How to miss a childhood
It's all too easy to distract ourselves away from our kids. Here's inspiration to stop.
By sharing my own painful truths when it comes to the distractions of the modern age, I have gained an unexpected insight. In the 18 months this blog has existed, I have been privy to a new distraction confession every single day.
Up until now, I never knew what to do with this unusual collection of painful admissions from an overly connected society. But today, in a moment of clarity, I knew. And a woman with 35 years experience as a day care provider held the key.
It came as a message in my inbox after the woman read my post “The Children Have Spoken” which included heart-breaking observations from children themselves about their parents’ excessive phone use.
As soon as I read the first sentence of the caregiver’s email, I knew this message was different than any I had ever received. The hairs on my arms stood up as I absorbed each word that came uncomfortably close to home.
It was a voice of heartache, wisdom, and urgency speaking directly to the parents of the 21st century:
“I can recall a time when you were out with your children you were really with them. You engaged in a back and forth dialog even if they were pre-verbal. You said, ‘Look at the bus, see the doggie, etc.’ Now I see you on the phone, pushing your kids on the swings while distracted by your devices. You think you are spending time with them but you are not present really. When I see you pick up your kids at day care while you’re on the phone, it breaks my heart. They hear your adult conversations. What do they overhear? What is the message they receive? I am not important; I am not important.”
In a 100-word paragraph this concerned woman who has cared for babies since 1977 revealed a disturbing recipe … How to Miss a Childhood.
And because I possess hundreds of distraction confessions, including stories from my own former highly distracted life, I have all the damaging ingredients.
All it takes is one child and one phone and this tragic recipe can be yours.
How to Miss a Childhood
*Keep your phone turned on at all times of the day. Allow the rings, beeps, and buzzes to interrupt your child midsentence; always let the caller take priority.
*Carry your phone around so much that when you happen to leave it in one room your child will come running with it proudly in hand—treating it more like a much needed breathing apparatus than a communication device.
*Decide the app you’re playing is more important than throwing the ball in the yard with your kids. Even better, yell at them to leave you alone while you play your game.
*Take your children to the zoo and spend so much time on your phone that your child looks longingly at the mother who is engaged with her children and wishes she was with her instead.
*While you wait for the server to bring your food or the movie to start, get out your phone and stare at it despite the fact your child sits inches away longing for you talk to him.
*Go to your child’s sporting event and look up periodically from your phone thinking she won’t notice that you are not fully focused on her game.
*Check your phone first thing in the morning … even before you kiss, hug, or greet the people in your family.
*Neglect daily rituals like tucking your child into bed or nightly dinner conversation because you are too busy with your online activity.
*Don’t look up from your phone when your child speaks to you or just reply with an “uh huh” so she thinks you were listening.
*Lose your temper with your child when he “bothers” you while you are interacting with your hand-held electronic device.
*Give an exasperated sigh when your child asks you to push her on the swing. Can’t she see you’re busy?
*Use drive time to call other people regardless of the fact you could be talking to your kids about their day—or about their worries, their fears, or their dreams.
*Read email and text messages at stoplights. Then tell yourself that when your kids are old enough to drive they won’t remember you did this all the time.
*Have the phone to your ear when she gets in or out of the car. Convince yourself a loving hello or goodbye is highly overrated.
Follow this recipe and you will have:
• Missed opportunities for human connection
• Fewer chances to create beautiful memories
• Lack of connection to the people most precious to you
• Inability to really know your children and them unable to know you
• Overwhelming regret
If you find this recipe difficult to read—if you find that you have tears in your eyes, I thank you, and your child thanks you.
It is not easy to consider the possibility that the distractions of the modern age have taken an undeserved priority over the people who matter in your life. In fact, when I admitted this difficult truth to myself almost two years ago, I experienced an emotional breakdown. However, that breakdown became a breakthrough that propelled me to begin my life-changing “Hands Free” journey.
Here’s the thing: You don’t have to follow the above recipe. Yes, it is the 21st century. Yes, the whole world is online. Yes, the communications for your job are important. Yes, at times you must be readily available. But despite all those factors, you do not have to sacrifice your child’s childhood; nor do you have to sacrifice your life.
May I recommend this recipe instead?
How to Grasp a Childhood:
Look into her eyes when she speaks to you … Your uninterrupted gaze is love to your child.
Take time to be with him—really be with him by giving your full attention … The gift of your total presence is love to your child.
Hold her hand, rub his back, listen to her heart beat, and smooth his hair … Your gentle touch is love to your child.
Greet her like you missed her when she was not in your presence … Seeing your face light up when you see her is love to your child.
