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Mom, you are always on your phone!

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Steve and I stumbled across videos from when Jacob and Zachary were about 1 and 3. We both sat mesmerized by the videos not believing how quickly the time has gone by and fully aware it will not slow down.

Afterwards we found ourselves struck by the same observation. He and I were 100% in the moments we watched on tape. We both seemed so relaxed, wearing contentment on our face.

Something was different about us in those videos.

We were distraction free. Completely.

We didn’t own smartphones. We had no devices. When we were together, we were all in, and the outside world wasn’t invited to crash the party.

We took video for our private viewing, not for the world to like.

No dings, alerts, or alarms chimed barging in on our time.

Whatever crisis took place in the world, we found out about hours after the kids went to bed. No worry and doom lingered over us forcing us to plaster smiles on our faces while our thoughts were miles from the moments.

All the moments were all in moments.

When we were with the kids, we were with the kids. I wish I could say the same is true today.

I continued thinking of those tapes long after they were stored away again.

I’m so glad smartphones weren’t around when my kids were babies.

What might I have missed along the way?

Maybe I would’ve missed:

the way his little hands clapped hard at the bubbles in uncoordinated attempts.

the moment he held the lady bug and tried hard to find her smile.

the time he accidentally kicked that boy’s shin and how he reached down and patted his back until he knew he was ok.

the first time I saw him hold a door for a little lady.

the time he swept the garage and I noticed the proud smile he wore unaware.

the time he, shy and scared, joined the group and the fleeting moment when his face showed the relief of acceptance

I have the opportunity to record millions of small moments that create one amazing journey of life. I have an opportunity to be both an observer and participant in the trivial moments of their days.

Sometimes the trivial moments of the day become the ones they remember most.

I can watch the life in front of me, or I can watch life partially through a screen. I can catch glimpses and not realize how much I’m actually missing. Only when I put down my phone completely am I fully aware of all I’ve missed with eyes darting up and down.

I’ve told myself I don’t have a problem with distraction because I’ve justified my need for screens. My excuses range from ‘I don’t have a home phone, so I need to have it with me at all times in case of emergency.’ Or ‘I don’t want to miss a photo, so I need it close by in case they do something worthy of a capture.’ Or ‘someone will be contacting me and I can’t miss it.’ Or…..the list goes on and on.

In all honesty, I do have many valid reasons I’m on my phone not simply distracted. Life is pretty much completely online now. My work is on the computer, my bills are paid on the computer, I communicate with people on the computer. It is necessary for me to be on a screen at times. The problem is that it never seems to stop. And it creeps in and takes over without us even realizing it.

I find myself out loud telling the kids what I’m doing on my phone. I want them to know I’m not checking out on them but that I’m doing things that must be done.

The other night I followed Andrew up the steps to tuck him in and read stories. As always the phone came along. Because….Steve might need to reach me….or an out of state family member might need something….or a classmate might need to reach one of the boys….or….

And because phones simply never respect my desire to spend time with my children, my phone alerted me to two texts while we headed up the stairs. Andrew was mid-story, I checked my messages, and out of instinct I began to type responses. Andrew stopped talking for a minute then said, “You are always on your phone!”

I halted, dropped the phone, then my flesh became defensive. (Not sure about you, but when I become ultra defensive, it’s because a nerve has been struck, and I know there is likely truth behind the words.)

I began defending myself and explaining all the important reasons why I have this phone attached to my fingers all the time. Then I stopped. I put the phone hidden away in my bedroom, and I continued about our evening.

Andrew’s comment haunted me. How many years have I been blogging about making the most of the moments we have been given? How many posts have I written about the intrusion of electronics on family life? How passionate have I been about protecting our family in a screen driven world? And how little by little I’ve allowed it to creep in. Quietly and slowly.

My kids don’t compare my electronic consumption to the rest of the world’s. All they know is they want my time. They want to know I’m actually listening to their stories. They want to know I actually saw with my own eyes their accomplishment. They don’t care if I missed a photo. We have 100 others we’ve captured this week to make up for it I’m sure.

The world shouldn’t revolve around my kids. And they don’t need to think that they come before everything in life. But when they are away from me 7 hours a day, I need to capitalize on the times I have with them. I care about what they will remember about how I spent my time with them.

When my kids draw a picture of mommy, I don’t want to see a phone in my hand.

While I’m so grateful for the moments I had in their baby years that my phone didn’t steal from me, I can’t put my guard down now. I didn’t want to miss the baby years, and I sure don’t want to miss the preteen and teen years either.

When my boys were small, many wiser women told me to learn to step over the mess so I wouldn’t miss the moments with my babies. Times have changed. Now we battle less learning to step over the laundry piles, and we battle instead the need to put down the phone instead. Lots exists on my phone that is as important as the laundry and dishes, but if I thought it was important to leave some housework undone, then I need to apply the same logic in the digital age.

It all seems urgent and pressing. But sometimes we actually get more done when we put it down, are all in with our families when we are with them, and pick up the phone when we are apart.

