“Mom, watch this!” “Mama, look!” “Look at me, Mama!” “Mommy, watch what I can do!” I hear these words on a daily basis. They fall from my little boys mouth at least fifteen times a day. I will be in the kitchen trying to cook dinner and he will be trying to show me the amazingly accurate imitation of a robot that he’s built. Sweep, sweep, sweep. “Watch me jump onto my beanbag, Mama!” Changing Baby Squishes diaper. “Come here Mommy, I need you!” If you’re a Mom too, I’m sure you can relate. Sometimes, it can be a little tiring and let’s face it, those words start to grate on the nerves.
But why does it grate on my nerves? What is so wrong with my little boy wanting to show off for me? Absolutely nothing.
Children NEED attention. They need to feel heard and loved. They need guidance and care. It’s how they grow and thrive. When a baby first learns to walk, it toddles around and stumbles into each step. Eventually, the baby falls down. What’s the first thing the baby does? It hurriedly searches the room for Mom or Dad to see their reaction. The parents’ reaction teaches the baby how to react. If Mama or Daddy is cheering them on with a big ole grin, more likely than not, the baby will start cheesing and clapping with pride.
The world has changed so much over the past twenty years. Believe it or not, I remember when cell phones and the internet first came around. Everyone thought they were so cool with their ginormous carphones and turtle speed dial up internet. Fast forward to now and we carry all the information we could ever need in our pocket. It is so incredibly easy to get sucked into this little tiny screen in the palm of my hand. Seconds of checking Facebook turn into hours of mindlessly scrolling through, looking into other peoples lives instead of living my own. I become consumed with it and completely turn away what is important. My sweet husband said something the other day that stuck with me. He said life was meant to be private. People don’t need to know every little detail about my life, that should be a privilege that is mine and God’s alone. So why oh why do I feel the need to always be updating my (sorry for this word Gabey) stupid phone?
The other day we spent a lovely afternoon at the park. I sat on the bench feeding Daisy, while Gabe ran around with some other children. Looking around, I noticed parent after parent. They weren’t looking at their kids, they were all hunched over looking down at their phone. Fingers flying, scrolling and typing. If they weren’t on their phone (these were few and far between) they still weren’t paying attention to their babies. They were talking on the phone, or chatting away with another adult. I noticed one parent in particular. He had perched himself on the railing surrounding the playground. Apparently, he and his daughter were there with another daddy/daughter duo. His little girl was a cutie. She had the sweetest little voice and cutest little bouncing pony tail. She jumped on the swing that was in front of my bench. As she started to swing, she said “Daddy, watch me!” The man didn’t turn around. “Daddy! Look at me!” Still nothing. “Hey Dad! I want you to SEE me!” Again, nothing. Finally, in desperation, the little girl hopped off her swing and ran over to her Dad. She literally climbed and tugged all over him for a good sixty seconds. That man STILL didn’t acknowledge his child. He kept his eyes and conversation focused on the fellow Dad. In the mean time, another little girl ran and took over her swing. The ignored little looked so torn and she yelled for the stealer to get off of her swing. She left her Dad and began fighting with the swing taker. This went on for a few minutes before they both rushed over to their Dad’s. The fellow Dad finally acknowledged the screaming kids. He just said “oh, you want a push?” So the original Dad of the year followed over and the men continued their conversations while half heartedly pushing their hurt, neglected daughters.
What a turning point. My heart broke for those babies. All those girls wanted, was to be watched. They wanted to show off for their Dad, because going high on a swing IS a big deal to a child. Their accomplishments should have been acknowledged, and they simply weren’t. They wanted to be seen.
What am I teaching my son, when he asks me to watch him and I half heartedly say “Okay” and then continue looking at my phone? I am showing him that what he is doing doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that he spent twenty minutes working on building that robot. It doesn’t matter that he finally learned how to write his name or ride his bike. He doesn’t matter. That same attitude will carry over to his children, and that is truly devastating. We are training a generation to be socially deprived and to think it’s acceptable.
This weekend, I took a leap. I deleted my Facebook app from my phone. I cut off my cellular data. It had become an addiction. I realized that I was missing moments with my children. No video of a talking dog and no status update about someone’s hair color is worth more than my children and their feelings.
So, here’s another challenge. Go to the park with your baby and leave the phone in the car. Spend your time watching them climb and play. Even better, go play with them! Kick the soccer ball around, play tag- just BE there. Just watch. So the next time you hear the words “Watch me, Mama!” you will already be looking. Who knows, maybe those words will become nonexistent, as you’ll already be watching.