I put the phone away today.
I used to think that when my kids were at the park, it was a great chance to catch up on Facebook, emails etc because they were distracted. After all, there's two of them so they don't really need me, right?
And then it hit me. Why was I more interested in what someone had to say on FB, than what my kids had to say? Was it more important to clean out my inbox, or watch my children laugh and play?
I've been watching other parents at the park for the last few weeks. Almost 100% of them pay more attention to their phone than their kids.
A teacher asked her 2nd grade class, what item do you wish was never invented? The winner by a long shot, was the cell phone, with devastating stories about how parents ignore their kids when they are on them.
Fast forward to the teen years, and most of us are annoyed that our kids won't get off the phone, and don't want to have a conversation with us or spend time with us. Where did they learn that behavior? What have they been watching us do for years? These same same children wanted to have conversations with us when they were small, before they had their own phone, and we were too busy to notice. Too late we realize it doesn’t feel so good to be on the other side of our child and a phone.
Today when we arrived at the park, I locked my phone in the car. I've tried it all different ways, but if it's anywhere on my body I inevitably feel the pull towards it and sneak a peek. I notice how addicted I am, worrying that I might miss something by not being immediately available for 30 minutes. (I'm one of the last generations to grow up without a cell phone, and I know we got along just fine without them, which makes my addiction more annoying. I even remember what it was like before we had an answering machine or call waiting. We survived.)
Listen, I have 4-year-old twins and a 12 year old. I know that sometimes parents need time to veg out and have a few minutes of peace. If the park is what works for you, then go for it, no guilt involved. I'm just inviting you to take a few minutes, and decide if what's on the screen is more important than what's in front of you? Would you rather remember the laughs and giggles and chasing them like a monster, or have them remember seeing the top of your head and fighting for your attention?
It's still a daily battle for me, and sometimes I forget and the phone wins. But lately, I remember to put my phone in another room, and pay attention to what is unfolding in front of me. Then my kids win. I win. Giggles and laughter win. (And every adult could use more giggles and laughter.)
So if you happen to see me at the park, chasing squealing children and doing my best monster impression, feel free to come and play with us. I promise it’s more entertaining than anything on your phone, and the memories will last much longer than a FB post.