I’m just going to come out and say it, we are disengaged from our children. You know why our kids have so many behavioral “flaws”? Why they are late, moody, whiny, forgetful, and act way better for grandma? It’s because we always have these damn phones in front of our faces! Admit it! You have your phone in your hand, a screen in front of your face, or are busy doing something 95% of the day. Don’t feel bad about it, because I admit it. I’m on my phone doing something or other pretty much ALL day. And it’s distracting my whole self away from my kids, the ones I say are my whole life. And while we’re at it, it’s distracting my whole self away from my husband, the one I claim is my best friend.
This afternoon, I put my phone down. I paid attention to my kids, every little detail. I heard every word, saw every tiny action. I talked to them, answered every question, made suggestions based on things I saw happening. And guess what? No tantrums. No whining. No toddler getting into stuff. No baby fussing. What’s more, they were happy, and even compassionate. And I was happy, too. I was relaxed, patient. I told stories from my past, stories about my husband. I taught them things, like talking about Pearl Harbor. And they listened, willingly, to every word. And guess what? Natalie, the toddler, went to bed and sleep with no fight, no fuss whatsoever. And the older girls aren’t talking loudly amongst themselves. They aren’t arguing, playing, nothing. They’re laying in bed, quietly, going to sleep.
What’s more, I learned a lot about my kids. I learned why Meghan is usually whiny. It’s because she feels unheard. I learned that Natalie gets into stuff because she’s bored and wants attention. I learned that Elizabeth says really awesome stuff when she talks under her breath. She just lacks the confidence to say it more loudly. But when I pay close attention and realized what she was saying and laughed at her jokes or agreed with her, she lit up like I don’t remember ever happening before.
As sad as I feel about not realizing this sooner, I am grateful I figured it out before it was too late. Before I had teenagers who don’t talk to me. Before I had a couple little kids running around actng like they had ADHD or were just “brats”. I honestly think that all the “problems” we think our kids have are actually stemming from lack of involvement on the part of parents. And it’s only getting worse. Every time we choose something over spending quality time with our kids, we are telling them they aren’t important. We are telling them we aren’t listening, we don’t care. Not only that, but we are expecting them to obey without knowing why. We are expecting them to be on time without teaching them how to keep track of time. We are expecting them to know how to play nicely with each other without showing them how to interact. We are ignoring them, and it’s messing up an entire generation.
I can see now. I can see how, as technology has become more present in our lives, it has taken more and more from us. It happened slowly enough, and excitingly enough, that we didn’t realize. We didn’t see what was happening. I think the older generation has seen. I think that’s why they’ve resisted it so strongly.
I think I will end up having to continue this post another day. I’ve decided I need to go to bed earlier. I need to remove myself from technology as much as possible, even when the kids aren’t needing me. Because I can’t be fully present for them when I’m cranky and overtired. I plan to seriously cut back on my phone/Internet usage, starting today. And I believe I will be happier for it. I believe my kids will be better off because of my realizations I have had. And I hope that my story touches someone else. Someone struggling with parenthood. Someone who is ready to hear the harsh truth and join me in backing away from technology. It’s for you that I’m writing this now. And it’s for you that I continue to write.