After receiving a coupon offer from UBER Eats for a free Starbucks delivery, I rolled my eyes in disbelief, and quickly ordered a latte, to be delivered to my front door in 17 minutes. It’s 23 degrees in Cleveland and no clients until noon. Yeah, I did that. I waited for my coffee at the front door in my pajamas, profusely thanked the delivery person, and got back into my warm bed with my hot latte and The Sunday New York Times. Things started out smoothly.
According to The NYT, I’m a few weeks late to join “Veganuary,” (a promise to eat no meat in January), there is a new virtual reality app allowing face recognition to a degree that the paper says, ‘We’re all screwed,” and that a ban on foie gras is swiftly gaining momentum potentially putting hundreds of people out of work in the Hudson River Valley.
I gave up on the paper. I checked my phone and then started to think about something that’s come up in my psychotherapy practice a few times in the past month. Let’s call it “Reading Bedtime Stories-anuary.”
The children and families I see in my practice face complex problems in their daily lives. Divorce, anxiety, depression, trauma, etc. I’ve recently became aware of a trend in parenting. Children are being tucked in by Alexa and Google Home at night. I am gobsmacked. I am having judgements. Here are these precious developing humans whose parents are missing the opportunity to have a certain kind of relatedness with their children and vice verse. Ideally the scenario looks like this; dim light, a warm blanket, the hush of bedtime, and maybe a beloved stuffed toy on the pillow with an adult reading at their side.
I am outing myself as a Gen-Xer. I was a latchkey, Sesame Street, Free to be You and Me kid. My mom went back to school to finish college went to grad school, went to work, and told me to play with both trucks and dolls. She was becoming a feminist. My reaction to bedtime stories brought to you by Alexa is partly because of my own longing to have had more time with my mom and less with my burgeoning existential loneliness.
As I stared out the window drinking my latte, I understood myself and my dilemma a little bit more.
As parents we do what we do. We are under-resourced as far as deeply knowing how to parent. Children want to be known. Humans want to be known. How do we recognize our compasses that will lead us to those who we want to know us? How do we seek out people we want to know? Intimacy starts to develop when we’re held as a babies, are seen, talked with, and reflected back to.
The VR space, (as I’ve learned to call it by my millennial family members), isn’t the same as human contact, but it’s a resource some families have that wasn’t around when I was a kid. These interactive platforms like Alexa provide bed-time stories. “Alexa, read me Little Women,” is becoming a new normal for children at bedtime. It’s not the same as human contact, not at all. Resources change, parenting changes, but the precious tender moments of being read to as a child cannot be replaced….and
who am I to judge?