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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Texting While Parenting

Apparently being on your smartphone around your kids is a bad thing.  A few of us have read the article that is currently bouncing around Facebook.  A few social scientists watched parents at McDonald's while dining, and recorded the behavior between parent and child, specifically observing those on smartphones.  They found that parents were more agitated with their children while they were on smartphones.

Um, I could have told you that.

But, the experts noticed it, so it must be true.

We have all felt it, the frustration rising in the back of our neck up over our scalp,
'Mom, mommy, mom,' little faces looking up at us while we finish that text.

This was heard in my house today,
'No, you don't need me for the three minutes it takes me to go down into the basement and change the laundry!'
So you go do things. and then while you're showering they have a potty accident.  You get so mad at yourself, but you can't hover over them all day long.  You would hate that.  And resent them.  Truth be told, the children would eventually hate it too.

They are aching black holes of need.  They're most important need?  Your attention.  All the time.

So when they clamor at you while you're on your phone, it's just one more annoyance.
Right?

Well, yes.
And, well, no.

I tried to make a phone call the other day.  An actual real phone call.  Like from people that are going to renovate our house.  I couldn't complete it, because every time I tried to wade through their impossible sea of menu choices my daughter's would fight.  I even hung up and tried again.  During that interlude, I yelled at my children.  What did they do?  My two year old looked at me, and then body checked her sister into the wall.
I was so angry I couldn't even laugh.
So that's not okay.  I should be able to complete a five minute phone call without having to put anyone in time out.
But I can't.

I used to play games on my phone when I was bathing them.  Then I'd get angry with them because they would want things while I was in the middle of crushing imaginary candies.  How dare they?  Disturb my game, with their 'needs.'
So that's not okay.  I shouldn't be ignoring my children so that I can play games on my phone.

I have to admit I was late to the iPhone game.  I'm usually on the tail end of technology.  At first I didn't want one. Then I couldn't texts from people.  Or I'd have to switch out phones with my husband, because I needed the GPS to go somewhere new.  And going somewhere new in New England without a GPS is a pants wetting, terrifying experience.  I have 'lost in Massachusetts without a GPS' PTSD.  I am usually a map girl.  I am nerdy for maps.  Having a map for every tiny, curvy road in this state would fill my trunk with maps.  A GPS is a  really good thing here.
Eventually, even though my husband didn't think I needed one, I threw enough temper tantrums and I got a smartphone.
I love that stupid thing.

It is a 'thing' afterall, isn't it?
Just a 'thing.'  While it makes my life easier, it is not more important than my children.

Do I really find a 'thing' more interesting than a human being?  Especially a human being that I brought into the world?
Gosh, I hope not.  I would hate to think I was giving my children issues because I was staring at a phone rather than interacting with them.

My children really are aching pits of need.  They need to learn that they are not the center of the world.  The need to learn that I am not their servant.  These are real lessons.  Lessons that parent's teach.

The smartphone issue is tricky.  We use them for so much now.  I've found that I need to be careful how I use it, when I use it, and for what reason I use it.  They are actual phones, that we use for calling people.  Which does still happen now and then.  That's important.

They have a GPS.  Which as I have pointed out, helps a lot.  Makes my life easier.  Actually can make my life with children a lot easier.  Have you ever gotten lost with your kids in the car?  I have.  Having children with you when you have lost your bearings, just takes the whole experience to a new level.

Let's talk about texting.  I don't know about you, but often texting is just casual conversation.  'This made me laugh, and will make you laugh too,' kinds of exchanges.  There's nothing wrong with these, they're fun and they promote connections between people.  I've found that I need to be aware of them.  Then I become 'that person.'  Like when the nurse asked me to put that down so I could answer questions.  I will point out she had just walked in the room, and I was in the middle of texting my husband to say they were doing more tests and I would be late.  She kind of jumped the gun on me.  That's where we are though.  People are ignoring important interactions because we're texting or on our phones in some other capacity.

I'm not going to come up with guidelines.  Because guidelines are the worst.  Like when the American Association of Pediatrics tells you not to let your one year old watch TV, and I'm like, 'then you come to my house and watch my kid for twenty minutes so I can shower.'  So you plop them in front of TV and then you feel guilty. Then you shower.
This blog is a 'no guilt zone.'
I'm not even going to come up with 'suggestions.'  Because who am I to tell you how to use your phone?
Everyone's life is different.  Some people do a lot of business on their phone.  Some people are wasting a lot of time on their phone.

I think this article is a good place to start checking yourself, before you wreck yourself.  Or your children, for that matter.
Sometimes it's appropriate to text.  So text away.  Sometimes your kid asks for your attention in the middle of texting.  I like this phrase,
"Let me finish this text, and then I can help you."
Then I have to actually put the phone down and pay attention to them.  This is hard.  I find I get caught up in so many distractions in the house that I am often saying, 'let me finish....' and then I never get to them.  There are so many things that need to be finished.
Today I set a timer for myself, I usually set one for the girls.  They kept interrupting my train of thought for nonessential things, so I said,
"Mommy needs to work on this, I am going to set a timer so that I can work on this and then I can help you," by the time the timer went off they were involved in their own game and were no longer clamoring for my attention.
Did I mention I used the timer on my phone?
Now, there's a good use for that thing.

Sometimes texting is inappropriate.
Like at meal times.  Can't you just hear yourself ten years from now, 'no texting at the table!'  Unfortunately that starts with us.

I'm part of a large group text of seven different women.  As you can imagine, my phone blows up quite frequently.  Eventually I turned off my ringer, because I found that one night while I was cooking dinner, between my children, my husband, and the multiple tasks of cooking (chop this, boil this, etc.) I was spinning in circles.  I've left my ringer off, for the most part.  My texts become more like emails.  I pick up my phone, check what is there, answer them, and then move on.  Sometimes I leave it in my purse for hours at a time...

I have uploaded and deleted so many games on my phone.  Once I got accused of playing Candy Crush like a fiend.  I deleted it.  I was so bratty though.  I held the iPad aloft, screen pointedly directed at my husband, and hit the delete with more force than the touch screen ever needs.  He laughed.  Even though I was mildly jerky about it, I don't miss it.  I've since then uploaded and deleted Trivia Crack, Scrabble, and Candy Crush (the latter about two more times).

Remember the days of phone that had to stay plugged into walls?  Remember answering machines?  I like the type of interaction and thought process that those promoted.  You have stop and be where you are and communicate intentionally.  We can still use smartphones like that.
This age of instant communication and leaving plans till last minute might not be the best cultural shift we can have.  I know the pull, 'but if I don't answer right now...'
I've noticed though that most things work themselves out.

I have had to be very honest with myself.  Am I ignoring my children to play on my phone?  Am I doing something important?  If I am, why can't they just leave me alone?  Because children are aching pits of need, as parents we can fall into the 'they never leave me alone trap.'  But maybe, just maybe, if we give them some time, they'll leave us alone.
For a bit, at least.


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