My phone has been glued to my hip for years. I'm always on social media. Mostly for work, but I do tend to get sucked into the black hole, the moment something pops up on my screen. It has been topic of many uncomfortable conversations around the house, and even a few "Mommy can you stop working?" moments with my son.
So, a few months back, I decided to try and do all of my work and guilty pleasure surfing, either first thing in the morning, while the kids nap, or after they go to bed. But mostly in the morning.
In doing so, I have become so much more in tune with my kids. That's not to say that I'm not prompted to put my phone down here and there. That social media black hole is strong.
Putting my phone down has opened my eyes to a couple of things that I find important. The constant "mommy, mommy, mommy, mom, mama, mommy, mom..." has greatly decreased, simply due to the fact that mommy replies the first time around. Yes... turns out mommy's inability to reply to her babies was the cause, after all. Go figure.
Another thing I have noticed, and this one is huge in my world, is that many adults seem to put zero importance on conversation with children.
I cannot tell you how many times, my husband or I, have been in the throws of a riveting conversation about Spiderman or Super Wings, with one of our boys, when another adult starts a full on conversations with one of us. It's almost as though the kids do not exist.
I hardly noticed this, the fist few hundred times that it happened. What I did notice was, it would immediately drive me up the wall, but I could not put a finger on why.
Let me rephrase, I knew why it drove me insane; it was the noise. I couldn't think with all of the sudden influx of noise. All at once, everyone was talking at me. All of a sudden, I could not pay attention to any one person. So, I would lose my cool, tell EVERYONE to stop, then address all needs one by one. And of course by this point, the adult would be upset at the way I spoke to them, and the kids would be confused as to what went wrong.
So many nights, I found myself reflecting on the day with a healthy dose on "mom-guilt". I would confide to my husband, about how I did not understand where things went wrong, "One minute everything is wonderful, the next minute everyone wants something from me, all at once and I can't make out a single demand." I would say to him, "It just gets so overwhelming in the blink of an eye!"
One day, it finally dawned on me; the cause of this sudden and overwhelming chaos is the interruption of a conversation that holds such importance to the kids. The very moment that an adult stepped in to interrupt our conversation, is the moment that the kids would desperately try to get my attention back. In order to get my attention back, "mama, mom, mommy, mama..." would begin. Now, while that was happening, here I was trying to switch over from one cut-off conversation to another. The adult conversation would start to get louder, in order to drowned out the sound of the kids calling mommy, and the kids would get louder to get back the attention that was abruptly taken from them. Chaos!
The day that I realized what was happening, was very likely, one of the best epiphanies of my life as a parent. This may not be anything new to a lot of people, but to me, this knowledge is gold. This knowledge helps the kids get the uninterrupted attention they absolutely deserve, and helps me stay sane.
Adults, especially those without kids, tend to overlook the importance of giving children a forum to voice their thoughts, opinions, and even silly jokes. Oftentimes, other adults in our lives, have pressing matters that must be addressed. Of course, we get it. But, it is the way that we interrupt and devalue children's conversations that hurts them and us.
What am I doing with this newfound (to me) knowledge? When another adult interrupts a conversation with my kids, I politely ask them to wait a moment. I let my child finish his thought. I make sure to continue to look him in the eye and give him the respect that he deserves. Then, when we are done speaking, I give my attention to the adult with the pressing matter, just like I would, when my child interrupts an adult conversation.
This simple act has greatly minimized the chaos. It has also made my children feel important, and heard. One day, they will not want to share every thought with me. One day, I will have to vie for their attention, and hope that they feel they can share their life with me. Giving them my full attention now, is something that will help harvest that very important and open relationship for years to come.
So, now, my phone is (mostly) put away, and I treat every conversation with my children, exactly as I would, a conversation with any of my adult friends and family.