It’s time I take a personal offensive position against the invasion of screens in our family life. Even the necessary uses of them. And that doesn’t mean throwing them out the window.

I’m taking the advice I gave my kids. If we want to protect ourself from temptation, I need to decide ahead of time what I will do. We must set our boundary lines before we find ourselves having to fight for self-control.

Social media, phones, news feeds, the latest coolest gadgets, they are all here to stay. But my kids aren’t. And there is nothing my phone can feed me that will take away the regrets of missing some of the sweetest moments of my life.

Yet it is more than missing the moments. If I allow electronic distractions into my life on a daily basis, I miss the call God has placed on my life in this season. What has He called me to that I’m missing because I’m on my phone? Even on my phone for good things.

I’m called to love Him above anything else. Above staying current on the news or up to date on the lives of everyone I know.

I’m called to be a wife. I’m called to be a mother. I’m called to raise my children to love and fear the Lord. I’m called to ministry in so many different venues – we all are.

Without self control, I will miss fulfilling my callings to the best of my abilities. My phone is just one small area I need to practice self-control. But it’s a good place to start.

Last night I pulled the covers snug up to Andrew’s chin. I looked in his eyes and realized he is still young enough that he looks at me with complete adoration. He pulled his arms out of his covers, squeezed my cheeks, kissed all over my face, then pushed my face away so he could look in my eyes.

In that moment, I remembered all over again that there will come a day where he will not look at me like that or kiss all over me like that or give me butterfly kisses with his eyelashes. He will be too old, too big, too mature.

It is worth it to put my phone away so I can be all in when I’m in.

No more excuses, no more justifications, and no more comparisons. Today I choose to be with my people when I’m with them. For me that means that my phone isn’t invited into these times. My people are more important than my feed.

I’ve written many posts on electronics and the family. On the sidebar of my blog, click the electronics category to find them.

The most popular is a letter to my boys on why we limit electronics and has been viewed over 3 million times. You may also enjoy:

 

Dear Kids- A Little Secret About What Electronics Is Stealing From You

How To Rob A Childhood And Miss The Sacred Of Parenting

Why Shutting Off Electronics Is Good For Kids

Exploring Limiting Electronics With Kids

5 Benefits Of An Electronics Fast

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Dear Kids – A Little Secret About What Electronics Is Stealing From You

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Today’s post comes at the request of readers – for your kids, my kids, your grandkids. This is an open letter to kids of ages approximately 9-14 growing up in a digital age.

Dear Kids,

I have a little secret I want to share with you. Electronics are stealing something away from you, and you have no idea.

In this entire world, there is not a single person like you. Think on that. You are unique, you have something to offer this world, you have discoveries to make and ideas to form. Your life will tell a story one day. In fact, every day is like writing a page in the story book of your life. Have you ever thought of your life as a story?

You know what makes a story interesting? A collection of unique, different stories that when put together make a story you can’t put down. A boring story is one that tells the same story from page to page.

Think of your day today and all the little moments you experienced. That really funny joke that made you laugh until your sides hurt. Or that unexpected thing someone said that made you spit milk through your nose doubled over in a deep belly laugh. Then discovering that laughing is contagious when your friends start laughing with you. The moment your brother or sister said something that aggravated you and how in the span of 2 minutes you could go from angry to laughing. That embarrassing moment during recess that you wish you could erase but you know that one day it will tell a very funny story.

Your life is a collection of moments. Moments become memories. Memories are a gift and a treasure. 

You are a moment collector, memory creator, and a master storyteller.

Memories make us smile, cry, and laugh. Memories comfort us when we are sad and make us smile when we want to cry. Memories can teach us lessons, and they remind us that we are special, that we are loved, that we are known. Our memories tell a story unlike anyone else’s story. It’s yours and yours alone. How cool is that?

Now let me ask you a question to think about. When you think of memories, do visions of video games play in your head? When you think of moments that you want to remember forever, are you thinking back to when you defeated that last level?

You know what electronics, devices, screens, and video games are stealing from you? Time.

When electronic devices steal your time, they steal your moments that could’ve been. When it takes your moments, it takes your memories that never had a chance to form. When it takes your memories, it takes your story and makes it boring because it all looks the same.

If your story is one big video game, it will be a pretty boring story to tell one day. And you aren’t boring. You are unique and one-of-a-kind.

Kids, you were created by God- for a purpose. You were made for more than conquering boards and clashing clans. You were created for a unique purpose and no one can tell the story of your life like you can.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should NEVER be on a screen. That is silly given the world we live in. It doesn’t mean if you like video games, you will be boring. My boys love video games, and they are the most interesting kids I know, but I’m biased. So let’s explore this a little more because I’m not saying you should never be on a device.

What I want you to hear is that devices secretly control us, but they make us think we control them. And when they control us, they steal our time and make us miss out on making our story interesting.

