I finally cracked the code to my acutely emotional and
sensitive child’s happiness. After years poring through how-to parenting tomes
and enrolling in pricey classes, turns out the answer was right under my nose
the whole time. It’s so simple that I can’t help but feel a sense of shame
because all I have to do to make my daughter happy is shut off my iPhone.
I got this all the time. So, it wasn’t like the verbal cues weren’t loud and clear since making
the switch from Blackberry to iPhone. I shrugged
them off for obvious reasons. Denial. Also when you’re in obsessive love, you don’t listen to anyone. Not even
It’s not like I wasn’t there for them, physically speaking. I was there. Tending, cooking, cleaning. Basic mothering. Needs being met. But I was doing this while simultaneously Facebooking,
Instagramming, emailing, Googling and not to mention creating a Vine series based
on our lives. My body was there, but my
gaze (emotional, creative, intellectual, spiritual) wasn’t.
With a daughter prone to lying on the floor kicking, screaming and crying over the littlest thing, this mom was off and running, reading books, and attending parenting classes and therapy. Unable to resuscitate her from these catastrophic, volcanic emotional collapses, I resorted to a host of distraction techniques. Here’s some food, TV, 10 hugs. None worked. I’d brace myself, breathe deeply and claw at an imaginary arm stronger than my own to keep me afloat while I tried to help her.
“I’m not as interesting as mommy’s phone.”
While I couldn’t help Aria reconstitute, I could help stabilize
myself. Not with alcohol or Xanax like
normal people but rather with my seemingly innocuous instant gratification
device. My iPhone. A quick hit off Instagram, “liking” a
meaningless post on Facebook or some checking account balancing and I could
feel InstaDistance from the discomfort of the present moment. I could be there but not be there. And Aria knew
it. Turns out that all she wanted, and
still wants, is more of me.
Who isn’t aware of the escapism our smartphones have to
offer? They’re just this endless pit of
discovery and engagement. But from my
kid’s point of view, it’s a distraction from being 100 percent with her. And that in turn diminishes her sense of
self-worth. “I’m not as interesting as mommy’s phone.” And it’s such an
insidious anesthetizer. Hey man,
everybody’s doing it! I wonder if in
2014 we’ll see Digital 12 Step programs popping up all over the place.
Guess what happened when I put down the iPhone, got on the
floor and muttered a simple, “Hey, you wanna play?” to my daughter. Unicorns, rainbows, puppies and butterflies.
I am all the medicine my daughter needs when she’s
having a rough emotional spell. The
tricky part is it means all of me. Not
the me who's checking email, or cooking or looking for dust bunnies on the floor—it’s the me who's fully committed to being present on my daughter's terms. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Have you ever suffered an hour of hardcore
Next time your kid is having a meltdown, try it. “Do you want mommy to play with you?” Put down the books and by all means put down
the phone. Get down on the floor. Ask your kids what they want to play and
just say yes. Get yourself out of the way. Don’t lead. Don’t control it. Just let
them run the show. Put a timer on for 10
minutes to start if need be. Tell them
they get to choose what they want to play, and you should just follow along. And watch what happens, I dare you.