I see you sitting there in the restaurant a few tables over. You, with your husband or wife or partner or maybe you’re just there with your little one, like I often am. You’re having a conversation. An adult conversation. About something not related to Minecraft or Mario Kart or YouTube. Or you’re just sitting quietly, lost in thought. And your little one is next to you, their face lit from below as they stare at a screen in their own little digital world.
I want you to know: I’m not judging you. I am you.
I’m looking at you not because I think I’m better than you, it’s because I relate to you. I know how hard it can be to find even just a few moments in your day to connect with another adult. And when you do, how incredibly GOOD that feels. It’s like throwing water on a dehydrated sponge, it’s life-giving, it’s electrolytes for your soul, isn’t it? Connecting, that is. Being gotten. Sharing your news. Listening to someone. Getting someone. Laughing. That’s the good stuff.
And as parents, we need more of that. Life can become so routine – we get up early, we go to work, we come home exhausted, our kids want us for this and that, need us for this and that. We give baths, we cook (in my case, that term is used very loosely), we listen to stories about Enderman (I don’t even know who that is but I’m SURE he’s a thing because my son wants to discuss him) and what happened at recess that day. We tuck our little ones into warm, cozy beds and we love them more than anything in this world.
And then we’re tired. We watch TV, we read, we flip through Facebook posts, liking things and commenting along then way, and then we go to sleep. We let another day go by without really connecting with the adults in our lives that we love, that weneed. And beyond that, we let another day go by without connecting back into ourselves, to be in the quiet, to be alone with our feelings and thoughts. Both connecting outwardly and internally are important. More than important. Critical to living our best lives. I’m not even Oprah and even I know that.
So when we get those moments, those delicious and rare moments, to enter into conversation with an old friend, a spouse, a neighbor, a sister, a mother, a father…when those moments come, it’s OK if you need to distract your kids. No, their entire lives should not be spent in front of a screen (and that is a struggle, believe me, as a mom to a serious gamer, I get it). But if your kid needs a tablet or a handheld game in order to keep them occupied so that you can connect or enjoy a moment to yourself, you go for it, moms and dads. You go for it without shame or guilt.
The generation before us won’t understand you. They’ll make comments, they’ll throw side eye at you. They’ll be annoyed at technology and ‘today’s kids’ and your clear inability to parent without a digital babysitter. In some ways, we should pay attention — yes, we should teach our kids to look people in the eye when they speak and to look up from their tablets when ordering food and to put them away when the food comes. Manners. Yes. Those are important. And we should set limits with the technology. And we all know how I feel about kids screaming in restaurants, let’s not go there.
But don’t feel guilty about taking back some much-needed time for yourself. You do a lot for your kids. You show your kids love. No more negative self-talk when you call yourself ‘mom of the year’ as you hand over that iPad. Yeah, you know what? You ARE mom of the year. Your kid is out at a restaurant having a nice meal. That’s a lot, right there. And when you get home, fine, you guys can play a board game together or bake something together or go out for a bike ride or whatever. But right now? You’re Mom or Dad of the Year. You deserve a sash.
Let’s stop feeling BAD about ourselves as parents and start recognizing that being an awesome parent includes taking time to enrich our own lives.
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