Saturday, July 3, 2010

Both hands, Daddy, both hands!

Getting kids to have real, tactile experiences is a challenge these days. For God’s sake Lego’s aren’t an open-ended toy of parent-crippling potential anymore. No one is even chipping teeth trying to get the flat pieces unstuck because you can play Lego’s on your video games now. (BTW, these games are SUPER cute, and I love them to death…but seriously Lego’s used to be an expression of art and creativity and ingenuity not the way for one to get in touch with The Dark Side!)
I took my daughter to a State Park that we are fortunate to have just a couple miles down the road from our house. We don’t get there nearly as much as I had hoped, but our annual pass makes visiting spontaneously a cheap and easy option. I decided to take her over there for a quick walk in the stroller, a baby picnic, and to swing on the playground. When we arrived, I discovered much to my chagrin that neither of the two swings on the tiny playground was baby-friendly. One of the traditional black rubber swings was occupied by a boy about 7 years old. His father was pushing him from behind. Since I’m not doing the balance the 9 month old on my lap and swing one-armed routine with a kid beside me demanding to be pushed higher and higher, we strolled around and past the playground on the trail. I wanted to give the man and his son some space. We were in no hurry.
“Both hands, Daddy, use both hands!” the boy exclaimed to his father. I realized that his dad was reading a message on his phone while pushing his son. “Dad, push with both hands!”
The child was begging, nay yelling, for his dad to stop his distraction and pay full attention. The father refused, “I’m doing something on my phone.”
I was heartbroken! They were in the middle of a beautiful park – just the two of them – on a holiday weekend and this boy’s dad couldn’t put down his phone to have a solid moment with his boy. For the record, cell reception blows goats in that area so if he was waiting for his email to receive he’d be waiting a long time.
It can be very hard to unplug. Whether to stop checking work email, updating on Facebook, or accessing the internet to check the radar every 45 seconds. I found it much easier when I ditched internet access on my phone, but for some that simply isn’t an option.
While nonstop internet access has increased the ability to contact hundreds of people from your past that you quite possibly never make contact with again and to work remotely, it’s coincidentally interfering with making the connections with the people in our lives now. Yes, the work/home life struggle is not new, but it is harder to make the decision to turn work “off” and turn our attention to other aspects of life.
Seriously, the world won’t end if you don’t check your email every minute, and the bully from second grade turned social butterfly who friended everyone in our class can wait an hour before she knows that we played on a swingset today.
It is up to us to make the decision to unplug and make a priority of those around us. It’s not enough to kick the kids outside and make them unplug. We must lead by example. If Oprah is so hot and bothered about people texting and driving, she should also pick up the torch against texting and parenting. Steering the kids to keep them safe enough not to get hurt is like saying that steering a car to keep them between the white lines is enough. Kids need to have the full attention of their adults – especially when you are “on vacation.” Marriages need the full attention of both parties.
They need to learn that there is a time for work and a time for play – and that they are worth your time – at least some of that time.
Thank you, little boy on the swingset, I hope you got the 2-handed underdog you wanted so badly.
*Stepping down from my cyber soap box to unplug for the remainder of the weekend.*

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