Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Anti-Social Media and Our Kids

The end of this pregnancy has been pulling at me; tides coming in and out of what will change and how much we will be stretched and how much love we are capable of. At the center of this pull is Kade, spending his last moments as my only baby sprawled out on his bedroom floor with a coy smile, asking me to please build another Lego house and kicking his feet carelessly into the air while we stir up air soup. I lift him up onto the counter while I cook dinner and watch him pop frozen peas into his mouth. He rubs at my thumbs between bites and wants me to sing to him while I stir the noodles. I love you, a bushel and a peck... In these last moments, I am feeling guilty. Here I am, counting the red hairs on his head, leaning in for extra neck kisses and noting the distinct smell of his skin. I am extra close attention to these last moments alone with my very first, writing things down that I don't want to forget. Because we are forgetful.

I feel guilty for this because I'm also noticing how often I haven't been paying attention. I'm taking note at how he has pried my eyes from my cell phone or combated for attention while I clucked away at the computer. I'm realizing that like so many others, I've been drawn into a dark hole of Social Media and the hole is deep and it is dizzying and disorienting.  I try to justify this. I have family out of state, they want lots of updates posted. Daddy works all day, I like to take extra pictures for him. But what is Kade going to remember? We spent his first Christmas, first three years really, saying he won't remember this but now, he's at the age that he just might. I don't want him to remember that I was staring at my phone at the park, that he had to say my name five times to get a response while I watched a YouTube video.

I enjoy Social Media. I have connected with so many wonderful people, so many friendships have formed and experiences have been shared. Social Media can make you feel supported, it can be an incredible outlet for creativity (take this blog, for example). I don't think Social Media is wrong or bad. I do believe, though, that the way we treat and approach it can be toxic. I am so guilty of this, it almost feels hypocritical to be writing about it. But I'm trying to change the way I view Social Media- trying to decide when is a good time and fighting the urge to pick up my phone to do some mindless scrolling when I'm bored. Boredom isn't cured with boredom. I'm making an effort to stretch myself, to feel around outside of my comfort zone for things to occupy my time. Things like starting a new project with Kade, stretching, calling my mom to say hello... It isn't easy. When you've been enthralled with so much technology, removing yourself from it feels foreign and uncomfortable. Going to the park without your cell phone forces you to be social again, something we've shriveled away from, into the screens of our smart phones and tablets.

I think it's important for Kade to play by himself sometimes. Every once in a while, mommy has things to do, mommy needs a break. That's okay and it's good for him to be patient and give me my space. He should be able to go in his room and entertain himself while I answer e-mails. But my time shouldn't be intruding his time. Meaning that I should not be on my smart phone during dinner. I should be talking to him about the day, discussing current events, and connecting with him. I should not be scrolling through Facebook while we're at the library and I certainly should not be playing games or updating my status during his bedtime routine. That is Kade's time and we've been stealing it.

So where do we start? It's not as easy as it seems. Last night, it took all I had not to pick up my phone while the boys did dishes. What else was there to do? That's where this whole Social Media thing has gone horribly wrong, we mindlessly start scrolling because what else are we going to do? As if this amazing, miraculous, unbelievable thing called LIFE isn't unraveling around us at every moment. I forced myself to sit in the kitchen and talk with them. Kade scrubbed the sink and said clever and silly things while daddy loaded the dishwasher. I looked back and forth at my boys and felt perfectly content. I would have missed that had I given in and picked up the phone. I can't help but wonder what else I've been missing.

Maybe it starts with a phone basket; you deposit your phones at the beginning of dinner and can't have them back until the dishes are done or the kids are in bed. Maybe it starts with leaving your phone in the car when you make your way to the park or the beach. It takes some creativity, some thoughtful planning: reading a poem aloud during dinner, choosing a newspaper clipping that fascinated you and sharing it with the family before bed, turning off your phone and playing a board game on a quiet afternoon.

At my house, we're going to make a conscience effort to connect more. We have a new baby on the way, hearts to stretch and a boy who is relying on us to be his teachers. Little steps will become giant strides. Let's change the social norm.

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