Curbside Parenting

05/06/2017 12:08 pm ET Updated May 10, 2017

If you haven’t noticed by now (as perhaps you’ve been living under a rock) the Internet has really transformed the landscape of how one adults when adulting. Adulting, of course, is the act of doing all the things grown-ups do: like paying bills, or shopping for clothes, or buying groceries, or using a tablet to see who’s ringing the doorbell without getting up from the Lazyboy chair. So it’s no wonder that as a pair of gainfully employed parents consumed by all things adulting, my wife and I take full advantage of any technological advantages in our quest to attain Supreme Efficiency. For example, last week alone we had groceries delivered by Amazon Prime, detergent arrived via Google Express, and I paid my sister-in-law fifty bucks her through an app on my iPhone.

Can you say millennials?

And then, the unspeakable wife called midday with the dreaded words: I need you to swing by Nordstrom after work and pick up a present.

Nordstrom!? was all I could muster.

There was no way. First of all, I would have to drive there, and then it would require parking, and ― worst of all ― I’d actually have to go inside the store. I couldn’t.

Just text when you’re on way and they’ll run it out to the curb. Now she was speaking my language. Order restored.

As a technology-reliant and efficiency-craving family, we classify every potential errand or obligation into three basic tiers: online, curbside, or in-person. Generally speaking, If you’re below a certain age, the preferred order begins online and works its way down; if you’re above a certain age, you prefer the opposite order. Yes, of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. And in full transparency, my wife and I tend to overdo it in the on-demand department. But there’s one area of adulting in which we have successfully held this at-the-touch-of-a-button passion in abeyance: our kids.

With the steady and increased integration of streamlining technology into our lives, there’s been a clear shift where things like hoofing it across the mall to actually pick out presents seem antiquated and out of question (even as honey-do requests). What’s more, such integration has made it possible to do twenty things in the time one could formally accomplish ten. Awesome, right? However, these innovations in the world of quick-and-easy adulting bring with them a unique unintended phenomenon: curbside parenting.

Curbside parenting is, in essence, just as it sounds: parenting via dropping off, picking up, facilitating processes, events, activities or routines for your children without actually getting out of the vehicle. Distracted by the tidal wave of adult living, some parents intuitively treat parenting with the same automation as other facets within their adult paradigm. Metaphorically pulling up, shouting helpful reminders or I-love-yous out the window, but never killing the engine, throwing it in park, and thus, never relevantly contributing to life on the other side of the windshield.

This isn’t to say parents should implement helicopter or drone style parenting (that’s an entirely separate issue). I’m begging ― please don’t. In fact, there are countless perfectly acceptable scenarios, like dropping your kid off at a piano lesson, or lacrosse practice, or to a specific tutor for a specific reason, that appropriately utilize curbside parenting. Those examples generally draw a line in the sand between involved and overly-involved. There are times, however, when ― although it seems inconvenient, insignificant, or downright irritating ― you must get out of the car to become appropriately involved. Like when exploring your child’s academic struggles; or their sporadic emotional state; or dropping them off on the doorstep of a party with zero details about what you’ve just passively endorsed. I know what you’re thinking: I am involved in situations like that. And I’ll say this: you are and you aren’t.

It’s not uncommon for parents to be fully vested in the welfare of their teen, but, far too often, it’s only in times of crisis. Most of these scenarios were fully avoidable had the parents hoofed it into the land of assertive parenting earlier in the process. Busy parents, too reliant on their on-the-go habits are susceptible to unintentionally adopting an I’ll deal with this later, I’m multitasking mentality. A mindset that consistently leads to a could-have-been-proactively-averted teenage crisis.

So yea, innovation! Hurray Chili’s curbside-to-go! Bravo Blue Apron ― all winners in this game against the clock. Use them to clear the calendar, free up mental real estate and carve out the necessary time and energy required to successfully embrace the dine-in approach to parenting.

More on that later.

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