Thursday, June 26, 2014

In the Present

Every Tuesday this summer there is a free outdoor concert for kids in a city park.  There is a little wooden stage and all the kids can climb up there and dance around with the singer, who is a woman with a guitar who has a large repertoire of fun/annoying (depending on your age) songs.  We didn't go this week because the morning had been damp and drizzly but we went for the first time last week and it was pretty fun. 

The concert is sponsored by the local arts council and there was woman taking candid pictures throughout the hour that would be in an album on the council's Facebook page.  A few days later I remembered about the pictures and found the page on Facebook to check it out.  And I was dismayed to find that I was in the background of several pictures and in every one I was looking at my damn phone! 

There have been countless viral blog posts and articles by parents that have circulated around the Internet about how we are all missing our children grow up because we are too busy looking at our phones and are not "present".  There is one I just read where a little kid almost drowned because his mom looked at her phone for just a moment when she thought her kids were all out of the pool and wrapped in their towels.  It happened a few years ago but resurfaces every summer. I kind of find the articles to be overkill even though I know the message about prioritizing your kids over electronics is relevant mostly because there are so many of them and everyone always shares them ad nauseum and one would have been enough.  I think I am definitely "present" for Ben and Tessa and do stuff with them all the time, all day, every day.  I also think back to my mom who was home with us all the time and lived far away family when we were little.  I have memories of being told to leave her alone while she had hour long conversations with my aunts and my grandmas.  She wrote letters, looked at magazines to get ideas for sewing and craft projects, took care of household finances, kept track of what was going on with whatever library story times, swimming lessons, etc. that we had and who knows what else. She was still present even though she had to focus on other things besides us sometimes.

I do all that stuff that she did and more on my phone.  It is my clock, camera, source of news, the way I keep in touch with people, the way I connect with other moms so I feel less lonely being with little kids nonstop and share funny banter with my family all throughout the day.  I send pictures of the kids to whoever is interested.  My cousin and I and our friend from college have planned a whole baby shower for my sister, set for this weekend, almost entirely by text message. Facebook is a way to get in touch with anyone you want. When Tessa was breech this fall I recalled a friend from law school who's phone number I don't have who had mentioned on Facebook having her baby turned in the same way I was scheduled to a few months before and was able to chat back and forth with her all afternoon before I went for my procedure and it really eased my mind.  There are ladies that I went to school with and haven't seen in years who have babies the same age as me and we have connected on FB all over again because of it.  My phone is how I read the news every morning as dull and annoying PBS kids shows play on the TV and it keeps me from feeling brain dead. 

So, my point is that I wish people would lay off the phone thing sometimes.  I know that a few months ago I wrote about how I thought screen usage for toddlers was really bad so I guess I need to reconcile the two issues somehow but I do know that I am an adult whose brain was already wired a long time ago to enjoy reading and doing physical activities not involving screens and I am happy to take advantage of all the great advances little palm sized computers bring such as having thousands of songs to listen to in the car without having hundreds of cds scattered around, being able to easily schedule casual social gatherings without endless phone calls and answering machine messages and being able to look at the ND DOT road conditions map in the winter when the weather turns bad during a trip.  If I realize my student loan payment is due I can pay it anywhere, even if I am in the middle of nowhere in my car.  And speaking of bills, I LOVE not having mountains of statements and invoices piling up on the counter every month because they are all stored in my email box. 

But when I was at that kid's concert last Tuesday I made an effort, as I always do at kid centered events and places, to keep it out of sight and be "present".  I think the only time I looked at it was to check the time as the hour passed because I had to go to the bathroom and there wasn't one nearby and I was getting anxious and also I took a picture of Ben watching the singer.  And apparently that photographer caught every quick glance at the clock.  Ughhhh.  I guess I am the mom who wasn't "present" to watch her precious two year old growing before her eyes because she was to busy screwing around on her phone. 

I should add a disclaimer, regarding the viral drowning stories, that I never have my phone when we are swimming.  My lifeguarding years taught me that infants and toddlers near water is no joke so that is the main reason.  The secondary reason is that I would hate for my phone to end up in the water!  Two year olds, expensive electronics, and water don't mix.  And I think word is out on the texting and driving thing too...

Another reason I am glad to have my phone around...I always have a camera and was able to capture the fleeting moment when Tessa stood herself up for the first time yesterday!

She's a big girl!  By some miracle I was able to come into the present look away from Facebook and various distracting phone apps long enough to see this happen.  Pretty soon she will be into everything!  It brings me back to when Ben was at this stage and we had to tie the end tables to the couch with twine because he was dragging them around the room.  I wonder what craziness Tessa will bring to the house?

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