Nancy Smiler Levinson writes books for young readers.
September 13, 2003
One afternoon this summer at Coldwater Park, I happened to see a mother sitting on a sidewalk bench, engaged in conversation on a cellphone.
Her young son was riding a tricycle back and forth on the walk, which declined slightly toward the street. Suddenly he found himself rolling to the end of the walk, unable to stop. In a flash the tricycle tumbled over the curb into the street between two parked cars, and the boy fell off headfirst.
I rushed to help. At that moment the mother looked up from her telephone, saw the accident and came running.
"What happened, Adam?" she cried, gathering him into her arms. "Didn't I tell you to stay near Mommy?"
One morning at a local public library, a librarian was reading to preschoolers. Since the children were very young, it was required that each be accompanied by an adult.
In the middle of a story, a mother's cellphone rang. She pulled the telephone from her purse and started talking. The librarian stopped reading and asked, "Could you please put the cellphone away?"
The mother continued talking, and the librarian repeated her request.
The mother then stood and said, "I'll talk outside the room, if that's what you want," and she turned to leave. Her child, 2 years old, burst into tears and called, "Mommy, mommy" The librarian told the mother it was not permissible to leave a child there, especially now that the child was distressed.
Finally, the mother said into the phone, "I'll call you later," and returned to her seat. She sat the remainder of the story hour, glowering at the librarian.
One day I stood waiting to meet a friend inside a delicatessen in Los Angeles. A father and a girl, about 5 years old, sat in a front booth. She was dressed in a Minnie Mouse dress. On her head she wore a tall, pointed princess hat, with a long, flowing organdy ribbon fastened at the top. In front of her on the table sat a plate of half-finished scrambled eggs and an empty milk glass.
Her father, across the booth, was talking on a cellphone. For several minutes she watched him. Then she began folding her napkin, unfolding it and folding it again into different shapes.
We caught each other's eye. She seemed glad to make contact with someone.
"How pretty you look in your dress and hat," I told her.
She beamed and said, "Thank you." At last the father turned off his telephone.
"Can I have another glass of milk, Daddy?" she asked.
Just then the cellphone rang again. Ignoring her question, he answered. At that moment the waitress brought the check, and he left it with the money on the table. Continuing to talk, he motioned "come on" to his child and walked briskly toward the door.
The little girl followed, the organdy ribbon on her hat trailing behind. She remained invisible to her father.
These are not fairy tales. They are true stories. Once upon a time, parents offered conversation and attention to their children and granted them a measure of respect.
I believe these stories are true, because I've seen similar things happen on the playground when I'm with my 4-year-old son. To be fair, however, even though I'm rarely tied up on the cellphone, I have caught myself stinting Connor of the attention he desires by reading or being otherwise occupied when he wants me. I hope that it doesn't happen too often, but it does happen.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.