Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Unplugging to Plug In: What's Really Important

I'll be the first to admit that I am completely addicted to my iPhone.  I love the games, access to traffic and weather, and how it blinks and glows when I have a new e-mail or notification.  It makes me feel connected in a world that can be isolating.  However, after finding this blog post (which I saw on facebook) called How to Miss a Childhood my perspective was totally and powerfully altered.

The article broke me a little bit inside because it had a resonating truth.  I was missing a childhood.  How many times had my sweet girl wanted to play with me and I told her, "Sure, just let me finish this e-mail" or "Uh huh sweetie, in a sec" as I maneuvered my way through the next level of Where's My Water.  How many times have I sat on the bench at the park and instead of watching her play, I check the latest pins on pinterest? There has been many times when she's actually come to the laptop and slammed it shut.  It breaks my heart to think of it and to see it so clearly in Hand Free Mama's post.  I saw myself in so many of those bullets and I'm ashamed of myself.

But from that realization, I can grow.  The first thing I needed to do was to think about the good things that I do.  I always keep my phone on silent.  I limit the amount of TV time we watch as a family.  We have dinner at the table every night together, except sometimes when Andy is on midnights then we have an indoor picnic on the living room floor.  We dance together and play together and we have an hour long bedtime together where my focus is solely on her.  Also, I try and give her as many experiences as I can by taking her to as many places as I can think of even if I have to go all by myself or drive insanely far away (although, I do check my phone often when I'm out).

It was time to make a change.  And I have.  When I come home from work, I leave my phone on silent in my bag and I don't go on the computer.  I fully commit myself to engaging with her.  We play as many wacky games as she can come up with.  We color.  We trace letters.  We play pretend.  And yes, sometimes we watch a cartoon together on the couch.  She helps me make dinner and then we have our usual bedtime routine.  But I won't lie and say that I still don't wish she would play a little bit by herself, not so I can play on my phone, but just so I can sit down for a minute!

When we go out, I leave my phone in my purse, except to snap a quick picture (and I'm still guilty of checking in on facebook).  Other than that, I'm either watching her explore or showing her around.  Even Andy noticed it, without me even telling him what I was doing.

I feel like a better mother, and I feel like she's a happier girl, but I still have some work to do.  When I'm at my mom's house or in a restaurant, I'm definitely still guilty of "just peeking, real quick" at my phone.  And talking on the phone when I'm in the car with her (handsfree, but still).  So I most certainly still have a ways to go, but I just feel so much less guilty.  I feel like I'm really present with her and can enjoy her more.

Do I think it's reasonable to assume that I'll never be on my phone or computer in Isabella's presence again?  No.  If she's in the car and the realtor calls or a friend I haven't spoken to in ages, I'm going to pick up.  If she's playing with her dad, I can pop on the computer and pay my student loan bill.  And I couldn't find my way around the block without my GPS.  But what I don't want is to miss a childhood.
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Jo said...

That's quite a change. I'm still holding on to my old phone ... and even so I often find that there are things that I would rather do and have to 'force' myself to really listen to the kids.

On the other hand I think it's important for kids to know that our entire lives don't revolve around only them. They need to learn to wait their turn or entertain themselves... only then will they be rounded adults.

Madonna said...

Such a great post, and something that I truly needed to be reminded of lately. Have you seen the movie Click with Adam Sandler? It reminded me that family should come first to work, even when there's a deadline. I make it a point to do work after E's in bed so she has my attention.

I'll be setting aside my phone and iPad tonight and focusing on my family.

mtendere said...

I'm certainly guilty of this, too. We try to do better and some days are better than others. We need to balance being conscientious and attentive parents with being kind and forgiving to ourselves. There are some days that getting her to the park is an achievement and if I sit on hte bench and play BeDazzled, I don't feel a bit guilty. But I can't fall into the trap of doing that all the time and forgetting how much joy it brings her to have me push her on the swing and watch her climb.

We just keep trying to do better, right?

lady gray said...

a timely post for me to read, mama. i'm wanting to be better at this too. and, honestly, really wanting my HUSBAND to be better. he feels like he has to respond to every little work email/text/call immediately and it makes me nuts.

thank you for the inspiration.

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