No, I like small children. I really do. I’m always staring at them out in public, grooving on how these teacup humans are transparently emotional, so openly interested in the world. Then one day I was walking down the street and I saw a kid in a stroller, couldn’t have been more than ten months old. And I could see her little pudgy hands up in front of her face, and I thought, “How funny, she looks like she’s holding a phone.” Until I got closer and saw she really was holding a phone. I went around the corner and into a café, where I met the husband of a friend, who was breakfasting with their two-and-a-half-year-old son. At a certain point he gave the boy his phone to keep him quiet. “He’s better at using it than I am,” he observed to me. The next weekend I was on a bus behind a mother in her thirties and her lively toddler son. I was impressed by how present she was with him, how intelligently they conversed. But she started talking with another adult, and when he kept interrupting she dialed up a game on her phone and gave it to him.
Lord knows I’m too selfish to be a parent. (I was sitting in a car with another child-free friend one day, discussing our lack of interest in reproducing, and he remarked, “We really dodged a bullet on that one.”) And even though I think it’s freaky, weird and damaging to encourage a small child to use a smartphone, I realize it’s probably an irresistible impulse in modern parenting. I understand that this has become normal, that it’s where we’re all going—full immersion in a digital world. At this point I’m just happy that my childhood is safely locked away in time. Nobody will ever have handed baby me an iPhone; I’ll never have spent my preteen years on Facebook instead of reading. My mother will never have pushed me in a swing while looking at her phone between pushes. Thank God I was born in 1971, because I’ll never be ready for this.
Programming note: I am on an indefinite Twitter break for reasons you can probably guess. Here’s novelist Lydia Millet on social media.