Play with him … Your involvement in his activities is love to your child.
Set an example of being distraction-free while driving … Positive role modeling behind the wheel is love (and safety) to your child.
Focus and smile at her from the stands, sidelines, or the audience … Seeing the joy on your face as you watch is love to your child.
The recipe for “How to Grasp a Childhood” requires only one thing: You must put down your phone. Whether it is for ten minutes, two hours, or an entire Saturday, beautiful human connection, memory making, and parent-child bonding can occur every single time you let go of distraction to grasp what really matters.
The beautiful, life-changing results of your “Hands Free” action can start today … right now … the moment you put down the phone.
Want more from author Rachel Macy Stafford? We'll be featuring more of her awesome work on Mom to Mom so check in! Meantime, find her at Hands Free Mama.
Connect with us on Facebook - tell us how you feel about the blog.
For continued inspiration and tips about letting go of distraction to connect with the people you love please join “The Hands Free Revolution.” We are a growing community striving to grasp “the moments that matter” in our one precious life!
As MY mother always told me. "You neglect your own needs. You sacrifice yourself for your kids. And, in the end - they're absolutely fine - They've always been fine. And, you are the one - who continually suffered for them & bore all their pain (so they shouldn't bear any) - who is dropping dead, who has been dropping dead since the day they were born. Your kids will turn out fine. It's YOU I'm worried about!"
I think the article above is for guilty parents. Time to drop the guilt the media & others, (throw on moms in particular), for their own personal 'business' purposes. I'm sick of this politically correct crap. We all take care of our kids. Nothing wrong with US taking care of ourselves (which I NEVER DID!)
There is another part of the equation.... parents who give their kids cell phones....
too many times have I seen kids standing within inches of each other and rather than
hold a conversation they text each other.... what kind of world will their children live in?
News, stories, tips and laughs for moms & dads
Every year, toy makers from around the world gather to show their latest creations at the Toy Fair in New York City. The high-tech models, gadgets and trinkets on display put those basic Legos we played with at kids to shame. Here are 10 new toys that we'd happily buy or children. Or, really, ourselves.
Find yourself wandering the aisles, suddenly needing an owl-shaped candle while drinking a $5 latte? You're not alone, moms...
Here's some parenting advice for whatever stage of separation or divorce you're in.
Whether you pop it in the mail or post it on social media, a creative photo is a surefire way to grab everyone’s attention and proudly say, “I’m pregnant!” Prepare for a lot of likes.
Remember the magical children’s rooms in Peter Pan and The Little Prince? These timeless novels described spaces that were enchanting and made us wish that we could inhabit the rooms ourselves. The sumptuous interiors that were filled with never-ending toys and fort-like draping may seem like a fairytale, but thanks to four of our favorite kids' furniture websites, the dream could actually become a reality. Click through the slideshow to check out the best kids furniture websites that have everything necessary to create a fantasy room for your little one. And check out Sophia Demenge's super-fun space in the video below. By Barry Samaha
They lay, they play, and they take selfies with supermodels. Meet 5 of the most social media-savvy pets—animals taking control of their own fashionable online image.
We could try to offer you carefully researched and crafted words of Dad-centric inspiration, intended to show you the path to being a better man and, in turn, a better father. But Tom Limbert took up the task for us in his new book 'Dad's Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time,' so we left it to him. Limbert -- a parent coach and the founder of the Studio Grow children's play space in Berkeley, California -- has collected pearls of wisdom from an elite crew of coaches who have not only experienced greatness themselves, but also found ways to consistently instill it in their teams. "It's monkey-see, monkey-do," Limbert told us, after we asked him to gather the best quotes on achieving one's goals. "If you want your child to follow, you have to lead." Click on to read the often simple-seeming words that have inspired countless others to follow through on the field, but that can also easily be translated to the school, work, fitness, and, of course, parenting arenas.
What parents need to know
It's raining, it's pouring ... but that doesn't mean the day has to be a snore. Rather than let the kids grow restless and rambunctious, why not divert their energy toward some fun family bonding activities? Although the weather may have scotched your original plans for the day, seize the opportunity to reconnect and let loose with your loved ones. Click through this slideshow for ten refreshing rainy day activities that'll make you glad the clouds (almost) rained on your parade.
Every family has its oddballs. And the holiday season is the one time of year when you’re pretty much forced to interact and play nice with the grand majority of them. Click through the slideshow above for our guide to dealing with the five worst kinds of kin. *Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Not great with a budget? Don't sweat it. Try these simple ways to save.
Actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley hated the dementia that made her mother seem like a different person—erratic, silent, sometimes angry. Then she found a way to love that mom too.