I’m Sorry – A Letter to My Kids

I’m sorry. I’m truly very sorry.

I have gotten plenty of things wrong in your short lives, and there will be plenty more I will likely handle badly. This one is going to hurt.

I’m taking away your screens.

Permanently.

I know. I’ve threatened before when you couldn’t keep yourself together when I’ve said, “Times up!” Then I gave in, or we went on a long drive,  I “just needed a minute to myself” or any number of other excuses. I was lazy, and I’m sorry for that. It was far easier to hand you a tablet and let you play so I could get some work done, or to have quiet, or both. But I’ve done you a HUGE disservice. You see, you do not know how to be bored. You don’t know how to wait. You do not know how to let me have an adult conversation without interrupting.

None of that is your fault. It’s mine. I’m the parent and I should’ve done better. Technology is a WONDERFUL thing – and for some families it totally works and it’s awesome. For us, however, I will be a far better parent to you both and you will be better mannered, more functional adults if we leave the tablet behind.

I had it confused for a bit. I struggled with finding a balance  – many times – since these tablets were purchased. As you’ve grown, and your friends have them, it’s just become more and more of an issue of an inability to self regulate. You are both on the verge of needing computers for school work (you’ll use mine for a while). These toys are simply not necessary. I kept thinking that if I had it to do all over again, there are two things I would never have purchased: the dang Elf on the Shelf and the iPads. (Don’t get me started on the holiday tradition of hiding the elf in a new place every morning in addition to the already busy season!)

If I wouldn’t do it again though, why do we still have them? Honestly? Because it’s easier then going through what we are now. The transition to life without video games is not for the weak! I know this will be hard, for ALL of us, but here are a few things I know you will gain in the long run – and the end game is what I have to keep in mind because that’s my job.

*Better manners, fewer meltdowns and tantrums.

*The ability to be bored, and be okay with it.

*Long drives where you actually LOOK at the world around you. (Even if it’s south Texas and flat!)

*More outside time – especially as we move into fall and winter! Nature is a MUST – for all of us.

*More games, relearning co-operation and give and take. You know these things, you have the skills, but we are going to get better with fewer meltdowns.

*Better sleep. Science has proven this repeatedly. Less screen time, especially close to bedtime, equals more restful sleep. More restful sleep means more functional during the day and better prepared for learning and growing.

*More Creativity! You are both inventive and incredibly creative when forced to be. You make up games and play so well together. The whininess subsides, you handle life better.

*Better parents. Nope – you don’t get to trade us in, but  I will be a far more creative parent when my go-to bargaining chip is not the iPad. I’m tired of it, and if you are honest with yourselves, I think you are, too.

There are many more benefits in the long run, some that I’ve noticed even in this first day screen-less. It will be bumpy, to be sure.

I’m also sure that this is the exact right thing for our family. I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner. My dream for you; to be creative, insightful, helpful, kind, co-operative, self-sufficient and well-adjusted adults, simply won’t happen with your face stuck to a screen. It just won’t.

I love you too much to let that happen.

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The Pharmacy

As I sat in the uncomfortable waiting area chair, I situated my purse, grabbed my phone and prepared to pass the time with some mind numbing Facebook, spider solitaire, or whatever I might find on Pinterest. I had also brought my latest edition of Runners World to peruse if Facebook wasn’t “interesting enough”.

Then I started to notice the people around me, just outside of my periphery. A lady corralling a toddler on one side, a man standing; eyeing me and all the other smartphone holders with contempt, someone behind me sneezed. All while a computerized voice over the loud speaker droned on and on, announcing the next customer in line.

As I looked around more closely, nearly everyone had a phone or tablet in their hands. One lady I happened to see was playing a slot machine game until her number was called, another was furiously tapping out a text or an email.

I immediately felt sort of melancholy. If our faces weren’t perpetually fixed on a screen, there might have been pleasant small talk. People would have engaged each other.

I slipped my phone back into my purse as I gazed at the sunlight streaming through the blinds. I wonder if our kids will be able to just sit and be, or are we teaching them to constantly “have something to do” and be unceasingly entertained?

I smiled as a nurse walked by. She smiled back. The toddler a few seats down met my eyes and escaped his mother’s grasp to wander down and get a closer look me. His mother and I laughed at what a playful boy he was. The lady behind me told me how smart her grandkids were when it came to computers and “new-fangled gadgets”.

For a moment, It felt like it used to just a few short years ago, before a phone became the extension of most of our fingertips. Now I’m not saying that phones are evil or bad, or that the technology is the devil, but sometimes I wonder just how “connected” it really makes us. Do we really need to see a picture of someone’s awesome lunch, or might we be better served by playing with the toddler in the next seat over, having a pleasant conversation with a grandma that is missing her family, or just being in a rare quiet moment to do nothing but breathe?

It makes me wonder if it’s worth it. Is the price of technology and never ending connection to media worth the sacrifice of real-life interaction?

What If

What if…

What if we stopped? Stopped all the busy. What if we put down the 7 things we’re trying to do simultaneously? What if we focused on just one thing?

