Last night was a night like any other at our house. After walking the dogs one final time I was sitting at my desk scrolling through Facebook, checking the stats from my website for the day, as well as thinking about what to blog about next.
Tom was playing in a tennis match, enjoying a friendly game with peers.
Our kids? Twenty-one was working, well into the process of a twelve hour day...seventeen was on his computer in his room playing a game while loudly and enthusiastically encouraging his teammate as they worked to conquer yet another level. Twelve was on his mini-iPad watching an episode of....that's funny, I don't even know what he was watching....and ten-year-old Mia was happily strewn across her bed looking at my iPhone, pictures of puppies and kitties on Instagram capturing her attention at the moment.
I looked up at the clock, had more than an hour gone by? How could this be? I decided it was time to get up from my chair and check in with my family. Because the reality was I knew if I didn't we could have continued like that for several more hours.
As I made my rounds to everyone's bedroom, seventeen said he had plans to play tennis and go for a run at 10 p.m. (given it's July in Texas this is an optimal time/temp to run around on a court), I nabbed twelve and ten and after some brief whining we played a few rousing games of Uno before I shuffled them into their beds with an "love you" and a kiss goodnight.
Would it have been easier to just let them continue on the electronics while I did the same? For sure. However, the last several years of my life have been all about practicing and creating something better for myself and our family.
You see, I have been parenting almost three decades now ( I have actually been a mom a decade longer than I haven't been a mom. Wow), and one of the most unsettling things I have noticed over the years is this...the more pervasive technology becomes in our lives, the harder we have to work to take a break from it.
At times myself included.
Where Nick (soon to be 28) didn't really have access to a computer until middle school, Mia has her own school-issued iPad at age ten. And, I believe, the direct result of our growing exposure and desire for screen time is this...a lack of internal motivation and moderation.
Technology is seductive. For you, for me, for our kids especially. They are growing up in an age of sitting, looking at a screen, with a side of overly processed foods, and no one talking with them about how to process their emotions. This is a direct result of the fact that we adults are often too afraid to feel our own emotions. And if we shove them down or away, what do we expect our kids to do?
It's the perfect recipe for disconnection. Not to mention obesity and mental health issues. Everyday we hear new stories of young people creating crime scenes we cannot even imagine, correlating to a complete lack of respect for fellow human beings. There's no asking "what's next" anymore...because the truth is, who really wants to know?!
So what can we do? Obviously technology isn't going away.
As leaders in our families it's our job to create connection. To unplug from a culture that continually tells us to stay busy because we might miss out. A lot of us get sucked into this lifestyle of continual motion because if we slow down too much we might have to deal with feelings and situations which may be emotionally painful. There are a plethora of very sound convenient excuses...have to pay the bills, might get fired if I don't produce, the office can't survive without me.
However, connection starts with us.
When we make the choice to take time to plug into ourselves, to work through past or current hurts/frustrations/disappointments, we are then better equipped to connect with other people and help them process life's inevitable ups and downs.
People like our kids.
So they don't immerse themselves in a false reality in order to escape their real world.
A big part of this "plugging in" process, for me, has been writing over the past four years.
I remain committed to sharing my stories here and on several other parenting sites in the hopes of encouraging you in your personal and parenting journey, as I practice being more awake in my own.
Some days it's easier than others.
The past four years of writing has led me to a new opportunity to write for an exciting and emerging new website called, The Conscious Parent Blog. I hope you will take a look at my first article on the site and to read along regularly as myself and others make the decision and commitment to ourselves and our families to be more present in this often-short-lived, filled with distractions, crazy life.
What do you think life will look like for our kids and grand kids if we continue on the same path of operating half-awake the way we are today?
That possibility alone is incentive enough for me to continue to make the time to plug into my self and to reach out to my family in the hopes of building stronger connections.