Have you seen this article that’s been circulating online, "How to Miss a Childhood"? It talks about “distractions of the modern age” and how they can so easily impede “being” with our children.
The author cites a list of ways to miss your kiddos’ childhood, mostly having to do with the extra appendages (i.e. smart phones) that many of us possess.
· Keep your phone turned on at all times of the day…always let the caller take priority.
· While you wait for the server to bring your food…stare at your phone…despite that your child sits inches away.
· Go to your child’s sporting event and look up periodically…thinking she won’t notice that you’re not fully focused.
· Don’t look up from your phone when your child speaks to you or just reply with an “uh huh”.
The list continues with what seem like some pretty egregious infractions…but ones that are probably not very uncommon…”infractions” that many people may not even realize.
When I first read through the article, I shook my head in sorrow, yet thinking it didn’t apply to me. Several times I’ve confessed having a drug dealer phone, which barely has text capabilities. It’s cumbersome to even make a phone call. No way am I guilty of any of these distractions.
I rationalize that I’m never very far from home, from my laptop, so I don’t need a fancy phone.
Gulp. Then it hit me that I’m far from guilt-free if I substitute “laptop” for “phone”.
I have my “coffee and computer time” each morning after breakfast, for about 45 minutes. And I think that’s OK. The girls know they’re expected to engage in independent play, and I think it’s healthy for them to see Mommy spending some time apart from them.
My next “computer time” happens during nap.
But…I’m guilty of stopping by the computer on the way to the bathroom…reading emails while the girls finish their snack…getting up to get a glass of water and reading a quick blog post as I do so. And it’s easy for that quick blog post to turn into leaving a quick comment…and while I’m at it let me glance at Facebook…oops, gotta wish Susan a happy birthday!
And, in the process – if I’m being completely honest – I am sure I’ve given the girls an “Uh huh” or “Just a minute, Sweetie” while I was paying much more attention to the glowing screen than to my glowing beauties.
The article talks about the message we’re subconsciously sending our children, that they’re not our first priority. “You think you are spending time with [your children], but you’re not present really.” “What is the message they receive? I am not important; I am not important.”
Since I read this article on Wednesday morning, I’ve done things differently.
I still have my “coffee and computer time”, but I’ve been disciplined to close my laptop at 9:00. The next time I open it is when the girls are down for naps, about 1:30. And when they get up? They see a closed computer. It’s opened again after bed.
It’s been less than a week, but I can say this exercise has been freeing. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment, for sure…not checking email when we get back from the grocery store…but I certainly don’t feel like I’ve lost anything.
In fact, I feel like I’ve gained a whole lot.
I don’t feel the tug to linger in the kitchen on the way back from the bathroom. I don’t feel drawn to pull away from the den to check the exact temperature on weather.com.
I just feel more relaxed, and I’m sure – on some level – my girls feel that, too.
I don’t mean to suggest that I think I should spend every waking moment focused on my girls. I actually think that would be doing them a disservice; they need to understand that the household must continue to run, and that the entire world does not revolve around them.
Nor do I mean to suggest that I’ll never check another email or answer another phone call in their presence, that I’ll never zone out for a few minutes reading a magazine or listening to a song on the car radio.
For me, I just think it’s harder to be disciplined about online time…there’s always one more email to respond to, one more post to read, one more comment to leave. And I still plan to enjoy all those things…just on my time, not my girls’.