How to miss a childhood: The dangers of paying more attention to your cell phone than your children

By Rachel Macy Stafford

For Hands Free Mama

Published: Monday, May 14 2012 9:00 a.m. MDT

Rachel Macy Stafford of Hands Free Mama

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Editor's note: This post by Rachel Macy Stafford originally appeared on her blog, Hands Free Mama. It has been reprinted here with permission.

Related article: Going off the grid: Living in the moment

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 my blog, Hands Free Mama, 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 caregivers 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 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 youre 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 youre 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 childs sporting event and look up periodically from your phone thinking she wont 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.

Dont 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. Cant 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 wont 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

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