Sunday, May 17, 2015

Shakespearean Tragedy in Yoshikawa Park

To Ignore or Not To Ignore

Children were swarming all over Yoshikawa Park in Matsumoto today. A bunch of animals, they were. Cheetahs and gazelles, racing in circles across the wide open grassy spaces. Monkeys running and climbing all over the bars and rope ladders while lions and tigers growled their way through tunnels and up and down ramps in the expansive playground. Quacking ducks splashed around in the brick-lined river flowing down from the place where young colts in t-shirts and colorful birds in summer dresses brayed and chirped as they danced around on the smooth stone ground, cool water shooting and spraying them from the fountains underneath.

And on a bench in the shade I saw these three kids.

What a shameful, pathetic waste of a beautiful day, we righteous parents mutter. Kids with their noses stuck in their video games like that.

We see it and share it all the time. Teenagers glued to their phones like this.

Students ignoring great works of art not to mention their friends in favor of whatever.

What’s wrong with kids these days? What a sad generation we’re seeing.

But as I walked through Yoshikawa Park today, past all those beautiful animals playing in perfect anarchical fashion, I noticed a few of their parents.

Ignoring their children.

Ignoring the day.
Ignoring each other.

I didn’t walk very far, or very long.
This was in the space of about a minute...
...and a couple hundred yards.

Any wonder where our kids get it?

I have a smartphone too. It picks up the wi-fi at home but that’s it. I don’t have a data plan connected to it. I don’t even have a phone number for it. It’s just a wireless device for home – and a handy camera everywhere else. For phone calls and texts I have this.

Still, at home I catch myself checking email on that smartphone at multiple random times throughout the day. I’ll drop by ESPN. I’ll thumb through the news headlines. And sometimes I do it when my kids are right in front of me, not necessarily in need of something but still...I’m standing there, scrolling through the readers’ comments on an article about the British elections, ignoring my own little daughter.

Then I can’t stand it when they come over and want to borrow my phone to watch a Power Rangers Samurai Megaforce video on YouTube?

I’ve recently come to realize how easily and how often I pick up my phone when I’m at home. I’ve never counted how many times I’ve picked it up in the course of a day but I’d bet the number would be embarrassing. It is way too easy to get sucked into that thing.

Leave the phone alone, I tell myself.

I wanted to say the same thing to these people as I walked my kids back to the car.

“Why are you taking all these pictures?” my oldest kid asked.
I tried to explain.

I don’t know if he understood, or if he thinks it’s normal for grown-ups to always have their faces in their phones.

But I do know he loves kicking the soccer ball around with me. And I’ll take that over ESPN any day.