Today I saw another of the minor casualties of cell phone use: a suburban mom walking along with one of those tennis-hat-thingies on her head, yakking away on a cell phone while she walked a large white poodle. Five feet behind her, dutiful and silent, was a 7-year-old boy walking another dog. Every once in a while, still yakking away, she'd turn around to look at him, but he knew better than to interrupt her. I'll bet that this gets billed at the country club (for yes, forgive me, but this did look like a classic country club mom) as "special time with my son."
I see this a lot: moms of all classes and races walking along with kids and completely, totally, utterly ignoring them in favor of exchanging inanities on the cell phone. And yes, unless the phrase you're uttering is "you need me to perform life-saving brain surgery in half an hour? I'll be right there!," whatever you're ignoring your kid for is not worth it. Same thing holds true for the moms cruising by in those Hummers, Suburbans, and Escalades with a phone plastered to their ear, ignoring the kid staring out the window in the front seat.
Can it be a little boring sometimes walking with toddlers and older kids? Yup, you bet. But most of the time it's fun; it's a time when they have your attention but aren't oppressed by it. You're not trying to make them do anything, and they're not trying to make you do anything. There's no pressure, so they can call your attention to a bug that they see, or a car that they see, or how the obnoxious kid in school made fun of their shoes. Or you can sing old songs. Or play a game that has no name: when you get to a corner, spin the child around and have her point, and whatever direction she points in, that's where you walk.
If you're not listening to them now, who is? If you're not listening to them now, why should they listen to you later?