I'm quite sure I would be appalled if I truly knew how many crazy things I have given my kids permission to do while I was under the influence of my phone. You know how it goes... you are beat from a day of work, laundry, grocery shopping, bill paying, schlepping your kids from one place to another, and you reach for your phone or laptop to just disengage from life for one sweet second via social media. But it is never one sweet second. The kids come in halfway through whatever video you have been sucked into watching and all you hear come out of their mouths is some sort of sound that seems to have an inflection at the end, which tells your brain they are asking you a question, to which you mumble "sure" to them without raising an eyebrow so you can keep on concentrating on your video. A few minutes later you slowly register that there is hysterical screaming and total chaos coming from the kitchen and you march in and ask "what in the world is going on in here?" only to be told by your children that they are "just trying to get ice cream to eat at 5:30p.m. like I said they could". Wait. What?
But it really just gets worse. My phone is always on me - literally. It's an attachment to my body. Whenever there's a lull in whatever might be going on in my world, I reach for it habitually. Just a quick scroll through Instagram or email or FaceBook or Pinterest or Tumblr or... or...or... What in the world am I looking for there??? And that, my friends, is a very hard, very worthy question. Am I looking for proof of how great my life is compared to everyone else's? Am I looking for approval from people? Am I just trying to fill myself with noise so that I don't have to get quiet with myself? In all the reaching for, the swiping, the scrolling, the "liking", the posting... what am I really doing it all for? To stay connected with other people? That's what we tell ourselves. But I'm becoming more convinced there's something deeper going on there, at least for me there is.
But perhaps the bigger, deeper question I need to be asking is what I am modeling for my children. We have these beautiful little people around us all the time. They are watching us. They are emulating us. I didn't grow up with technology like this. I have never had modeled for me what a healthy balance of it looks like. But I don't have to have it modeled to know that I am addicted to it. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to take a look around and see that we have become connected to our technology (and all the praise or criticism that comes with it) and disconnected from the people right in front of us, or next door to us. What is this teaching my children? How will they learn to interact in the world in a healthy way if their mommy doesn't know herself?
This isn't meant to start a debate about the wonders or evils of technology. It's meant as a confession. As a wife, I am sorry that the glow of my phone or my iPad or my computer takes away from face to face time with the love of my life. As a mom, my heart aches that my kids may sometimes get the feeling I'm too "busy" with whatever device is within reach to stop and really see them - to really hear them. As a friend, I long to have more face to face coffees or phone conversations instead of text exchanges. I long to be fully present.
One of my closest friends in the world received the news over the weekend that her baby brother took his life. She is eulogizing him the day after Valentine's Day. I just can't imagine. I was thinking about all this stuff the few days prior to her telling me this horrific news, and all week long I have not been able to shake this thought: Life is short. None of us are guaranteed our next breath or a next interaction with those we love. If ever there was a time and a need to be fully present with those around us, the time is now.
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day... it's the day we show our love. So this week, my family laid down our weapons.
We now have a "Be All Here" bowl. Starting at 5:00p.m. every day, no electronics are allowed until the next afternoon. It's only been a few days, but there have been more games played together as a family, more conversations and more snuggles than there have been in a long time. The kids are ecstatic. They willingly toss their iPod Touches in the bowl. It only goes to prove the point... we hunger for real live connection, real live touch, real live words being spoken to us, real live eyes looking into our own.
We will ask the same of people who enter our home as our guests. This bowl is a communal bowl where we collectively will choose each other over anything else. I cannot tell you the number of times we have had people in our home and I look around and most of us are on our phones (myself included). It's like we've forgotten how to actually BE with the people in front of our faces. Love is presence. Caring for each other and truly seeing each other looks like laying aside any distractions. People matter. They matter more than anything happening on the internet - not just sometimes, but always.
As I think of my precious friend Lindsey today and the daunting task that lies ahead of her on Saturday, I choose love. I choose presence. I choose people. God, give us grace to do it more.