Could we do it? We record television shows, while we are watching other shows, flipping channels because we get bored during commercials. We have the remote in one hand and a phone in the other. Too bad we don’t have another hand for the tablet.

“What’s for dinner? Hmmm, I dunno. Ooh! I know! I’ll check out Pinterest for some meal ideas! Yeah. *ping* Omigosh. I have to show you this video on Facebook! It’s hilarious! What? No, honey, not now – we are getting ready to eat. *ping*. Just a minute, baby. Mommy will be right there! I just have to send a quick text. The toilet’s overflowing again?! Ugh! Oh, that reminds me – we need more toilet paper. I’ll add that to the list. *dingdong* Can someone grab the door!? What was I doing again?”

Is it just me?

What if we put away our need to always be doing?

What if we put away our yardsticks of comparison? What if doing just one thing didn’t make us feel unproductive? What if we didn’t look over our fences and feel like failures because we aren’t going, doing, and being all the things we perceive them to be doing and being?

What if the person in front of us, the task in front of us, was the only thing that had our attention?

What if?

What if we looked at people when we spoke with them? What if we felt heard, validated, and not like we were competing for a moment of someone’s time? What if we could stop having a conversation with the top of their head, their eyes glued to a screen?

What if we heard, really heard, those around us? What if we validated them? What if we sincerely inquired about someone else instead of being lost and consumed in our own little mind chatter?

Could we be better spouses? Better parents? Better friends?

Could we finally realize that multitasking is really doing multiple things badly?

What if we suspended our “been there, done that” condescension, and were actually amazed by something? What if we were less guarded? More open to express joy, exhilaration, and excitement?

What if we practiced gratitude all year instead of just a few weeks in November?

What if?

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day(s)

I suppose that’s a tad dramatic, but – well, I’ll just get right into it.

Wednesday morning we wake up and the kids are just having a morning. One of those mornings. Everything is a struggle. “I don’t wanna brush my teeth!” “I don’t wanna go to school!” “I don’t wanna eat!”

“I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna!”

Me neither! But the kids made it to school, I had an appointment, then it was back to pick them up. We get home and Hannah heads to the bathroom. Let’s just say that I didn’t know I should have to tell a child NOT to play with her poo. She hollers that she needs “help” and holds up two very poopy hands.

Seriously?!

While trying not to vomit in my mouth, I scrub her down, and dip her in Clorox. Okay, not really, but I sanitized the heck out of everything in the vicinity. Oy. We then had a very serious conversation about how things that come out of our body are not toys and should not be touched. Toilets are not water tables and hands don’t go in the water. Ever. Who knew this would be a conversation I would have to have? Isn’t there some biological repulsion mechanism to leave the poo alone?! If not, there really should be.

After baths, sanitizing dips, dinner and bed, I decide to run an update on my computer. I’m still recovering from a wisdom tooth extraction, so I pop an Ibuprofen for the pain and wait. I get an error, it says I need to “reboot and try again”. I end up in a never-ending loop of rebooting, hard drive has damage and needs to be repaired, but it won’t let me fix it. Great.

The next day, I drag the minions down to the Apple store for our appointment with a tech. Long drive, but the kids were good. Found out that the hard drive = dead. Not repairable, had to be replaced. Lost all music and pictures. As in all the pictures from before Jacob was born until present day. 6-ish years of photos of the kids. Gone. Poof.

Naturally, the first question you are asking is “Didn’t you back up your computer?” A smart person would have. I have seen the episode of Sex in the City where Carrie loses all her writing on her hard drive because she didn’t back up her work. Did I back up? Nope. Not once. It was always the I’ll-get-to-it-later deal that never got done.

While we are waiting to have my new drive installed, we decide to check out the mall’s child play area, or as I like to call it, the higher-concentration germ arena. We walk up only to find it gone with yellow tape around the area where it’s been torn up. “Coming soon: Children’s Play Area bigger and better than before!” a sign tells us. At this point I’m laughing at our luck.

We instead kill some time at Target “visiting” the toy aisle. After the computer is done, we made the return trek home with my new formatted hard drive in hand. After today, I’m happy to report that it’s nearly back to normal. Luckily, the music was duplicated on the hubs’ computer, so that wasn’t a huge deal. Losing the pictures though, that stung. There are some pictures that we’ll never get back – mostly the first year of Jacob’s life. I was a serious shutterbug, but it was pre-Facebook, Instagram and WordPress. There’s just no way to get those pictures. It makes me sad, but of course it was my own fault, and there are far worse things in life. And since joining Facebook, Instagram and WordPress, I do have access to so many pictures that I’ve been able to download back into my files.

It won’t be like it was, but I can assure you going forward, I will be backing up.

What about you? Are you a backer-upper, or do you like to play computer-roulette?

Wonder-Full Wednesday: Learning

In this gratitude experiment, I find that I am consciously looking for things for which to be grateful, since I know this little Wednesday project of mine comes around every week. This one has been brewing for awhile….

