How to miss a childhood: The dangers of paying more attention to your cell phone than your children
Rachel Macy Stafford of Hands Free Mama
Editor's note: This post by Rachel Macy Stafford originally appeared on her blog, Hands Free Mama. It has been reprinted here with permission.
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 of experience as a day care provider held the key.
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 mid-sentence; 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 to 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 conversations 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.
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