Nephew’s answer raises question: Are we too busy?

This column was originally published as part of my “From Where I Sit” series at in Towson Times.

The question was simple.

I’d asked my visiting nephew if he’d like to meet for lunch before his golf game. My schedule for the next day was filling up, and I wanted to allow enough time for lunch preparation.

The fourteen-year-old paused and then answered me with his own question.

“Aunt Becky,” he began, “can I get back to you on that?”

I, too, paused and slowly turned around to look at him. He was sitting behind me in the van as we had just pulled into the driveway after running errands. I had to see his face. Surely he was laughing.

But he wasn’t. Those penetrating blue eyes peeked from underneath his signature bangs, meeting my curious look with a disarming sincerity.

“Sure, Adam,” I replied as I turned back around and tried to absorb his meaning.

I wheeled out of the van and into the house. I still did not know how to plan for lunch. And I realized I had just given him permission to delay his decision.

Then it dawned on me. I had just been managed. With that simple reply, my momentum had been shut down and put on hold.

I was no longer in charge.

Instead, I was puzzled. What exactly did Adam need to consider before giving me an answer? He had no pending appointments. He was staying in my home with no other local friends or family nearby. He couldn’t drive or arrange for transportation.

Nevertheless, he needed to think about something before giving me an answer.

I discovered it was my sister’s fault.

Rachel instituted, “Can I get back to you” replies as a solution to her children’s increasing requests for instant answers. She wasn’t ready to say “yes” or “no,” and the word, “maybe” invited more pleading. So she’d ask and secure an agreement of “getting back” to her children on decisions. The urgency evaporated with that response, giving her time to answer when she was ready.

It also put her clearly back in charge, a role hard to sustain when children enter those demanding teenage years.

Adam simply adopted her technique and used it on me.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

We live in a time of unprecedented connectivity and availability. Our fast-paced lifestyles are fueled by technology’s electronic fingers that reach out and touch anytime, anywhere, fostering an environment of instant gratification. The “on demand” mentality extends beyond that button on our cable remote.

Sometimes we need permission to stop and think.

In fact, “getting back to you” may be a great tool for a teenager to know, especially when those impulsive stages emerge. Kids may need to pause before acting and “getting back to you” may buy them time to make a wise choice.

During the rest of their 10-day visit, we enjoyed more memorable conversations and a slower pace than our usual holiday gatherings. We had no schedules, traditional dinners or performances to attend. Instead, we played cards and monopoly, shopped and grilled out together. And yes, Adam and I had lunch. But he didn’t “get back to me” in time for any special preparation, so we shared a sandwich.

My father labeled those relaxing times as “LID” or Let It Develop days. He cherished those purposely unplanned days used to piddle in his workshop, putt around the garden or otherwise do whatever the day revealed as its opportunities.

Sometimes we need permission to do nothing, too.

Answers need not be immediate. Days need not be fully planned. Pauses in our words and deeds can keep us refreshed and clear thinking.

The answer can be simple, too.