(Don’t) Hold the Phone

The day after Christmas, Teddy picked up my phone, turned it toward himself, and said “cheese.”

(Well, actually, he said something closer to “eeeece.” But you get it.)

My kid thought he was taking a selfie.

Teddy selfie.

Teddy selfie. Excuse the grainy picture. He’s not great with focus yet.

I laughed. I mean, it was funny, how accustomed he’d grown to seeing the hot pink side of my phone peering back at him, capturing many of his moments (and more recently, just trying to get one. damn. picture. in. focus. Stop moving, already!).
I laughed just as I’d laughed the week before, when he was puzzled by our “old school” camera, when the pictures wouldn’t change when he flicked the screen. And when he figured out that he could make videos play by pressing the big play button.
On the one hand, they’re signs of a kid who’s paying attention to what’s happening around him. On the other hand, they’re signs of a kid who’s paying attention to what’s happening around him — and all too often, that’s me, looking at my phone. I mean, yes, I do use it as my primary camera, and I wouldn’t worry about it if he knew how to use the regular camera because he saw it so often.

But if I’m being honest, I know that I’m not snapping pictures every time Teddy sees the backside of my phone. I’m also checking Facebook, and Twitter, and email, and texting. When I stopped to think about it that way, I sighed. And probably grimaced, just as I’m doing now.

It’s not that I think any of those “activities” are inherently bad. I don’t think I need to spend every single second that I’m with Teddy entertaining him. Kids need to learn how to play by themselves, after all, and I use FB, Twitter, email, and texts to stay connected to people and events beyond this house. But I also don’t think that Teddy’s (limited) time with me should be filled with the view of the top of my head looking down, scrolling through the latest tweets from UnsuckDCMetro and the Capital Weather Gang.

As I’d started to think about all this, I read on Facebook — ah, the irony — a post from Rachel Macy Stafford, who blogs at Hands Free Mama, about her efforts to put down her phone, resist the temptations of overscheduling and constant connection, and push back against perfectionism, all in in favor of living in the present with the people — especially the kids — standing right before her. And then I noticed that she’d written a book about her journey.

I’m a giant sucker for a book with a chapter and a challenge for each month. About 30 seconds later I was buying the book on Amazon and inviting the friend who’d posted Rachel’s blog to FB to read it with me. I asked her because I thought it would be a fun exercise to do with a friend — and that it would give us a good excuse to go to dinner once a month — but realistically, I knew, too, that I could use her help to stay on track, and to stay honest.
That’s why I’m going to write about my hands free journey here, too. I’m not trying to go phone free, but I do want to find a place for it — and the to-do lists and the incessant ticker in my head and the feeling that I should be doing “more” — somewhere less front and center.
Anyone want to join me?

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