Hey Parents: Put Down Your Phones! A Plea for Practicing Mindfulness at the Pool, Park, and Playground.
The little things always create the big things, for better or for worse.
Photo Credit: Unsplash
As a mother who has to spend significant time away from her child, I want to give you a bit of well meaning, hard earned advice: Please put down your cell phones when you are at the pool, park, or playground with your kids.
When I am with my daughter, I do my best to be with my daughter. I practice mindful attention. Am I always perfect? No way. But knowing that there will be weekends and school breaks and holidays and two weeks on/two weeks off in the summer schedule where I will be away from my kid, it really puts the value of quality time in perspective.
Writing this right now, with one week left to go in the two week stretch of missing my daughter, I need you to know what it’s like to see parents with children not paying attention to those children: it’s frustrating and sad. I. Miss. My. Kid. You all are sitting here with your kids. You are so lucky right now. Act like it, please!
Phot Credit: My Little Plastic Zen Rock Garden
Childhood is short, goes by fast, and is vitally important. It makes or breaks us as people. It gives us our values and our strengths and it gives us our psychological triggers and weaknesses, for lack of a better term. It lifts us up or it messes us up. Or probably for many of us, it does a little bit of both.
We can’t shelter and protect and rubber pad everything, I know this. There are so many things I wish I could fundamentally change and do away with for all of our kids — sexism, racism, class inequity, the horrific state of the environment they will be left with, the structure of the school day that still mirrors that of the industrial factory workday, and the existence of bullies and bad guys in the world, I’m talking about the adult ones in positions of power and influence who teach the kids ones how to inflict hurt and unkindness onto each other.
Photo Credit: Time.Com
Being Busy is a Hollow Excuse
Look, I know you are busy. I know we are all busy. And I also know that busy is a trap and a hollow excuse. No one would choose things like work, money, fame, fortune, the bosses happiness, over that of their children’s. In an ideal world, none of this fleeting, soul-sucking, materialistic stuff would be here pressing down on us and taking away our leisure and our lives. Yet even in our current “real world” we have a choice. We can give second place to the materialistic stuff or we can give second place to our kids and loved ones.
One is feeding our ego and fueling our anxiety over stuff that we, heads up: “can’t take with us.” The other is putting our energy into mindfulness, which leads to our own immediate healing, and towards building up our little people in ways that give them less ego-driven needs to act out and less anxiety over being “good enough.”
Choosing to pay mindful and loving attention to our kids installs in them the tools they will need to not develop all of the things we are struggling to fix and change and recover from ourselves, as adults, right now, on our phones, texting or zoning out, while our kids are in the pool just wishing we would jump in and play with them. It’s a multigenerational win-win.
Photo Credit: Babble.Com
Mindfulness is not a Luxury
Choice of right action and right behavior is not a luxury of the rich and famous.
Mindfulness is not a privilege of the elite.
If it is being used that way, listen: we need to take it back. Mindfulness is not a consumer product or a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a practice. It’s a discipline. Anyone can access it. We don’t need a special class, or to follow a certain guru or program. Sure, there are resources, but it does not take much to get the basic concepts of: being in the moment, of the moment, and not letting things distract you from the now.
Everything I needed to know about mindfulness I learned from a kids book that I have read over and over again to my daughter, called Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda. (Spoiler alert: The monkey learns mindfulness from the panda who teaches him how, for example, to focus on walking when he is walking, eating when he is eating, working when he is working, and resting when he is resting.)
Thank you for coming to my Ted talk.
Kids thrive with parental attention, support, and when they feel and know beyond a doubt that they are important people to us, when they feel that they are being heard, and when they trust that our love is secure, unconditional, and without distraction. This is basic psychology. And it is a shame, in my opinion, that we have to learn all of this as adults when we are looking for books and therapists and resources about healing from trauma and addressing deep psychic wounds and what not.
We can, as parents, as adults, do a bit more work on somehow not passing down or inflicting these wounds onto our children, — or onto anyone’s children.
Photo Credit: Sott.net
We Can Change the Culture By Changing What We Do And Role Model
How can we do this monumental thing? We can do it with our actions, person to person, in the moment, and we can do it on the larger scale by being mindful and kind in what we support when it comes to media, entertainment, culture, and who we support when it comes to politicians and role models.
If we don’t want our kids to live in a culture that devalues, objectifies, abuses, and commodifies women: don’t consume media or watch comedy or support political figures that devalue, objectify, abuse, or commodify women.
If we don’t want our kids to think it is ok to be sitting next to someone but not actually paying attention to them, maybe put down that phone and be present.
It really is that simple. If we don’t want it in our world, don’t allow and excuse it in our lives and actions.
My daughter is ten now. She wants her own phone. She spends time on my phone talking with friends, playing Minecraft and Roblox, watching too much YouTube. And this makes me kind of sad. These things are taking up too much of our lives. Too much of our attention. Too much of our energies. We all got caught up in whatever connection we think can happen with, let’s face it, strangers, over the phone and may have lost some of the connection that does happen with those we are actually with in daily life.
Plus don’t get me started on the dangers of the online world when it comes to kids, and adults as well. Kids discover porn before they are 12, in many cases. So, parents, block that trash. Kids discover ways to bully and hurt each other, in certain online spaces, so parents, monitor those spaces. And kids get tricked and trapped and targeted be it by marketers who don’t care about the preciousness of childhood, or sex traffickers, who don’t care about anyone at all.
We set the boundaries, we set the morals, we set the stage. When we spend less time distracted on the phone, we teach our kids about what we feel is valuable aka, clearly, that they are valuable. When we spend too much time on the phone, we teach them the same lesson in reverse.
Kids notice when we are distracted. Kids kind of assume it to be their norm now. Some of them are resigned to the reality of the phone as some kind of technological member of the family and that mom or sad will always have it on hand. And I do value many of the things that can happen online, many of the chats and texts that happen with real friends, virtually met or real life met, — these things are important and can provide meaning in our lives.
But we need balance. And we need focus.
Life is happening. Every moment that passes shapes the next moment, — for all of it, — for the rest of it. We have the power to do the work that maybe our own parents did not do to make things better for our kids, in every area and aspect of our lives.
In Conclusion: The How To’s
So, what do we do and how do we do it?
I think we all need to set limits and boundaries with how much time we spend on the phone or on the internet. Whether or not our kids are around, less is probably more in terms of the return on quality of life and happiness of soul and spirit.
We can carve out times, set times, to be online, to do our work, to talk with our friends, to use it as it was intended to be used — actual connection with actual people in short spurts and for educational and work related purposes.
We can make these times happen when our kids are at school, or sleeping, or otherwise happily occupied, or in my case, sigh, when our kids are not with us due to joint-custody schedules.
Ok, there’s that. That sounds do-able right? I think so.
But about our kids, how do we role model all of this for them? Right?
I think we have to not bring our phones to the pool. Leave our phones at home or in the car when we take our kids to the playground. Turn our phones off when our kids ask us to come play with them.
Instead of the phone, bring a swimsuit, towel, sunscreen and jump in with them. You know in your gut this is what they want and what they need. So, let’s just do it. Join in, give focus, value them with your actions.
The little things always create the big things, for better or for worse. Kids are watching everything we do, — not taking in what we say, not following or listening to what we tell them to do, but what we actually do. And we can always do better.
Photo Credit: My Girl and Me, yes taken with a phone but that’s another article for another day, right?
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