Friday, February 22, 2013

On mindfulness, childhood, and why we really should blink

Having breakfast at a lovely teahouse in Boulder, Colorado over two years ago, our waiter smiled at our little one and imparted advice steeped with emotion: Don't blink, he said. I did, and somehow my daughter is now two. It was hard to imagine that blustery day sitting on the river-side terrace of that teahouse that my then five month old who had only recently discovered he had toes would ever be anything but the helpless creature I saw, and well, here I am now, watching my almost three year old create lego skyscrapers, wash his hands and brush his teeth, careen through the house on his bicycle, and hold conversations with me on the happenings of his day. The waiter was right. They grow up. They grow up fast. And yet--- blinking? It's important.

I read this chilling blog post and found myself quite guilty of many of the things she detailed about parents who spend time on their mobile devices missing life taking place before them. Along with many other 21st century parents who own laptops, tablets, and smart phones I can certainly be found staring into a screen. And when staring at a screen, I can quite literally not blink. And in not blinking, I'm missing out on the tangible world around me. And the side effect? I miss out on moments of my tiny children who are so very briefly this very tiny.

And honestly? Even if I didn't have children. . . do I need to log in to facebook or twitter to know who is eating what for breakfast? Do I need to share the sunset outside my window to Instagram? How much of what I'm doing online is productive and/or soul-building? How much of it is simply naval-gazing and wasting precious, irreplaceable time? The ugly downside of my smart phone is that I read fewer books and do more online link-hopping. I hear less the voices of those I love and see more impersonal blocked letters read through a screen. Years from now will I look back with more satisfaction at the number of likes my kid's uploaded photo received, or the memories of printing out the photo, adding a Popsicle frame and sticking it on the fridge, living in the physical tangible here and now with him?

It was all of this that made me decide to minimize my online usage this year. Not only for the sake of my children, but for the sake of my own pursuit of non-zombie-ness. I needed to unplug. I needed to disconnect and begin connecting. And so this week I began my goal of not using my mobile device for online purposes while my kids were awake.

Have you ever heard about the experiment where they tell you: Don't think about elephants! Whatever you do, don't think about elephants! And then all you can think about is elephants?  Dancing elephants, floating elephants, elephants playing texas hold em. Elephants Elephants Elephants galore?

That's sort of what happened here. The very first day of my plan to stay offline while my kids were up and about, I found myself positively itching to refresh my e-mail, jump onto facebook, or see whose doing what on Instagram. And today, when I finally yielded to the urge, and clicked on every mobile application I owned, I discovered that in my hours away? I hadn't missed much. Everything I saw was something I not only could have lived without, it was things I should be living without. As much as I do appreciate checking in on my friends beautiful children, or catching up on the major life events of those I know, these things can be accomplished with a check-in a few times a week. Connectivity through the internet is beautiful-- when done in moderation.

But worse, today, as I perused my social media sites, the chill that went down my spine flowed not just from how intensely a competition of keeping up with the Jonses these sites can be, but more so how so many of us feel the need to post every seeming thought we have as though we're afraid if our thoughts or opinions are not shared with the world, it somehow didn't happen or didn't count or didn't matter? I don't want that for me. More so, I don't want that for my children. And if I don't stop checking in, even if to catch up more than to share, then how can I expect my children not to similarly succumb?

All this to say? That my first week attempting to be off my smart phone [using the internet and apps] while my kids were up and about was a bit of bust. Going into next week I'm going to uninstall my facebook and instagram apps and see how that affects things. Because this is not just about enjoying my children, but also enjoying my life, as much as we are so connected to one another, I'm afraid that I'm disconnecting in ways that may have lasting effects on my soul. So here's to week two. Here's to blinking.

What are your thoughts on the increased connectivity in and around us? Do you feel its a bad thing or not a big deal at all? What have you done to increase your mindfulness and balance out the reality of technology and all that it entails? Any advice or perspective much appreciated! [oh and if you see me online and pinning during non-nap daylight hours, feel free to smack!]

7 comments:

Mystic said...

Its a cruel world. They will make sure that you get drag back to facebook, internett, refreshing smart phone etc.

What you wrote is soooo true but believe me I tried many times - and I gave up even on trying!!!

sprogblogger said...

Right there with you. I started leaving my phone upstairs by my bedside table so I wouldn't be tempted to (ahem) play Scramble with friends while Hen was awake. It's helped. I also switched browsers to Chrome, and have started using an app for Chrome that cuts me off from the websites I dictate after a certain amount of time. It's helped. I'm not on FB or Instagram enough to matter, but newssites, political opinion sites, oi. Major time suck that I really don't need. And checking in constantly keeps me from devoting time to things that need me more. Writing. Housekeeping. Playing with my son when he really really wants company building lego towers. Reading books with him. Reading books alone. All of those SOUND more appealing than playing games (sorry!) or checking The Guardian compulsively, but what do I default to?

So I made it so I can't. I gave myself enough time to check in once a day and then that's it. It's working. I'm more present for the sites I need to check in on (friends' sites, actual work done online, etc.) Next up for the chopping block, Pinterest!

Aisha said...

Mystic don't say that!!! Give me hope!! :)

Susan, ah yes we are Scramble addicts no? I play when they're napping or asleep for the night-- were it not for that I'd have ten running games with you and be recyling them multiple times per day lol. Thanks for the advice on the Chrome site. I'm going to check that out. . . Do you check in at night or day?

Sumeera Younis said...

This is a conversation we are constantly having in our house! We don't have kids but we really want our marriage to be engaging and interactive. If we both spend time on our computers in the evening, we really miss out on enjoying each other. The worse part is that there is virtually no value add by that time in the day. We are just mindlessly surfing. Its an ongoing battle and I think its important to periodically check in and make sure that the the virtual world is not taking over our lives.

Anonymous said...

I think you are doing fine. AS long as you get things done and spend quality time with your kids. I tried disconnecting, it really makes you sooo uncomfy. We are very much absorbed into the tech era. Luckily, I'm not hooked onto social networking websites- it's a waste of time to spend hours on there imo.
Im more addicted to news, random articles, and google, youtube.

It's alright to be on your phone while your kids are distracted (and safe). you need a break every now and then. as long as you don't go OT it should be fine :)

Anonymous said...

hey

Aisha said...

Sumeera, I agree, there is no value added, just value lost which is such a shame, these things are very effective ways to zombifie onself. As you said, its important to do self checks periodically!

Thanks for your perspective Anon, I think that the social media is the worst waste of time which is why I deleted those from my phone and its made a WORLD of difference.

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