People watching is a fun time-passing activity that I liked to engage in. It’s right up there as one of my favourite hobbies (standing proudly alongside Bingo, sleeping and app-hunting) and because I’m always open to learning about human behaviour through observation, I love it!

Sometimes though, the whole watching thing can be a bit freaky obvious and it is much more subtle to eavesdrop rather than stare. It’s really much harder to get caught, and that in itself is a big bonus.


So, yes, I listen. And I often hear some verrrrrrrry interesting things, well more than enough to keep me entertained anyhow. On the Sunday morning  just passed, while the girl and I were out smashing bacon and eggs at the Surf Club, I overheard a conversation at the next table that almost had me wanting to join in and add my little bit. But I didn’t.

Sitting next to us, enjoying their breakfast feast, was a family group comprised of man, woman and a lad who I assumed to be their teenaged son. This young man would have 15 or 16 years old, fairly much the same age as my very own big boy and equally as lanky. He was very neatly dressed, appeared well mannered and was engaging well in the conversation with his parents. He was very forthcoming with well spoken comments about the food, the beach location and the winter weather (glorious, by the way). I really thought little of it all, until the discussion turned …. and Dad transformed into the ‘typical parent’ and son morphed into the ‘typical teen’.

Although I listen, I don’t record 😉 (no, really, I don’t) and so my recollection of the snippet following is just the gist. I paid particular attention because it echoed a conversation that I, myself, have had with my Mr 16 and I felt strangely reassured by this family’s breakfast discussion, and realised that as parents we are not alone.

Dad: so what ARE you going to do? what sport are you going to play?

Lad: mumble mumble mumble

Dad: I know you’ve said that, but going for a run twice a week is NOT enough. You need time outside, away from the computer. You can’t just sit on the computer all day, every day.

Lad: mumble mumble mumble

Dad: You said you were going to get a part time job. How hard are you looking? How long have you been looking for one now? Far too much time on that computer of yours ……

Lad: mumble mumble mumble

Mum: silence ………………………

I could hear the frustration and almost desperation in Dad’s voice. He obviously wanted the very best for his son and seemed to be trying to motivate him into action. I also felt for the son, I have worked with many teens who find it difficult to understand why their techno-life is so often under parental attack. The conversation was going nowhere and they finished and left soon after this exchange. I wanted to lean over, interrupt and tell Dad that all will be ok. I wanted to tell him that a teen’s computer life is as real to them as our backyard contests and books were to us many years ago, it’s just how it is. I also wanted to talk to the young man about screen-life balance and about not getting frustrated with parents who don’t understand this new iLiving. But I didn’t.

Instead, I pondered and I confirmed that, as open as communication is between us and our teens, the truth is that we are parenting the very first generation of adolescents that have been born into computerised homes. My three kids do not know of a world without the home computer and mobile phone much the way we never quite ‘got it’ when our parents told tales of growing up without a TV. It’s the same-same, but different if you know what I mean?

What topics of conversation go this way in your household?

* This post was initially published at

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