Last year enough snow fell in one storm to completely bury our little Ford Focus. The plow trucks were unable to begin plowing the city until after the snowfall subsided due to white out conditions, and almost the entire state of Maine was shut down. We spent hours the next day shoveling off our vehicles before we could even begin to start on the driveway. Winters in New England are hard.
Yet every year when the first snowflakes begin to fall, you can see people poking their heads out their doors and standing in their driveways with their tongues sticking out. It’s the one time of year teachers let their students run to the window as the excitedly try to get a glimpse of the snowfall. When winter first shows its face, our own faces meet it with grins and rosy cheeks and a glimmer in our eyes like we’re greeting an old friend.
But why? If winters are so difficult here, why do we welcome its arrival with such child-like joy?
I think it’s honestly the wonder of it. There are things that are still so beautiful on this earth that humans stop what they’re doing to look at them and wonder in amazement at it all. Falling snow, a shooting star, a hushed sunset. We can’t look away.
I saw it in my four-month-old on one cold day this November. When the first snowflakes began to fall, I excitedly picked my daughter up from her playmat and rushed her outside, gushing over the drifting bits of winter. With her knitted blanket wrapped around her she looked around in the cool quiet light, studying the snow with bright, curious eyes. She was amazed. Wonder clearly isn’t taught.
But distraction is. As I joyfully watched my daughter’s reaction, I took a moment to look for the neighbors who were bound to be staring at the sky as well. And while I saw an elderly man taking it in from his porch and the woman in the parking lot peeking from her car window, I also saw a small child.
But the child wasn’t watching the sky. His gaze was set on the mobile device in his hands. Snow falling all around him for the first time since months beforehand and he was intently fixed on the game he was playing.
That’s when I realized what technology has done to our children. It is an incredible tool used to educate and to pursue progress but it is also a dangerous means of distraction that steals away their wonder. No longer are they amazed at the first snowfall or the bald eagle flying over the car. No longer are they watching us with curious eyes or scouring the skies for pictures in the clouds. They’re too busy screaming at a virtual chicken or playing slingshot with a make-pretend bird on a screen.
And we’ve taught them to do this. We stick them in front of the television while we hurriedly try to clean up the kitchen, or plop a phone in their hands to stop an argument in the car. We try to distract them from the things we’re doing for the sake of convenience but instead distract them from the life happening around them.
Looking back at my innocent, smiling daughter I made a decision that day. We will not use technology as a means of distraction in our house. Instead we will choose to look for robins in the trees or pictures in the sky. We will roll in the snow and stick our feet in muddy puddles. We will point at the deer that we pass on the highway and blow bubbles with the dish soap in the sink. In our house, we will say goodbye to screentime and we will choose wonder.