I had a humbling moment the other night at dinner; one that required some self-reflection on my part. One that made me realize that my kids LOOK UP to me; A lot….
Our family dinner conversation led into something about people always being on their smartphones, and my youngest daughter made the comment: “Kinda like you, mom! You’re on your phone a lot.” Aaaahhhhh! My worst NIGHTMARE! ‘What? On my phone a LOT?’ Well, of course I quickly responded with the best, most defensive comment I could think of in my sudden moment of shock, sadness, + frustration … “NO I’m not!” That was the best I could come up with. My heart was spinning. And right there at the dinner table, in that very moment, I began to experience the 5 emotional stages of grieving the reality of my smartphone over-usage…
STAGE ONE: DENIAL.
I am not just wasting time on the phone! … in fact, MOST of the time on my phone I’m doing things for the FAMILY!… Like editing cute pictures, sending them to grandma, texting updates to Daddy, or coordinating playdates for them, looking up a recipe, or calling about Dr appts, etc! Right?
STAGE TWO: ANGER
That’s right, I was ‘justified’ in my frequent smartphone usage. So yeah, I was a tiny bit angry. I know, my daughter was not ‘accusing’ me of anything, she was simply ‘pointing out the FACTS’! Eeek. I wasn’t sure what was worse? Part of me wanted to get angry with her for accusing me of “ALWAYS being on my phone”, and tell her that ‘I was a mom + have things that need to be taken care of’! And the other part of me wanted to get super angry with my stupid, convenient, iPhone + throw it right out the window + never pick it up again! Because THAT is not what is important to me. My FAMILY is!
STAGE THREE: BARGAINING
Oh no, maybe she’s right. Suddenly, my mind began to flash images/memories of the times I had my face buried in my phone. Times when my kids needed me but what I was doing in that moment was ‘important’. It seemed harmless at the time- “I’ll be right there”, “I’ll help you in a minute”, “hold on a second”. I was teaching them patience, right? But did I even LOOK UP to see their little faces watching me, waiting for me to respond? Watching me care about whatever I was doing on that phone more than them? Oh no. This is happening. I’m THAT mom! The distracted mom starring at the tiny screen rather than their tiny faces. I was going to ruin them. THEY LOOK UP TO ME + that’s how they’re going to remember me? Always on my PHONE??? NOOOO! And that’s when I began praying for that part of my mothering to be erased from their sweet brains.
STAGE FOUR: DEPRESSION
Yes. These feelings quickly turned to sadness. Because I felt like for the most part I actually DO make an effort to NOT answer my phones’ every ring + notification while the kids were home. And when they needed to talk- if I was busy, I made sure to stop + focus on them. This stage stuck with me for a moment longer than the others.
STAGE FIVE: ACCEPTANCE
As I humbled myself, I realized, the truth is, no matter HOW good I thought I was at NOT paying too much attention to my phone? My 7 year old STILL considered it “lots”. And that is WAY too much for me. There are a LOT of things I’d like my children to think I spend LOTS of time on + my cell phone is NOT one of them. SO… the good news is, in this “acceptance” phase I decided that I can DO something about this. It’s NOT too late to change my habits.
I can set some “screen time rules” for myself. For example: When I want to read something? I’m going to open a REAL BOOK! That’s right, with actual pages you have to turn. So when my kids wake up in the morning and see Mommy downstairs studying- they remember me READING, rather than me ‘playing on my smartphone’! And when I cook, I’m going to take the extra 4.7 seconds and actually PRINT out the recipe I’m using, so when my kids see me cooking they can watch/help me read the RECIPE rather than think I was busy ‘texting’ while cooking! You get the idea. This doesn’t mean that I have to throw out the smartphone completely, it just means I am being mindful of what I am modeling! So, when my loved ones are around, I am going to make an effort to ignore the phone and LOOK UP at them. Just be IN the moment!
And, to help me with this, I have come up with two little words as my reminder: “LOOK UP”!!! Yes, Look up from that bright little screen, and LOOK UP at their bright little faces. I want to remember that my kids LOOK UP to me + right now I am teaching them what is important to me. Them!
Moms, lets each do a little screen time analysis on ourselves, evaluate what stage of this grieving process you may be in + lets DO something about it! Today! It’s never too late.