I don’t remember if I owned a mobile phone in 1997 when my daughter was born. If I did, it was too early in the communication revolution for it to have become an extension of my hand.

Which meant that when my baby and I spent time together, I talked to her.  Or sang her songs.  Or read a book if she was sleeping.

What I didn’t do, which virtually every parent I see everywhere seems to be doing nowadays, is push her around in a buggy with one hand while talking on the phone. Nor did I talk on the phone while she was sitting opposite me in a cafe or at the park. 

This is not to say that I was some sort of mindfulness freak of a mother — for one thing, I was at work a lot of the time, and she spent her days with an Australian nanny and another little girl. For another thing, I’m almost permanently distracted by what goes on in my head.

But I have to admit I don’t like all those mothers blabbing away on phones while their kids stare into space.

I’m guilty of something similar when I walk my dogs and sometimes take the hour in the park to catch up on texts or phone calls.  And…OK, they’re dogs, but it still feels wrong. If you’re out with another sentient being, it seems only right to pay him/her proper attention — be it dog or baby. The dogs are more than clever and connected enough to know when I’m not “with” them, which suggests that your average baby might know too.

I can tell you with great certainty that in a few years they’ll be telling you (politely if you’re lucky) that school was fine, now could you leave them alone to talk to their friends.

So you’d better get in the meaningful communication while you can.




5 thoughts on “Baby Talk

  1. Mieke Z. Mackay 8 years ago

    Thank you for the lovely reminder. It is unfortunate that you see that scenario so often now.

  2. Kirsten Baron 8 years ago

    Yes. See ‘Cat’s in the cradle’ by Harry Chapin for the full story.

  3. Kathryn Evans 8 years ago

    I used to have the most wonderful conversations with my daughter – then she got her mobile phone …and a boyfriend – sometimes I want to smash the blessed thing. ( The phone, not the boyfriend….)

  4. Antony John 8 years ago

    I couldn’t agree more with you, Meg. As a writer who is also a stay-at-home dad, I have refused to get a cell phone for precisely the reasons you mention. Everywhere I go with my kids, I see parents (mothers and fathers, both) talking and texting as their children tag along in polite silence, passengers in what should be their own journey. A classic case last week: the mother who spent the entire journey aboard the St. Louis zooline railroad texting a friend about the experience of being aboard the zooline railroad. I hope the friend enjoyed the color commentary more than her two daughters enjoyed the ride.

    P.S. Longtime fan of your books. You’re my favorite contemporary author. Can’t wait for THERE IS NO DOG to come out in the States.

    1. Meg Rosoff 8 years ago

      I generally prefer not to take a holier-than-thou stance, but you said it perfectly — there’s just something so depressing about those polite silent children.
      Very glad to hear you’re a fan, Antony. Thanks for writing. x

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