“Mommy, please put your phone up.”
I froze. I had heard that statement many times from my husband. My husband has absolutely no social media. My husband who did not have an email address until we were married (honest to goodness true story). My husband who cannot stand how much time people spend staring at their phones.
But this was not my husband asking me to put my phone away: it was my four-year-old son.
I immediately put my phone down and did not pick it up again for the rest of the evening. When I went to bed that night, all I could think about was his statement. It had never occurred to me that he was paying attention to the amount of time I was perusing Facebook, mindlessly scrolling to destress from the day. But he was. He had noticed. And I felt awful.
I am an educator. I spend my day with a classroom full of amazing kids. However, my mind spins all day, constantly trying to keep up with their needs, lessons, tests, and emails. There is rarely a block of time when I am not thinking about my next step. When I come home, I have two very energetic little boys on my heels. They run and roughhouse, argue and play. Dinner, laundry, bath time, brushed teeth…wake up and do it all over again. I love my chaotic, crazy life but I am mentally and physically exhausted. And my favorite way to de-stress? You guessed it.
His statement shook me to my core. How long has he looked at me, wanting to play or ask a question, but seen me already occupied by a screen? Like most people, I truly didn’t think I was spending that much time engrossed in whatever random celebrity story I was reading, but he had noticed. For me, it was not ok.
We are raising a generation of littles who will grow up fully knowing how to navigate any electronic device far better than we could ever dream of doing, and while the surge into the “electronic age” has major benefits, it also has major downfalls. I didn’t grow up seeing my mother engrossed in a cellphone the way my children have seen me. You see, this is the time we have with our babies. This. Today. Right now. Tomorrow is never promised, and I don’t believe anyone will come to the end of their life and regret not checking their email more. I want my boys to have memories of us playing, reading together, snuggling while watching movies…not of Mommy looking at her phone. I want to be hands-on, and I have not done as well in that area as I should have. It needed to change.
We now have a rule in my house: no devices out in the evening. Our phones stay on a kitchen countertop with the volume up a bit so we can hear if we should receive a call. Otherwise, we don’t touch them. To be honest, it’s harder than I expected it would be. However, that makes me even more aware of the fact that it needed to be done.
My resolution this year is to be more present with my children. To fully engage in the time I have with them, and make sure they know that they are of the utmost importance to me. When I am feeling stressed or upset, I want their presence to be just what I need. I want to spend our moments together making memories. And when our day is done, I will allow time for myself, whether I spend that reading, working out, or going ahead and seeing what the world is up to. When I look back I know I will be much happier to have spent my evening playing monster trucks than to know that a friend of mine scored a cute pair of heels for half off.