want to go to Paris. They eat snails.”
High- tech brothers continued to sit in silence with glazed-over looks on their sweet faces that sparkled with a rainbow of flashing lights.
The other low-tech brother baited the hook by asking his sister, “Do you want some of my apple?” “Yes!” She answered. “Okay, but you’ll have to give me 10 of your pretzels.” He dangled the Ziploc bag of sliced apples in front of her face like a shiny lure. Like Snow White, she thought the apple sounded irresistibly delicious, so she took the bait. Plastic bags were exchanged and the coveted catch of 10 round pretzels was landed.
Other bags of raisins, crackers, Hot Wheels cars, and crayons were pulled out of the backpacks to juggle the trade, as were books and an old fashioned Rubik’s cube.
Low-tech mom had used simple Ziploc bags to prepare an arsenal of quiet entertainment that stimulated conversation and imagination. High-tech mom did nothing to enhance the experience of travel and in fact, the technology stuck in front of her son’s faces actually distracted them from the wonder of adventure.
Pediatricians, educators, neurologist, and speech pathologists have all declared screen time to be harmful to developing brains, yet parents still want the easy way out. It takes a second to hand your phone to a kindergartener, but it takes time and effort to fill those little bags with goodies.
I would give the phone-mom the benefit of the doubt, because you never know — perhaps she was returning from a funeral where she was too distraught to think about her children, but then again, it happens so often in so many places, there can’t be that many funerals. I’ve witnessed this behavior around the world. It’s another sort of pandemic.
The low-tech Ziploc mom gave me hope. Her children were charming and told me they were on their way to Fort Walton Beach, where my parents lived for over 35 years. We had a conversation about sunscreen, sharks and jellyfish.
I’m guessing they’ll return to Seattle with Ziploc bags full of seashells to show their friends.
Blessed are the Ziploc fillers. For they raise children who know fries can be French and life is worth our full attention.