Our children on mute
One took over the office. One nestled in the downstairs bedroom. One commandeered the kitchen table. Two were side by side some ten feet apart in the living room.
Talk about divide and conquer. They were everywhere.
My grade school children stationed themselves throughout the house during Mountain View School District’s third virtual day of school.
Not one of my kids had the same start time, but for over an hour all five of my students were engaged in online learning at the same time. My twenty-one-month-old and I were partners (or perhaps police on patrol) during this still new phenomenon of online classroom education. We made our rounds.
Okay. Yes. Here’s some truth. My not quite two-year-old may NOT be the best partner to have when monitoring kids in grades K through 4. However, on this virtual day, unlike the first virtual day several weeks earlier, my little guy didn’t unplug the router ten minutes before the first in the lineup, my kindergartener, was supposed to go live.
It was better—quieter—this time around. As my fellow law enforcement officer and I moved across the grade levels, we overheard these same two sentences three dozen times: “You’re on mute, honey,” and “Take yourself off mute.”
Mute. Mute. Mute.
Sociologically, we are creating an entire generation required to use their mute button.
There are advantages to this. Large groups can meet from a distance. Connecting from multiple locations can be enriching and exciting (unless, of course, a certain youngster decides mid-lesson to introduce his or her puppy to the class).
Then, too, whose day isn’t made better by the sight of Saint Bernard beside a kid on a couch?
Additionally, respect is not just discussed, it’s implemented. Having a better understanding of teamwork in a classroom community is also gained when the student body can and cannot speak.
These are all wins.
There are losses, too, and I’m no longer just talking about grade school kids.
One of the greatest losses may be that we become spectators. Even if it’s not intended, we become a part of the audience.
Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me.” While this new regime of socialization can certainly be amazing—ah, hello, we can see and hear each other literally from around the planet—there is still and “us” and a “them.”
The joy of my doctoral work (that began before the pandemic) focused on online worship—two words that still drive a wedge into our world. Sure, there are perks to clicking on a church service, but, to this day, viewers are “watching” worship far more than participating in worship. Technology hasn’t advanced enough, or, sadly, we haven’t allowed ourselves to advance enough to move past barriers of distance. In a sense, we are muting ourselves.
Jesus isn’t done saying, “Let the children come to me,” because Jesus has said this to every generation past and every generation to come until the end of time.
We are all children of God. Let’s do what Jesus instructs and not come muted. Instead, let’s come full on. Let’s find ways to continue to accentuate the positive. For example, let’s hold to the advantage (and even the joy) of family and friends in the Southwest connecting with those in the Northeast, and even abroad. Grandparents with family scattered hither and yon can still rally and meet all their loved ones in one place, and that’s at a single pulpit.
Yes, children, let’s not mute ourselves. Two people in the same room can be distant. Let’s not do this. Instead, let’s not rest but trust our still creating and ever-expanding God who wants His people to meet and speak together, online and otherwise.
We all get that kids must be quiet in class sometimes. We can also get that, with Jesus, we can (and we should) take the limits off.
Let’s let Jesus be bigger. Join in conversation and connection.
Pictured: a certain engaging 5-year-old in class on his third virtual day of school.