Remember learning about hieroglyphics in your social studies class?

Someday children will read history books that describe ancient activities such as letter writing and having pen pals and face-to-face conversations with actual talking.

I would not be surprised after hundreds of years elapsed that anthropologists discovered dramatic changes in the size/shape of human thumbs (from all the texting) and the evolution of smaller vocal chords.

My grandchildren are growing up to believe that restaurants have the same policy as libraries; only quiet voices. Why? Because whenever we go out to a family-style eatery there’s little if any communication taking place among family members. Look at every table and you will find everyone (and that includes Mom and Dad) and all the kids immersed in their phones.

I can’t alter the direction of society but I hoped on this day to make an impression upon my grandchildren (then 7 & 10). On my next babysitting day I scheduled a little morning outing no electronics permitted.

Oh the groans and moans and protests. I had to offer small bribes and allow 15 minutes for each child to text their entire contact list informing pals that they would be stuck (horrors) without their phones for approximately 3.5 hours.

“Where are we going?”  asked Gabriella and Michael in a duet of whiney voices.

“We’re going for a ride!” said I.

“Nanny, don’t forget I get car sick” Gabriella reminded me. 

“It’s not that type of ride”  I quickly reassured her.

Moments later we arrived at the marina and boarded the ferry for a 90-minute ride to Connecticut. 

“What’s there to do here?” they questioned. 

“Actually not much of anything” I replied. 

“We’re just going to relax and breathe in the fresh salt air and look out at the beautiful water”. 

“Ugh” said in unison.

The horn blew, the captain made his announcements and off we went! 

The kids looked bewildered and acted antsy. Their feet were tapping a mile a minute and they didn’t seem to know what to do with their hands.

Michael actually sat on his. I suggested bagels and we headed to the galley. Thank goodness they also sold black and white cookies. We found a booth and ate in relative silence. When finished I got up and headed towards the stairs.

“Nanny, where are you going?” 

“To sit on the upper deck.” “There’s a great view from there,” I said with promise. 

Sunshine, a cool breeze, a cloudless sky and shimmering blue water met us above. Fishing charters and tugboats passing by greeted us with toots and waves. I waved back to everyone.

At first my grandchildren were embarrassed by my (aberrant) behavior. Eventually they caught on and started waving to other boat passengers before me. It became a contest (in the end I let them win). 

Michael decided to lay down on a bench and take in the sun. The metal was hard. I offered my lap for a pillow. No peers were around so he accepted.

I asked Gabriella if she wanted to play Tic-Tac-Toe. We used the back of napkins and my eyebrow pencil. She was not very good at first having not played often. By game 50 she figured out a strategy that held me at bay.

Michael, always the competitor wanted to challenge his sister for bragging rights. By the time we ran out of napkins the ferry was docking.

We exited and immediately boarded the next ferry docked alongside ours for the return trip to Long Island.

“Aren’t we spending any time in Connecticut?” they asked. 

“Nope. We’re just spending time together,” I replied. 

“Who wants something to drink?” I asked after boarding our ferry home. 

Now pros, they headed to the galley for juice boxes and chocolate chip cookies.

“Let’s go upstairs Nanny” they shouted. “Save us a great spot,” I yelled back. “I’ll be right behind you.” 

Like three peas in a pod we ate, then waved our hearts out, then snuggled, then napped.

There was no monumental shift in their orbits that day. Each one requested their phone the moment we hit dry land. But the times they are a changin’.

The kids still talk about the day we rode the ferry back and forth. They no longer think it’s silly to wave to people in other cars. Gabriella is a champion Tic-Tac-Toe player (and now even beats Grandpa). And best of all their phones remain in the back seat of our car when we go out to eat.

To some, this achievement may seem small and incidental.

To me, it’s better than hitting the jackpot! Oh wait, it IS hitting the jackpot and it makes Nanny feel like a million bucks!

Originally published on

Lisa Leshaw

Lisa Leshaw has worked as a mental health professional for the past 31 years. She currently conducts Parenting Skills Workshops, Group Counseling for Blended Families and Empowerment Circles for Women. As a consultant, Lisa travels throughout teaching Communication and Listening Skills, Behavioral Management Techniques and Motivational Strategies. To de-stress she performs in children's theatre and plays piano whenever requested. She is hoping to either write the next memorable musical composition or Great American Novel!