As I was listening to Janell Burley Hofmann’s, author of i-Rules, TEDx talk about how she came to write a contract for her 13 year old son. He wanted an i-phone for his birthday. So she sat and wrote out her 18 rules about responsibility of having a phone and living in the age of technology.
As she was describing the overwhelming media attention she received when this contract went viral overnight, I was struck by the onslaught of questions she was asked. These questions came from people from all walks of life. People wanted to know more. Really? More of what?
I realized it was more of what we think we do not know. But with priviledges comes responsibilities, right? So what insight could this particular mom have that we can all learn from?
Recently, a conversation with my 12 year old son went like this:
Son: “Mom, where’s my charger?”
Me: “Which charger?”
Son: “The one to my i-pod.”
Me: “The one for the wall?”
Son: “No, the car charger.”
Me: “What color is it?”
Son: “(frustrated) Black!”
Me: “Listen, I don’t know where your charger is. Your i-pod has a car charger? Hey, where’s MY
We have i-pods, i-phones, i-pads, laptops, cords for wall chargers, car charges, WHEW!. It can get a little crazy. There are so many things needing our attention. And as helpful as they all can be, they also create too many distractions. I also never used to lose anything. Keys, important papers, whatever. Now I feel as if I just had a letter in my hand about to be mailed, and I put it down, right here. No, I did. Well, it’s somewhere in this house. Where did I put it?? I just had it in my hand!!
Does someone really have more insight to doing things better? Or is it possible that all we need is just some affirmation? What I have learned is, that it’s really about paying more attention. To being present. With my own son I have rules too. I didn’t hand him a contract, but he knows. Doesn’t he? As Ms. Hofmann says, she knew she was raising a thoughtful and confident 13 year old boy. But she needed a contract.
It’s there, on paper. It’s reinforcement. It’s protective. Anything done well takes care. It takes mindful and consistent practice. I tell my own son, “No looking down while in a parking lot. Head up, no talking.” What am a REALLY saying? To pay attention. Watch. Be careful.
So do we need rules? Do they need to be written down? Perhaps. Even the back of the supermarket pizza box under cooking instructions reads, “Do Not Eat Frozen.” Thank you Janell.