Seven months! That’s how old Maleia is today, and how long it’s been since I’ve written anything. Babies aren’t predictable. Why isn’t that in the instruction manual? Oh wait, there isn’t one? Oh yeah, that’s why I have no idea what I’m doing and why I haven’t written in so long.
Now that I’ve unburied myself a bit after having Maleia, I’ve been poking my head up and looking around. I have a little more space to breath and to notice what habits I’ve formed since she’s joined us. And I’m convicted that I’ve become addicted to my phone.
I think it’s taking time and energy away from being a more productive and engaged mom, spouse, and friend. I waste so much time on it because it’s easy. Maleia isn’t engaged enough to crawl, sit, stand, walk, or talk yet, so our home is quiet (except for 40% of the time when she’s screaming about something). To fill that quiet, I’ll grab my phone to look at pictures, go on Instagram, check Facebook, refresh my email, scroll through forums, and browse websites for the latest baby items that all of a sudden I feel the need to own.
Maleia already knows how much I value my phone because she watches how often I stare at it. She’s already reaching for it to play with. I treat my phone is like it’s another person that gets to take up space and conversation in our home and family. If Maleia learns her values from us, right now she’s learning the value of technology, and specifically, the value of not being present with people. When I stare at my phone instead of interacting with her, she’s internalizing that my phone is more valuable than her, and years from now, she’ll believe her phone is more valuable than other people too.
How heartbreaking. I talk about the value of being present with people, but I’m not living it out in my own home. I want to change that. I want her to know she comes first, and real people come first. Technology (for the most part) isn’t necessary to live a full, enjoyable life. It can be good and helpful, for sure. What would I do without Amazon and Google? And I will never stop taking thousands of pictures of our children and family either. These are necessities. But life is not lived well when it’s spent looking at other people’s lives digitally. Most of the time, I’m looking at posts and pictures that don’t add value to my life. It takes me down trails that lead to feelings of being less than, other than, or not enough. Too often it makes me feel discontent.
Maleia will grow up with more technology than any previous generation. She’ll have more opportunities to engage with it from the start of her life than we did. I’m afraid she’ll miss the opportunity to learn how to be creative, to fill quiet spaces with stories, games, people, and play. Life is better when we’re present with the people and spaces in front of us. It’s good for the soul to be bored and undistracted. It gives us opportunities to create, think, and breath.
This is a hard decision for me. I’ve considered deleting all of my social accounts in the past, but I hesitate to disconnect myself from family and friends who live far away. I wonder, though, how much more I’d reach out to engage in real relationship if I’m not engaged digitally? A real relationship isn’t dependent on liking each other’s Instagram’s and Facebook posts. It’s based on real conversations through phone calls, face-time talks, texts, and face-to-face quality time. In the end, I think I’d place higher value on having a deeper relationship by disconnecting from these digital, shallow relationships.
I’m still considering what this will look like. Should I keep my phone charging in the kitchen so I’m not tempted to look at it all the time? Will I totally disconnect from social media, or limit myself to 20 minutes at the end of the day? Unplugging, to any degree, will be a positive change. I’m sure I’ll go through some form of detox because I’ve been living like my phone is necessary. I carry it around with me 95% of the time, even throughout our small apartment. How sad.
Maleia will grow up learning from our natural ways of living life. The words we say, shows we watch, our habits, our way of forming relationships, the people who fill our home, how we deal with boredom, the places we go, what we eat, how we pursue our passions, how we live out our faith. Through these, our home culture is formed. In this space of home, of safety and nurture, she learns what to value. She learns everything here first.
I know we’ll make mistakes as parents. We already have. Being a parent is choosing to give ourselves over to a lot of raw feelings like fear, pain, loss, anger, regret, and unknowns. It’s constantly vulnerable. Vulnerability is so hard, but it’s work worth pursuing. It’s where love begins and where it grows. My hope and prayer is that through this change of leaving my phone alone, our children learn the value and necessity of community lived in real relationships with people face-to-face.