Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hands Free Parenting

I've recently discovered an amazing blog. The Hands Free Mama. I've become a huge fan overnight.

See, I've read her post "The Important Thing About Yelling, numerous times and am a huge fan of it. Because it's a very sound, logical, and resounding topic. But when the Hands Free Mama popped up in my newsfeed again this past week I was intrigued and delved into her site.

In the post I read she mentioned her "breakthrough breakdown" and I clicked the link to read her story, why she started parenting hands free, and what I read hit home. (Read more from her post here.)
From that breakthrough, breakdown moment, I began seeing my phone in a new light. I saw laundry, dishes, the constant need to keep things perfectly organized in a whole new way. I began seeing requests to serve on committees and chair events with brand new eyes.  I realized that the ability to respond within seconds to an email message and multi-task three things at once was maybe not such a great thing after all. Finally after years and years of over-commitment and meaningless information overload, I began to see those things for what they were: Daily Distractions. And with much regret, I realized I’d been holding on to “distractions” tighter than I had been to my own family, my own health, my own happiness–my own “things that matter.”
Tragically, my children had gone right along with my overscheduled, distracted life–not knowing they were missing the heart, the focus, and the company of their mom. They had no idea they were being given the leftovers, the worthless scraps of their stretched-too-thin mother.
WOW! Does that not hit you in your ego? In this technology obsessed culture we live in we often mention the phone-driven teenager, never not texting, gaming, or on social media. But we often overlook ourselves. The adults, the parents, who hold their phone in higher regard than most other things/people.

That might offend some of you, but take a good hard look at yourselves. We are always on our phones or computers. Our children want us, need us, and we're busy. We're playing Candy Crush, or Facebooking. Or Instagramming adorable photos and videos of our kids, instead of just living those moments with them.


Hurts doesn't it?

It hurts because it's so true. It's so painfully true.

This society is so tragic. Our children and teenagers are already so messed up because of various other travesties, can you imagine the generation of children resenting their parents and the technology that stole their childhoods? The self esteem issues? The need to feel validated on the internet?

I don't want that for my daughter. I hate that thought so much it hurts, way down deep inside.

On her blog post "How To Miss A Childhood," Rachel writes the recipe for missing out on your child's life:
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 you’re 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 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 conversation 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.
*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. Can’t 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 won’t 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.
Ouch. How do you think that child/toddler/baby feels? I would feel hated and neglected. Unwanted and unimportant.

Rachel goes on to write just what will happen when you live life according to that recipe. Go check it out. It'll break your heart. It broke mine.

The Hands Free Mama wrote another awesome post that goes along with this perfectly, "The Children Have Spoken," which shares some quotes exposing just how children feel about their parents and technology.
“My mom is on the phone all the time. She never gets off.”
“My dad has a problem putting down his phone.”
“My mom texts and drives.”
“My mom talks on the phone the whole time she is driving. She doesn’t even say ‘goodbye’ when I get out of the car.”
“Sometimes I say something and my dad doesn’t hear me because he is typing on his phone.”
“My parents are so busy with their phones that they forget to feed me and put me to bed. I am forgotten a lot of the time.”
Read the rest of that post and feel your eyes and heart open. The writer is correct. Kids do not sugar coat things. It's so sad!

What's even more sad is I've seen that in my daughter's eyes and it hurts me so deeply that I've already allowed that to take root, when my daughter is only 14 months old. I've seen that look when I go on the computer, go on Facebook. The hurt in her eyes when I get exasperated cleaning out my email and she wants to play. I feel so so horrible that I've let technology come between our relationship. Kids aren't around long before they become teenagers, babyhood/toddlerhood expires even faster.

I've decided I'm going to try the "hands free" lifestyle. And I know it won't be easy, it never is when you break a bad habit.

But my daughter is more important that a phone or computer. My moments with her are more valuable than any game or social network. Our relationship means more than technology.

If you want to read more about this topic, and maybe take that step yourself, I highly suggest checking Hands Free Mama out. It may be your saving grace.

"It is not easy to consider the possibility that the distractions of the modern age have taken an undeserved priority over the people who matter in your life. In fact, when I admitted this difficult truth to myself almost two years ago, I experienced an emotional breakdown. However, that breakdown became a breakthrough that propelled me to begin my life-changing 'Hands Free' journey." -The Hands Free Mama