My children truly adore each other (most of the time). Given a choice, they’d rather be together than have a play date. My son, 6, worries about his little sister, 3.5, all the time. And my daughter thinks my son sets all the rules of “coolness” in life. They play with a deep imagination that can turn a simple piece of paper into their favorite restaurant or a pencil into an entire 10-man band.
Except when electronics are around.
Yesterday I was home with my kids because it was Martin Luther King Day. In the past I would have panicked, “what am I gonna do with them all day???” (My time as a stay-at-home mom was a flop and I fired myself. I truly admire moms who can do this job well—it’s near impossible!) But I wasn’t panicked at all yesterday morning. In fact, I was looking forward to it. We baked. We colored. But as soon as the activity was over, they were anxiously looking for something in the couch pillows. I realized that the TV was no longer my demise as it used to be. In fact, The TV was nothing in comparison to my iPhone and iPad.
Now, I’m not so naïve as to not know that you need to limit the usage of electronics. But what I hadn’t realized was what an instigator of mental earthquakes they are. I swear, my children became someone else entirely the minute either device was even mentioned. I watched as my loving, sweet daughter started throwing closed-fisted punches at her brother. And likewise, my son actually gave her an elbow jab on the top of her head! My warm day of snuggles was feeling more like a primitive jungle fight.
By 3:00 pm, the simple question of “mom can I have your phone?” literally threw me into an anxiety attack. Everywhere we went, all day long, I had to manage the digital mania that followed us like the Tasmanian Devil. In the car. At the table. Even while watching TV!!! It was crazy.
Finally, while sitting at my son’s martial arts class (my 3.5 year old gets dragged everywhere), my daughter looked up at me and said, “I NEEEEED your phone.” Normally, I’d give in and think, “Oh, she’s being dragged around in the cold. I should give her the phone…” But there was the cutest little girl sitting at her feet begging her to play together. Yet much like a crack addict, my daughter didn’t see her and only wanted my phone. So I tucked my phone into my purse. She started crying and said, “But I feel so left out!” I said, “You are sweetie. You’re left out of everything and missing out on all the fun.” She looked at me with total confusion.
It was that moment when I realized my kids don’t look out the window in the car. They don’t people watch at restaurants. And the radio has become obsolete. So I decided to give her the best gift ever. I said, “no.” And you know what? She had a great time doing nothing. It was amazing.