So my two-year old can speak in sentences. We have full-blown conversations. He astounds me with how verbal he has become in the past few months. But every time he tells me “Mummy, off your phone” I die a little inside.
When my older sons were young I had given up my cell phone years before. (My husband had worked for a cell phone company in the early years of our marriage and we had been the proud owners of those classic, small Nokia phones.) I had only a landline and a desktop computer to connect me with the outside world. It was easy to step away and focus on my children. I made a concerted effort to be present with them. Certainly I believe that effort paid off.
The world has changed since then. Now I have a cell phone and no landline. While I do have a laptop I can -and do – do almost everything on my phone. Instead of google instant messaging on the computer I get text messages to my pocket. I don’t have to walk across the room to check my email, I can do it while playing cars on the floor. It’s more convenient, it’s less intrusive, it’s faster. All this is better, right?
In many ways it is, but as my littlest reminds me, in many ways this is not better.
Physically I am still near him, playing with him. But mentally I’m thinking about a project, pondering a conversation, checking up on this or that. He’s no dummy. He knows when I’m phoning in my engagement with him.
Please don’t misunderstand me. It is physically and mentally impossible to be 100% present 100% of the time. AND it is unrealistic for us to not have other things going on in our lives. We have jobs and volunteer obligations. We communicate with teachers and other parents and friends and family members. All of these things we do with our phones. And sometimes we just need to zone out for a few minutes, to recharge. I am absolutely NOT saying that having a phone is bad, or that using it near our children is bad.
I’m just saying that I think I need to make some healthy boundaries, and actually be present when I’m spending meaningful time with my family. With my phone in hand it is decidedly not meaningful. I want them to connect with me, not talk to GlowFaceMum.
*** This post has languished in my Drafts folder for a year and a half. I was ashamed to publish it. But in the spirit of Kiley’s post about stepping away from social media I thought I would finally share. I’ve struck a better balance since I first wrote this post. Of course it helps that I’m no longer in the middle of a complicated move which required quite a bit of time on my phone. Also, as he is now four years old he is capable of some independent, imaginative play. (Oh blessed day!) This allows me to segment my time. I can get stuff done while he is otherwise engaged, and then I can walk away from my phone and give him my attention when we play together.
I can do better. I am trying to do better. And I’ve got the cutest little one keeping me accountable. Now that the older boys both have phones it’s even more important that I model a healthy relationship with technology.