“Have you seen my phone?” “Could you call me?” “Could you Zello me?” These are the types of questions I usually ask my husband or children at least once, maybe twice a day. I often forget where it is inside my house. However, with five kids in tow, it’s very rare indeed that I ever actually leave the house, in my vehicle, without my phone. It is my lifeline, my safety net in case of trouble, and to be honest my ultimate distraction.
Our neighborhood pool recently opened, and my recently transplanted Texans were raring to go. So with an impromptu, “PLEASE, please, please can we go swimming!?,” request was granted. We hastily made our way to the door, making sure every one of them had their suits, goggles, toys, towels, floaties, sunscreen, pool key, and shoes. In this particular wild hustle, I somehow actually managed to leave without the aforementioned phone. I am granting my self-conscious some credit that perhaps I knew I would be close to home and in no real danger.
As we pulled up to the pool and my children started a steady stream out of the van, I realized my phone was MIA. I would say there may have been a mild panic as I quickly began looking in my purse and around the console of the van. With no time left to seek it out, and children entering the gate to the pool, I rushed out to help them get sunscreen applied before they entered the water. You must be fast!!
On this particular day, I found I could not check my phone for messages. I could not glance at it when it would ding, buzz, or whistle. (Side note, I have heard this sound is only second to a newborn baby crying at getting our attention.) I could not decide to play music and wonder if it would even be loud enough for any of the kids to actually hear. And, I could not answer my sister’s phone call and then frown at the kids or “SHH” them when they tried to interrupt.
You know what? A really crazy thing happened. After getting out of the pool and sitting on the sidelines, I actually watched my kids. I smiled and laughed as they played with each other and other kids at the pool. I realized they were playing some game I’d never seen before. I noticed how cute they were and how much they enjoyed each other. I had real conversations with them about what they were doing in the pool, and I actually listened when they would run up to tell me whatever it was they wanted me to urgently know. No one had to say, “Mama! Look at me!” because I was already looking! I could feel the urge to check my phone, but there was nothing there to check. I was quite literally free! I was forced to see my children without the distraction of useless information being pelleted at me.
What I learned from this unintentional experiment was that it was not the amount of time, as much as it was the distractions of the insignificant that broke my concentration from the devastatingly important things in my life. I now try, during times that I want to pay attention, to place my phone far enough away so that I cannot quickly check it when it commands me to do so. I strive to notice if I am sitting in a room with my children, and I intentionally try to watch and comment on what they are doing. I evaluate the time that my face is pointed at a screen as opposed to facing someone I love. I uninstalled apps like Facebook from my phone, and only peruse if sitting at the actual computer. (This act even was an encouragement to my marriage! I was surprised how often I would decompress from the day by looking at my phone in bed. This has been replaced with chatting with my husband, and I love it!)
I certainly do not do these things all of the time, and I am also not perfect at it! Sometimes my mommy mind needs to be distracted and filled with trivial things. However, I do realize that the old adage is true, “The days may be long but the years are fleeting.” I feel this could not be more accurate in our days of texts, tweets, and Facebook posts.