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The Leunig Cartoon Would Have Been Better If The Baby Also Had A Phone

A cartoonist named Michael Leunig drew a cartoon featuring a mother looking at her phone while pushing a pram. Seems unremarkable, right? But get this: the baby had fallen out of the pram! And she didn't even notice!

Mummy was busy on Instagram

When the beautiful bubby fell out of the pram

And lay on the path unseen and alone

Wishing that he was loved like a phone.

Right now, you might be saying to yourself, “There are still newspaper cartoonists?” 

Well, I am as surprised as you are. Turns out these people are still at it, making people angry with their oversimplified commentary. 

So it looks like Leunig is saying that mothers are on their phones too much. As if it’s just mothers. That is preposterous. 

(Image: Michael Leunig / SMH)

Really, for the cartoon to make sense, Leunig should have had the baby looking at a phone. And there should have been a partner somewhere in there also looking at a phone. The cartoon should have been set in a park among a crowd of people on their phones while the world blows up around them.

Because we’re ALL on our phones too much.

All of us. Mothers, fathers, babies, cats, dogs, “Millennials”. (Have you heard about these guys? Yikes, right?)

And yes, if you lived in a time before everyone had hand-held computers, it can sometimes be jarring to see everyone looking down at their phones on a train platform or at a park. And yes, it can be even more jarring when there’s a child standing in front of a parent who’s busy with their phone.

This is not a defence of Leunig or the cartoon. He appears to have a history of putting out incomprehensible takes on issues like marriage equality and vaccinations in powerfully unfunny drawing form. Seriously, look through some of his archive and let me know if you understand any of it.

But this one at least had a perceptible point -- he was saying mothers shouldn’t be on their phones while pushing prams. Fine. I can think of plenty of legitimate circumstances under which a mother might be on her phone while pushing a pram. And I understand why people would be put off by the apparent shaming in the message.

But parents are just people that have to take care of little people. And people everywhere are on their phones all the time. Why wouldn’t they be on their phones with their kids around?

Get off your phone, fella. (Image: Getty)

Of course, studies upon studies upon studies have warned us of the dangers of looking at your phone all the time, especially when you’re around your kids because then they’ll grow up to be jerks who look at their phones all the time. (And there's all kinds of scary research about the damage phones do to early brain development.) We all know not to do it. But we still do it.

Hell, I do it. I’m probably doing it right now. I read, write, watch TV and movies and everything else on there. I can’t stand in a line for more than five seconds without pulling out the phone and catching up on 'What Donald Trump Said Or Tweeted'.

I try to not be on the phone when I’m around my children, but it’s hard. Everything is on there -- music, photos, work, friends, family. Want to change the song? I need the phone. Want to show the kids a video of when they were babies? I need the phone. Want to ask everyone if they can please for the love of God explain the point of some newspaper cartoon? I need the phone.

I do make a conscious effort not to be on my phone if I'm in my children's company, especially one-on-one. I try to engage them. I lead a life with them where the phone is not the centre of the universe and I make an effort to limit their screentime.

But I also accept that this machine is an appendage now. Everyone walks around with their phones in their hands. They attach pop sockets to them so they're easier to hold, because they also cost five million dollars and we can’t let them break.

Where I draw the line is walking, especially if it’s rush hour. Life is full of hassles and we’re all sharing this planet, but God help me there is nothing that makes me want to shut the whole system down more than being stuck behind someone tapping on their phone while they're slowly walking during rush hour. It has to be one of the more obnoxious displays of “No one matters but me and my phone”. If you need to tap out a text, pull over. Get to the side.

During any stretch of any walk during peak hour, I will run right into at least 15 people reading or doing something on their phones. I used to dodge them but I can’t anymore. There’s too many of them! So now, I just walk straight ahead, banging back and forth between the walking dead, allowing my body to be sacrificed.

Out of the way, zombies!

The worst, though, has to be The People On The Stairs. You can’t wait 30 seconds to walk a flight of stairs before you post that Parks and Recreation meme? I keep praying that these people will reach the end of the stairs, think there’s another step up or down and then crash to the ground. I don’t want anyone to be injured. Just shamed. The kind of shame that will keep you from looking at your phone on the stairs.

And, again, mothers aren’t the problem. Leunig has that wrong. Everyone is the problem. 

Go to any park in the world and you’re guaranteed to see most if not all of those parents, especially if they’re alone, staring at their phones while their kids play, looking up occasionally to make sure they haven’t launched themselves off the top of the slide.

Sometimes, of course, the parents will be talking to each other, but what you have there is arguably even worse: A Conversation Between Parents. I just got chills thinking about it.

But here’s the thing. A lot of parenting is really boring. It’s just sitting around while your kids get exercise. Yes, you can play with them and talk to them, but realistically that lasts about 10 minutes and then you just want to sit down. You can hear the parents whimper… “Please, Billy. Please let me sit down. Oh Billy please…” It’s humiliating.

Now imagine that same park, but instead of playing, the kids are all on phones. A park where you take your kid to sit there and look at a phone. Isn’t that upsetting? Not even the Great Master Leunig could conjure such a chilling tableau.

Listen, I get it. And I’ve done it. One child has a basketball game and you have to take his toddler brother to the game, where the toddler keeps screaming, “I HATE THIS I HATE YOU I WANT CARROTS I HATE CARROTS”. He’s throwing coins at the players, running away with the game ball, flipping off the refs... So yes, I put a phone in front of his face to prevent us from being arrested.

But that was an emergency.

How quickly do you think the Sedation Machines come out? When you know you’ve got that drug in your pocket, you’re going to bring it out at the first sign of distress, aren’t you? Why would you put yourself through any of that kind of pain if you don’t have to?

I’ve watched parents force the phone into the face of a child that didn’t want it. “What kind of freak child doesn’t want a phone in their face?” you might wonder. And you’re right. This kid was some kind of freak. But they didn’t want that phone. They wanted to cry and maybe, they wanted a different kind of attention.

I can’t say for sure. I was on my phone.