Sitting alone at a Starbucks Cafe located inside a Barnes and Noble, I was checking my email and text messages. While I sat there, I noticed a woman sitting at a table a short stone’s throw away from me. A cup of coffee sat on the table in front of her, but was sadly neglected as she held her cell phone six inches from her nose and stared at whatever was on the screen in front of her. Every 30 seconds or so, she would lower her phone and type a message with her two thumbs. I don’t know if she was texting or answering an email, but no matter what she was doing, it does not have any bearing on the rest of this story.
As she held her cell slightly away from her nose, two teenage girls entered stage right. One of them sat down at a table next to me, while the other made a beeline for the woman staring at her phone. I overheard only a few words of the first words spoken, but it was clear that it was a mother-to-daughter exchange. The exchange, however, went only in one direction; the young lady spoke, the Mom kept staring at her cell, barely responding to her daughter’s flurry of words.
The daughter began to get agitated as her Mom ignored her or, half-heartedly, gave her a non-committal shake of the head. That agitation quickly turned to anger as the teenager asked again and again for permission to walk around the mall with her friend.
The Mom gave no audible response. She only lowered her phone and thumbed out a message, after which her cell went right back up to its “six-inch-from-the-nose” position. This resulted in a serious case of adolescent anger. The young lady screeched, “Why don’t you ever listen to me?”
The teen was now furious and I texted my wife that I thought I was going to witness a case of Starbucks Cafe Rage. I truly thought that the girl was about to slug her Mom.
At last, her mother lowered the phone, looked at her daughter and asked dispassionately, “Why do you always yell at me? Why are you so angry?”
The now out-of-control adolescent screamed her answer, “Because you never listen to me!”
Heads turned to see what was happening not only in the cafe, but also all over the bookstore. A couple of the Starbuck’s employees watched what was unfolding. The look on their faces suggested that they did not know what to do and, even if they did, it was beyond their pay grade to intervene.
It turned out that nobody needed to get between the two, because the woman ignored her daughter’s answer and put her cell phone back up to her nose. The teenager slammed her fist on the table, almost knocking over the neglected cup of coffee, and said with disgust, “To hell with you!” She then grabbed her friend and stomped off.
I have no idea why God created adolescent behavior or why God thought it a good idea for the hormones to go in and out whack during the teenage years. I also do not know what might have precipitated this exchange. Perhaps there was a backstory that led to that mother-daughter confrontation. What I do know is that, especially during the adolescent years, if a kid wants to talk, we should LISTEN! Our teenagers, despite their seeming disdain for adults in general and parents in particular, need and want adult attention. And if we listen, we might also learn a few things from our kids that we want and need to know!
For God’s sake and our children’s sake, let’s park the cell phones and give our kids our undistracted attention. Please?! PLEASE??!! PLEASE???!!!
John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts