Yesterday, I reached down to pick my iPhone off the asphalt parking lot. It was face down which never bodes well. And, sure enough, I turned it over to discover a glass spiderweb. My 3 1/2 year old looked up at me, gauging my face like a tiny therapist. Is it broken? he asked. I nodded yes while taking one of those exasperated breaths that diffuses the tear ducts.
I knew what was coming next, because when something breaks or goes missing in our house, we invoke a line from my son’s beloved Pete the Catseries — modifying the words only slightly. In unison, we recited —
Do we cry? Goodness no! Cell phones come. And cell phones go. We keep on singin’.
Somehow, when it’s the leg of my son’s plastic dinosaur that snaps off, the mantra is magical. My cell phone shattering? A gut punch that even Pete couldn’t soften.
The following morning, we made our way to the Apple store. Despite an early start, we were soon shoulder to shoulder with other customers, frantic to reconnect with their screens. As we waited for help, I rubbed my index finger along the painful cut I’d been dealt by my own continued screen use.
Finally, it was our turn. I watched the “Genius” examine my phone, waiting for her diagnosis. This was no hairline fracture — it was serious. She estimated the length of the necessary surgery and I frantically responded,But how will I know when it’s noon? She eye-balled me as I continued, It’s my clock, you know. Should I text my husband to fill him in before you take it back there?
I watched her walk back to the operating room before I glanced down at my toddler. What should we do while we wait? I asked. Play! he responded without hesitation. And, indeed, the early morning chill had made way for a crisp, sunny day.
In the short walk to the nearby play area, I instinctively reached for my phone no less than three times. Once, to take a picture of my son walking. Again to check if it was late enough to spring for lunch. And finally, to refresh my email in anticipation of some work-related feedback. I felt limbless.
Dejected, I plunked down on a cement stool to watch my son play. Play withme, he beckoned. This kid is no fool. He embraced his new only child status like an ant in a picnic basket. His urgency served as a much-needed slap.
For the last year and a half, I’ve been immersed in a complete life redesign — mindfulness serving as the epicenter. But my phone has yet to receive that memo. It battles me out of the present on a daily basis. My last connection to virtual importance.
So I snapped out of my funk and, for the next hour, really played. We battled evil trolls on a bridge, mastered the Olympic balance beam, and picnicked on an enormous, buttery pretzel by a turtle pond.
I watched as my son picked off the individual grains of salt, examined them, and then counted the crunches between his teeth. This three year old — a model of presence and simplicity.Noting this, I felt relief that the moment wouldn’t be managed by a screen. No forced smiles, or “candid” reenactments. Just us — taking life with a grain of salt.
Eventually, we made our way back to the Apple store — a brand that has, for better or for worse, redefined human connection. A deaf customer was Face-Timing with her daughter while she waited. Well, that’s nice, I thought to myself, registering how life-changing the dawn of texts and live chats must have been for the hearing impaired community.
They brought out my phone and allowed me to examine her smooth new face. Looks perfect, I said — sensing a bittersweet tug in my voice. Accepting the reunion stoically, my son took my hand to pull me toward the exit. Wait, I muttered, stuffing the phone into my backpack and zipping it away.
As we approached our car, I made one of those half-hearted promises to myself — less digital Face Time, more real face time. On the drive home, my mind drifted to the future. A future that would inevitably be marked by more drops and shatters.
Slowly, I’m discovering that life’s accidents are rarely within my control. It’s how I approach the repairs that matters. The refrain repeated in my head the whole ride home —
Do we cry? Goodness no! Things come & things go.
We keep on singin’…
Originally published on Medium.com