Currently, while writing and still on a bit of a learning curve with my Mac, I decided to be brave and purchase Photoshop. After doing some research and chatting with the techie guy at my local store, who by the way, dang near speaks a foreign language, I bit the bullet. (He says crazy computer gibberish and I glaze over and nod along as if I have some semblance of a clue about what he’s saying!) The reviews all say it’s the best bang for the photo-editing buck and more, despite having a bit of a, yup – you guessed it – learning curve.

That is what I am grateful for today – the learning curve. Or, perhaps the guts to try to learn new things. Right now, I am learning all sorts of things; photo-editing, web-design (sort of), on-going Mac (I’m a PC convert!), group fitness certifications, CPR, parenting stuff, and, and, and….on and on it goes.

I hope the learning never ends. I hope my kids develop a love of lifetime learning, or at the very least to not shy away from doing something just because they don’t know how. How else do you get better at something?

You do it.

For that, I am grateful.

Downsizing, Reorganizing, Purging, Moving and Other Things I’m Grateful For

I love a new year. I love the clean slate feeling. Perhaps it’s not just the clean slate, but more spring being on the horizon. (And yes, you can have a “clean slate” every day – no need to wait until “monday”, “tomorrow”, “next month” or even a new year.)

For me, that clean slate feeling also comes every time we move (and being in the military, we do it often!) While the hubbs is home, we are currently in the midst of packing, downsizing, purging and reorganizing as we prepare to move into base housing in 3 weeks. Moving in the military, while it can be stressful, really is the way to go because they come in and do it for you. Usually in 1-2 days they wrap, box up, and put everything you own on a truck. It’s quite amazing just how fast it can get done. (Especially when they aren’t oohing and ahhhing over things not seen since the last move!) This time however, we are doing it on our own. Pack a box here, a box there, non-essentials that we won’t need for a couple weeks, play with the kids, make a meal, pack a box, put kids to bed, pack a box, fold laundry, pack a box, do some dishes, pack a box, then collapse into bed. It’s so sloooooooow. But, when its all said and done, I am happy to say we will be in a cute new house with a giant kitchen that will make this foodie very happy!

This clean slate will also overlap into my running a bit with my first race event of 2013! I’m running a half marathon tomorrow and am getting really excited! I’m doubting any PR potential, but I just want to start the year off with a feel-good race and see what happens. The new iPod shuffle will get it’s race inauguration as well! We did a practice run this week and I am in LOVE with this thing! I felt so free running without my phone strapped to my arm! (Yes we are still living prehistorically with no smart phones!)

2012-ipodshuffle-gallery2-zoom

It’s so stinking tiny!! And, like all Apple products – so simple and intuitive to use. I remember roller skating in my driveway with this monster:

walkman

I am so grateful for technology!

So fun and armed with my Gu and warm running pants – I’m ready to run!!

Giving up Gadgets. Again.

Okay. I know, I know. I’ve done this before but this time….well, this time – it’s sticking.

I know I struggle with spending too much time with my face stuck in front of one kind of screen or another. I love gadgets of all kinds and the technology really is amazing. (Especially considering I learned how to type on a Tandy 1000 from Radio Shack!) There is an app for everything – its fun! Facebook, ichat, Amazon, and the internet at my fingertips all the time!

For the last few months (since the attempted amputations) it’s been nagging at me… It’s all cool stuff…but at what cost?

Now, let me be clear. I in no way think that smartphones, apps, iPads, Kindles, Nooks etc. are bad, evil, or wrong.  I’ll be the first to profess my love of technology and the wonderful things it can do and how it can keep us connected in all kinds of ways. (Words with Friends? Bejeweled Blitz, anyone?) What I do think, for me, for our family, is that gadgets have become a time eater. I think to myself, “I’ll make lunch after I check messages,” and what started out as a 5 minute task turns into 30 minutes later. It happens all the time. Or my favorite is when Eric and I are on opposite ends of the couch, the kids are into a movie, and we are messaging each other on our phones. Hello?!  Can you say ridiculous?! That’s not keeping us “connected”. It’s disengaging us from being really together. Yes, we are in the same room, but we are in our own little worlds around a silly little screen. And it doesn’t get that way overnight. It eats away time very subtly, and very slowly.

A teacher friend of mine had relayed a conversation with a student of hers via Facebook: The student excitedly said she got to go to her mom’s that weekend. When asked what she usually did with her mom, the student got a dejected look on her face and replied, “Mom is usually on her phone doing Facebook, so I just watch TV.”  This conversation cinched it for me. It struck a chord and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. This could so easily be my kids saying that about me at school. Is that the kind of parent I want to be? Of course not. I’ve been reading blogs like Hands Free Mama and Finding Joy for quite awhile now. It all rings true for me – the letting go of stuff and the unnecessary to enjoy and LIVE in what REALLY matters.

To this end, Eric and I decided to go back to life before smartphones.

woman-scared

AAAAAck! How will we ever survive?!

I think we will manage.

We were so productive yesterday without our phones and time seemed to go slower. The day didn’t just fly by like it usually does. Something tells me that spending more time really with our kids as a family (not just in the same room disengaged) will be a decision we will not regret.

And maybe…just maybe, our kids won’t grow up faster than they already are….