I asked if she did her homework. It was close to bedtime.
“Yes, I did.”
“All of it?”
“I didn’t see you do it.”
“Because you’re always on the computer.”
Or looking at my phone. It’s the truth. I admitted to my husband that I hide from the kids, tapping away at my laptop in the kitchen, accomplishing close to nothing most afternoons. Because it’s stressful to be with them sometimes. In the morning I scroll through Facebook while they fight about whose shirt that is and who picked what movie last.
I’m avoiding a lot of my life while looking through everyone else’s. And my kids are noticing. I’m noticing how distracted I am almost all the time. Not surprisingly, the more I am on the laptop or the phone, the more I want to be on the laptop or the phone. I’m like that.
These hours with them must not continue to be marked not by my semi-conscious, reluctant presence. These hours belong to them.
I have decided on some changes. Unless it cannot be put off, I will avoid texting and e-mailing if I am with the kids; I won’t check my phone for social media while I am with them; I will avoid posting pictures of them while I’m with them (because I will just want to check back); and I won’t spend the afternoon on the laptop, repeating “give me five minutes,” as they come in to ask me questions, or to just be near me. And I get irritated by that because “I’m in the middle of something”: a phrase I’ve now heard them repeat.
The hours that they are in school go by quickly, and I am tired when they are in bed, but I’m embarrassed that I’ve been asked by my five-year-old son to “stop looking at the phone, mommy” on more than one occasion. Once, he wanted me to look at a superhero on a television show. It wasn’t important to me. It was to him.
My five-year-old daughter brings me drawings while I’m working at the computer, and it takes everything I have sometimes to turn away from the screen and acknowledge her.
These are not moments of which I am proud. And I’m saying they are real so that I can start making them better.
I would rather they see me reading a book or magazine while they play, than mesmerized by images on a smart phone. I have been using my phone for “notes” related to my writing; I am using a notebook more now. My oldest has her own special notebook; I’m happy to have her watch me write in mine.
Wish me luck. And if you need me during these hours, you will have to wait.