A couple Thursdays ago, we ended up at a random Parent Cafe meeting (read: free dinner AND childcare) through our highly-praised Medford Family Network. It was very ironic that the focus was on engaging with our children – you know, what people did before smart phones existed. Stats and stories were shared, all concluding the same thought – we are so distracted and we don’t know what to do about it. We are so connected and yet our attention so divided. And maybe most of all, we feel SO GUILTY no matter what we do. If our attention goes to our kid over our email, are we a competitive employee? If we bring home to work, are our kids suffering? From what was shared, in 1996, less than 20% of Americans had Internet and in 2005 only 8% had social media to the 72% it is today (Source: PewResearch). That’s an increase of 800% incase you’re lazy and wondering.
So what does this have to do with Marin getting her cast on about 5.5 weeks ago? Can I tell you all a little secret? Marin having a cast made me a better Mom.
There I said it. The fact that my child had to break her femur to get my attention is sad enough, but I’m telling you, it undeniably did. Perhaps, I should put it this way – Marin breaking her leg forced me to be the Mom I really, really want to be. Everyday. Always.
Is that Mom engaged 100% of the time? No, she’s not. Is that Mom on her phone more than she should be? No, thankfully, by the grace of Jesus and some pretty heavy boundaries, she’s not. But am I grateful it did? Absolutely.
When Marin broke her leg, I really felt like my life shattered too. Again, let me adjust my verbiage here. I am by nature someone who will always prefer to make sure that life fits as neatly and orderly as possible into a very accomplishable control strategy (you may know this as a “plan”). For instance, a lot of my early potty training goals with Marin were to avoid (in the long run) having to smell poop before my next pregnancy. (If and when you can smell everything and it gets you sick, that may make at least some sense, but for now, we can all agree, it’s crazy.)
So when Marin broke her leg, my perfectly healthy, wonderful sleeper, happy eater, became this pathetic, temporarily-disabled child. And you know what I did? I let Mike parent her on Saturday and Sunday while I coped and slept all weekend from the stress of having to readjust my life around Marin’s new needs. I dreaded that Monday , and I haven’t felt that scared to send Mike back to work since Marin was first born. You would have thought she was a complete handful, and she really, really wasn’t (well, maybe literally, yes). It wasn’t reality, it was fear. Fear just crept into my heart so quickly, faster than the unknowns about 3 weeks with a 31 pound baby who suddenly couldn’t help with dishes, or making dinner, or stand while I opened the door to our apartment. A baby who was supposed to be a normal toddler and was just the day before.
About 3 days in, a friend called to see how I was doing (which can I say, so did so many people who were ready to bring meals or do what we needed at the drop of a hat. Thank you, thank you, thank you!). I cried spilling my guts on how Marin was doing wonderfully and how I was becoming this hot, introspective mess. I got off of social media. I missed it. I missed having the distraction of Facebook and Instagram at my finger tips should I want it. I had Mike change my password and I still don’t know what it is. I constantly delete apps on my phone and re-install them if I think something is worth uploading. I still feel guilty that I could share pictures with close friends and dear family of our daughter daily, and have chosen not to (I do send pictures here and there though in an annoying MMS chat).
You know what? I love it. I really do – not because I think parents shouldn’t be allowed to be on their phones or enjoy the benefits they bring. That’s not it for me. It’s me being the Mom I really do want to be and wasn’t because I was afraid of what my life would be like if it wasn’t shared, uploaded or photographed constantly. I have boundaries that make those things still available to me without them being so routine that the first thing I type on my computer is Facebook.com. I get to look back on these moments with my daughter as an only child, that I am fortunate enough to stay home with, and savor them because I was present for them. I get to face 21st century, 1st world problem fears, because as petty as they feel to type, they’re real. Our world is so big and so available that I think we’ve forgotten how to hone in and be present with the few people we can intimately share our lives with daily. At least for me, that’s a challenge.
That’s why I’m not doing Fit Focus currently. That’s why I’m not really on Facebook or Instagram daily anymore because messages and quirky one-liners can wait. I’m giving Marin my full, undivided attention while I can because I know how precious these days are and will be for me, and that I’m truly blessed to have them with her. I’m stacking blocks, painting masterpieces, doing dishes, and splashing in puddles. I’m relying on my watch for the time, hiding my phone in my room, ignoring my texts and emails – not because I don’t think they’re important, but because they’re not forefront and I don’t want them to be. I want my mind on something more significant than a catchy status update and I want to tell my grandchildren stories that have nothing to do with social media. I’m building memories with Marin over in Medford just like my family did with me growing up.
I’ll end with this…At the Parent Cafe we got to share a story of a time we truly felt engaged with someone, and do you want to know what mine was? My Grandpa Lynn taking me to paint classes as a teenager. A hormonal, angry teenager who was generally hated by most adults at this stage of her life. He died one year later, and I thank God to this day, that he took the time out of his schedule, out of all the distractions, to spend one night a week with me to learn how to paint flowers. He didn’t love painting, he loved me. To be loved selflessly is an exceptional feeling, and I hope Marin feels that from us as her parents continuously.