Be present. Sounds easy enough – show up to the place and you are present. But is that enough? Should you then also be present of mind, not just of body?
In an age where technology is getting more advanced and we are more reliant on our phones for everything it is easy to get sucked into the latest game we’ve downloaded or one of any number of social media accounts. And, no, I am not immune to the pull of the technology itchy finger.
But over the last couple months, and especially the last week or so, I’ve started asking myself, “Am I really present?” As a stay-at-home mom I find it incredibly easy to just turn on the tv for my daughter so I can do my own thing. And after the first couple months of this pregnancy (where I was basically couch-ridden all day, every day) I’m finding it difficult to cut some of those cords with technology.
We went to the library this morning – in my attempt to do something other than watch tv – and I couldn’t help but notice how many parents were on their phones while their kids were playing at the Lego table, reading books, or doing activities on the computer. I will be the first to say that when your kid is entertaining themselves you don’t want to interrupt that. And it can get incredibly boring watching them do the same things repeatedly for even just 5 minutes. But as I sat there, looking at these parents on their phones doing whatever they were doing, I thought, “Is that what I want my daughter to know of me? That my phone is more important? That I don’t really care what she’s doing?”
And that’s the thing – we may respond when they come tell us something they did or to show us the picture they drew, but should they have to come up and talk to the top of our heads first because we’re so busy looking at the phone in our hands?
I don’t have the right answer. Not for me and certainly not for everyone else. But this generation of tech-savvy people seems to be less and less involved with the world. Social media was supposed to help us connect more with people – distant friends or relatives – and instead it seems to be pulling people further apart. Have you ever been out at a restaurant and seen the couple clearly on a date yet both are on their phones not having a date? Or the park and see parents on their phones while their kids are playing? There seems to be no shortage of examples of how technology is keeping us present, but not really “there”.
Presence of mind is easy – put down your distractions. Watch your kids learn and explore and grow. Have an actual face-to-face conversation with someone.
Here is my challenge to you: no phones at the table. This is something my husband and I started doing when we were dating. When we would go out on a date we would keep our phones in our pockets; they were not allowed on the table. This forced us to spend actual, quality time together and truly be present in our relationship. And I can honestly say that over the years (wow, it’s been 5 years together already?) it has been a relationship saver. We hit some tough spots, like everyone does, and that one rule helped us get through them. We had to truly focus on each other. So, now you try. Keep your phones away from the table and see what happens to your interactions with friends, roommates, spouses, and children. You will be amazed at the difference that tiny device can make, that you weren’t even aware of before.
As we prepare for the arrival of #2 I’m trying to get myself in the habit of keeping my phone away when my daughter is awake. I’ve noticed that when I think I’ll just check this one thing I will get sucked in and realize it’s 2 hours later and I have had very little interaction with Sweet Girl. I don’t want that to be my legacy. Yes, there will be times when I’ll be distracted by making dinner, a conversation with another adult (gasp!), or some other thing I need to take care of. But I want to try to keep technology out of the equation as much as possible. I am grateful for it and it certainly has it’s place, but I want to make sure that I always have presence of mind in all of my interactions and not just presence of body.