(Fresh from the snow, rosy-cheeked girls after being kicked off a myriad of technology.)
I remember reading an article recently about how the world of iPhones and smartphones of all kinds were changing our minds. How people that were developing the actual software used on smartphones were pulling back from what they had created when they realized how addictive all of it was. Of course, I read this on my phone.
I realize how much data is out there regarding screen time, the use of technology, etc, and honestly, I’ve started to ignore it. I know we all know deep down that hours of time staring at a screen, no matter how old you are, can’t be good for you. Reading an article on my phone about how bad it is to stare at your phone just doesn’t make me feel better, so avoiding reading it is five minutes less I am glaring at the glow of my screen in a dark bedroom while my husband next to me is staring at the glow of his screen. (Who’s the smart one now, addictive-technology producing people??)
We have boundaries for our girls that are, honestly, often broken. We don’t have a television that is hooked up to cable, so we thought we had a win there. But, our girls do both have I-devices. So, in reality, I’ve come to the conclusion that just having a TV would be better. That way, you don’t overhear your 10-year old telling her best friend from the back seat of the minivan, “…I was watching episode 7 of the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Titus…”. Um whut? You’ve seen Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? News to me. (Not the perfect parent, right? But I’m cutting myself some slack considering I was watching Revenge of the Nerds on HBO when I was nine. The eighties were a different time.)
And then this week…ahh this week, I hit a place. I don’t even know that this place has a name, but I hit it. I think my whole family hit it. We returned home from traveling and had not hit a groove with the back to work, back to school, plans for a beautiful New Year, routine. We were all tired and were recuperating. During this time, one thing I did notice – phones and devices and a lot of heads down. I admit, I have a pull to my phone through my work. Even though I had turned off all notifications (a God send when it comes to the people who message you at 3am), I would still check my Etsy messages to make sure everything was being taken care of in a timely manner. But I noticed this habit of checking had spread to other things, like news, social media, my 12 year old. I would tell her to put her phone down, get outside and check on the chickens, and five minutes later, hear my own phone beep, the sound of a text. The pull to look at it right then was, I imagine, like a pack of cigarettes in front of someone wearing a nicotine patch. (If I have this much of an addictive personality, then thank God I never had to quit smoking. You people that have are amazing.). Maddie was looking at me. A test. Is the mother that just told me to get outside going to look at her phone? I didn’t. I let it go and she went outside. And then I looked at my phone.
Boundaries. It is what has gone. We are always available. We are always within reach. Good and bad, right? But what about the life we are living right now? At the moment after I picked up my phone after Maddie went outside, I reached a point. If I can’t be disciplined, then how can I expect anyone else to be? I had to have set some boundaries and this is the reason why:
My life as I was living it was being interrupted.
Interrupted in all ways. Baking cookies, phone dings. Talking with my mom, phone dings. I actually sat in church this morning, listening to some really good stuff, and a thought popped into my brain: ‘…you forgot to message the price of that necklace chain to ….you should do that. Right. Now.’ I actually looked at my bag with my phone in it. Thankfully I had the discipline in that situation to not reach for it. And my husband was sitting next to me and probably would have smacked it out of my hand, rightly so.
(Let me interrupt myself – I get the times having your phone nearby is good. It is the beneficial reason we have these luxuries – out with your friends, significant other, and want the sitter to be able to reach you? Have that phone out on the table. Waiting for your wife to go into labor – you know you better have that phone on vibrate and the loudest ring tone at the same time.)
But the thing is, for everyday life, everyday moments, I don’t want to think like that, feel like that. I want things to wait. I don’t want to be distracted from the moment at hand remembering the things that could be taken care of, just a reach away.
Then today, a beautiful snow day. We are on our way home after church, oldest child says she has an invitation to go see a movie tonight and can she go? Yes, that’s fine. Let me know what the plans are. I check on her later, on her bed, lying on stomach, looking at her phone.
Me: Maddie, it’s beautiful outside, what are you doing?
Maddie: Messaging about the movie.
Me: Okay, what do you have to message about?
Maddie: My friends and I are making plans.
Me: Okay, that should be quick. Wrap it up.
Maddie: Okay. I’ll get off.
Several minutes later. I check on her. Still messaging. I swear to the ever-loving Lord I was going to grab that phone andtossitintotheriverexceptthereisnorivernearourhouse.
Go into the bathroom closet, grab small empty basket that I haven’t found a purpose for yet, and put it on the kitchen table. Ask Maddie to bring her phone, Maia to bring her iPad, all of the devices. This is the device basket. This is where everything is going to live and it shall live here happily for the foreseeable future. Now get outside.
And out they went.
I heard beeps and dings and the crazy sound Joe has on his phone, mine included. And they just went off. Like a phone hanging on a kitchen wall when no one is home. And it was beautiful.
Maddie came back in two hours later. I told her she could confirm her movie plans. She picked up her phone. Twenty nine text messages. She looked at me and smiled. And put her phone back in the basket.
There are some things in life that some figure out quicker than others. I know we don’t have this down yet, but it’s a start. And I am letting the billboards about texting and driving dictate my life when I’m not just driving now. For pretty much all of the time, if I am in the middle of something, with someone, anytime I want to give something my full attention;
Texting – it can wait.
What do you do to limit your screen time? How do you stay in the moment with technology a reach away?