Anyone wanting to study teen behavior or relationships between teens and parents should look no further than the waiting room at the orthodontist’s office. Once every few months, I pick up my 14-year-old son from school and take him to the orthodontist who visits our town on Fridays for quick dental adjustments. It’s a teen factory in there, with a new teen walking in or out every few minutes. Moms or dads and their metal-mouth teens come from near and far (like 60 miles far!) for their 5-minute appointments.

We wait with about five and six other patients and their parents before our appointment. And, the waiting always seems awkward. Immediately upon being seated for the short wait, nearly every parent and teen takes out their smart phone. They sit next to each other in silence browsing Facebook or checking e-mail.

That would have been me and my son before I read “Hands Free Mama.” I have been recommending this book to my family and friends because of its power to change relationships between kids and parents.

Author Rachel Macy Stafford tells about how she uses the time waiting for various appointments to connect with her kids. She talked about seeing her daughter graduate from preschool, and because of their over-committed lives and her inability to turn down volunteer opportunities, feeling like she didn’t know her own daughter. It was a pivotal moment for her because she realized she still had time. She was glad it was preschool graduation and not high school graduation, and now she takes advantage of those small pockets of time with conversation and games instead of checking the status of friends on Facebook.

Wow! That used to be me — always agitated at a long wait at the doctor’s office instead of realizing what an opportunity it could be.

I’m trying to view those times differently now.

She also learned to avoid using the words “hurry up” and to instead say, “I will wait for you or “take your time.”  

That hit home for me, too, because I’m always rushing us to the next activity.

While I’m not perfect at being Hands Free, the book definitely opened my eyes to being better at it. I’m trying not to let my smartphone or my computer or the saying ‘yes’ to too many commitments get in the way of truly knowing my children.

And the orthodontist’s office was the perfect opportunity to put distractions aside and visit with my son.

City Moms Blog

Kristine Jacobson

Kristine Jacobson is a writer, a mother of three children and farm wife living in South-Central Nebraska. She puts her creative skills to use as editor of Nebraska Family Magazine at and helps non-profits and small businesses share their stories in her public relations business, KRJPR.