Mom Behaving Badly

Last night my 3-year old son was telling me a story about his sledding adventures that afternoon, when an alert went off on my Blackberry, notifying me of a new message. So I did the thing I’ve been trained to do; I picked it up, ignored the conversation I was having, and checked to see what this likely unimportant message was about.

My son instantly had a look of hurt on his face, and he said, “Mommy, why are you looking at your phone when I’m talking to you?” He’s three – I’m 36 – and even he knows better.

He then simply said, “You always do that and it makes me sad.”

And that, my virtual friends, is the much-too-late moment that I realized the importance of being completely and wholly present for my kids. If your face is staring at a screen of any type, then you are not available to them. And they know it.

We hear a lot of research about the impact of children being exposed to screens and the potential detriment to their development if they do so too soon or too often. But it took only one preschooler to remind me that we may be doing far more damage by staring at screens ourselves, and tuning out our kids when we do.

It’s not a bad habit mountain that I’ll be able to move overnight; I’ve been training myself for years to be a slave to technology that makes me both far too accessible and far too accountable to people who don’t actually need me – not the way my kids do.

Baby steps: this morning I turned off all my alerts. I’ll no longer be instantly notified of every text, email, IM, vmail or news flash. I’m only five hours into my new less-connected life, and I already love it.

Next up, I’ll attempt an entire Blackberry-free weekend.  I may need to go on a sledding adventure of my own to actually make it happen.

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