During a recent staff meeting, our director relayed an observation she made while her grown children were visiting with her grandchildren. She said they were sitting around the dinner table and her children were looking at their phones and not engaging their children in conversation. She then described the conversation she had with her grandchildren and how thrilled they were to be paid some attention.
My first thought was, “Aww, that’s so sweet.” But it was quickly followed by the mom-guilt and the thought, “Oh crud! I do that, too!” But what good does guilt do? None! Time to take action.
I’m Not a Bad Mom, and Neither are You!
Let’s erase the guilt. Do we look at our phones? Yes. Are we bad moms? No! But it is a good reminder that whatever email, text, post, or whatever can wait. What can’t wait is time. We can never get the time with our kids back.
Not What, But How
One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed as I try to be more present with my daughter is the amount of details I’m now hearing about her day. I ask specific questions about friends or activities and then I use my active listening skills to truly absorb her answers. This helps me with follow up the next day, too. I want her to feel as if I’m involved in her life even if I’m not sitting at her desk with her.
Whenever possible, I make eye contact. I can’t do this while driving, of course, but any other time I look at my girl when she’s talking. I also encourage her to look at me. That old saying about the eyes being the windows to the soul may not be a load of hooey after all.
Has this new attempt at attentiveness eliminated all drama and behavioral problems? Ummm, no… But I have definitely seen a whole lot of improvement. And I am not perfect at this new leaf I’ve turned over. Just because I decided that I need to do better does not mean that I always do. It’s not easy and I slip back to my old phone-checking ways from time to time. I am definitely a work in progress, but my daughter is worth the work!
The other part of this for me is that I sort of see this as a savings account. My hope is that my daughter will see and feel that I’m invested in her thoughts and feelings.
As I look ahead to her preteen and teen years, I hope she’ll still come to me to talk about her thoughts and feelings because I’m showing her I care about them now. I tell her all the time ‘Actions speak louder than words’ and I’m putting my money where my mouth is! And maybe she’ll be more willing to put her cell phone down when the time comes because I showed her that I will.