With so many things constantly vying for our attention, it can be hard to stay present in the moment.
When I was younger (yes, I realize I am about to date myself), I remember getting our first cordless phone. No more being stuck to the wall. No more twisting and untwisting the cord. I could move around the house when I talked. All of that freedom was so liberating.
I remember getting our first answering machine. I remember how excited I was when we finally had three-way calling and call waiting. No more busy signals. Now I would know who was calling and could even answer a call when I was talking to someone else. I could talk to two people at once. People could leave me messages. I would know when I had missed a call.
Then, we purchased our first computer. A black and white Commodore 64. I loved that computer. I would sit and play Radar Rat Race for hours. I used it like a game system, until the one day when everything changed. The day the internet arrived at our house. The day I had access to the World Wide Web. No more encyclopedias or trips to the library for information gathering. It was all right there. At my finger tips.
The words “You’ve got mail” were words I loved to hear. I was like Pavlov’s dog. I would hear that voice telling me mail had arrived – you know the voice. My ears would perk up and I would eagerly open my “mail.” No more heading to the mailbox for letters. There it was. Instant gratification.
Fast forward to now.
Now, we travel with our computers on our phones and our watches. We have constant access to an overabundance of information. At our finger tips.
All of the time.
I am still Pavlov’s dog, but it has gotten worse. With every alert and notification, my ears perk up. Someone has sent me something. What could it be? Email? Facebook? Text message? Instagram? Snapchat? Voicemail? And on. And on. And on.
While I love the feeling of being connected, honestly sometimes it is too much. With so many means of getting in touch with people – it, in some way, feels like we are expected to be “on call” day and night. People are expected to check their texts, Facebook messenger and voice mails and if they don’t respond quickly, then they are being “rude.”
It can be Distracting. Overwhelming.
What about being present in the moment? What about being with the people who are right in front of us? What about walking into a store with our eyes ahead, offering a smile and “hello” to the people we pass? What about putting down the phone to play with the kids?
I have found that being connected to so many people, in such a large number of ways, has the ability to rob me from the joy that is right in front of my eyes.
Because of this, I have had to learn to put down my phone. I have had to learn to control my Pavlov’s dog response and ignore the “dings.” It isn’t always easy, and to help myself fight the temptation I will often turn my ringer to silent or vibrate. It may sound rude, but it is what I need to do. I need it for me and I need it for my family.
I don’t want to miss what I have now – which is four young children. Four young children who are getting older with each passing day.
My oldest daughter is celebrating her eleventh Birthday tonight. I wonder how we have gotten here already? She is inching closer and closer to the teenage years and I don’t want to miss it.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think technology is bad by any means. In fact, I really enjoy it. I have just had to set limits. I have decided if someone thinks I am rude because I want to sit through a movie with my family and not look at my phone, then okay. I’m rude. I can deal with that. If I am on my phone all of the time when I am with my children, what am I modeling for them? What am I teaching them about priorities?
My phone is covered with red notifications. They no longer cause me anxiety. I will get to them eventually. It doesn’t matter if the games my kids play on my phone haven’t been updated. Red notification bubbles you have no power over me.
If you are like me and have found you want to be more present in your life and less preoccupied with your phone, then here are three suggestions to help get you on your way:
- Try implementing Media-Free Day. Pick a day when you and your family will put down the phones, turn off the television, shut off the computer and get back to basics. You can make it an all day thing, or choose a time during the day that works best (like 4-9 pm when the kids are home from school.) Try giving it a fun name like Media-Free Monday or Technology-Free Tuesday. You can do it every week, or once a month. It’s whatever works best for you and your family.
- Remove Social Media apps from your phone for a period of time. I’m not saying to remove them forever (unless you want to), but try taking them off for a designated period of time. This will remove the temptation to check them constantly.
- Silence your ringer, or put it on vibrate. Choose a time of day when you will silence your phone. Obviously, if your kids are in school that may not be the best time. You never know when the school nurse may call – especially this time of year. What about right when they get home from school? Or on a Saturday? Or Sunday?
I currently am only doing one of these three things, with the hope of incorporating them all – eventually. The last thing I would want is for this post to cause more parent guilt. There is already enough of that floating around.
Like all things in life, it is about finding balance. It is about learning what works and what doesn’t work. It takes time and intentionality. Our generation is learning how to parent in this new world of smartphones, iPads, apps and social media. It is hard to stay on top of it all. It is hard to monitor the kids once they have their own devices…..
But that my friend, is for another post all together.
Jennifer Thompson is a stay-at-home mom of four spunky, sweet, kind and sometimes a bit wild children. She has a passion for the written word and thinks that libraries and bookstores are the coolest places ever. When not hanging out with family or writing, she can be found enjoying a good cup of coffee, running, spending quality time with friends, working on some type of project around the house, planning the family’s next trip to her favorite destination – Walloon Lake, Michigan, or very possibly – reading a book.
Jennifer enjoys writing about her parenting experience and outings with her children for Indy’s Child as a freelance writer and blogger and also keeps a personal blog, www.trulyyoursjen.com, that she has fun writing when time allows.