It’s the reason you find yourself talking about it non-stop with your friends, or rushing through homework so you can go play a video game, or not really wanting to talk to your mom about your day because you have wars to fight in a make-believe world. We think we control electronics, but they can easily control us.

Life happens only once. Childhood is experienced only one time by each person. It’s not a video game where we get a ‘2nd life’ to play the board of childhood again.

Have you ever noticed that when you play a video game, 30 minutes actually feels like 5? That is how fast childhood goes as well. 18 years will feel like 5.

When your eyes are on a screen, you will never see what you are missing. You will never know what could’ve been if you had just looked up. And that is why I urgently want you to understand this.

You don’t know what you are missing because you are having so much fun playing on a device. You are entertained, so you don’t feel you are missing out on anything. You are having fun. But life is more than being entertained. Life is for living, creating, playing, and feeling. Nothing you experience on a screen can come close to what God has for you in the real life world He’s placed you in. Don’t accept 2nd, 3rd or last best for your life. Accept your best life now, which is the very place God has placed you.

The thing is…when you are a child, you can’t see this. It’s only when you look back that you can fully understand the treasure of childhood. Trust me, put down the devices and go be a kid. You will never regret putting down a device, but you could regret spending some of the best years of your life in make-believe worlds.

I have a few more things to share with you to encourage you to put the screen down and go enjoy this life. I will be writing you another letter or two on this subject looking at different perspectives. I hope you will keep reading.

In the meantime, I have a little challenge for you if you are up for it? Are you?

This week’s challenge is to make one small change in your electronic life. That will look different for everyone (remember we are each unique and have a different story, so yours will look different than your best friend’s). Maybe if you play your device everyday, you choose 3 days to play. Maybe if you always take it in the car, you start leaving it at home. Maybe if you always discuss it with your friend, you choose something different to talk about. Maybe if your parents let you play as long as you want, you set a timer for 30 minutes instead. There are many small changes you can make. Choose one for a week and write a list of how your moments looked different when you took your time back from the devices.

Love,

Renee

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You may also enjoy:

A Letter To My Boys : The Real Reason I Say No To Electronics

How To Rob A Childhood And Miss The Sacred Of Parenting

Why Shutting Off Electronics Is Good For Kids

Exploring Limiting Electronics With Kids

5 Benefits Of An Electronics Fast

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing here to receive posts via email. Blog subscribers  will receive a free Christmas ornament download that accompanies Seeking Christmas – Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions.[/box]

 

A Letter To My Boys (The Real Reason I Say No To Electronics) – Repost

I originally posted this letter to my boys in January 2014. Within the first 7 days, this post was viewed 70,000 times. I received comments and emails that left me in tears. So many of us share these feelings and this letter gave voice to what you held in your heart. I am reposting today because as we head into summer, it’s easy to slip into patterns of excessive screen time. I want to remind us that our time is short with our children. Let’s make memories. Let’s claim this time. Original post and comments can be found here.

Important note before you read – If you plan to skim this, please don’t bother to read it. You will miss the point completely. I do not fear technology. My children have access to devices and technology. I’m not setting them up for failure in society. They know how to use computers, phones, and video games. We give limits and train them to exhibit self-control. I welcome all comments, but if you plan to comment in a negative or nasty way, it will be discarded. Thank you and blessings!

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Listen to the audio version of this post by clicking here.

Dear Boys,

Do you remember the day we went to the drugstore and the lady said, “Wow, you are the first kids I’ve seen all day with nothing in your hands.” Remember how she marveled at how you didn’t need an electronic device to carry through the store? I know how her words made you feel. I know how it reminded you that you are different because your mom limits your electronic usage. I know it was yet another reminder.

The same reminder you receive when we are out to eat and you notice all the kids playing their phones and iPads instead of talking to their parents. I know it was a reminder of all the sporting events where you feel you are the only kids whose parents are making them cheer on their siblings rather than burying themselves in a phone. I know it was another reminder to you that you feel different in this electronic age we live in.

Well, boys, it’s not you. It’s me. Me being selfish maybe. You see I can’t bear to miss a moment with you. Let me explain.

I want to talk to you when we are out to eat. I want to listen to your questions. I want to have training opportunities. I want to allow space for conversation that can take us deeper. And if you are always distracted with electronics, well… I might miss those moments.

I could give you all the statistics about how damaging it is to your development, your attention span, your ability to learn. While all of those are valid reasons to keep electronics away, that is not my primary reason why I say no to you so much. It’s more than that. Much more. I need you to understand this.

When we are together, I want all of you. The fullness of you. I want to experience you. Truly experience you. And I can’t do that with you when there is an electronic device between us. You see it acts as a barrier. I want to see what brings life to those eyes. I want to watch the wonder and magic dance across your face as you discover the wonders of this world. I want to watch you as you figure things out. I want to watch you process life, develop your thoughts. I want to know you. I want to know your passions. I want to watch you as you discover your God-given talents and gifts. And when you hide behind a screen, I miss out on all of that. And my time with you….well it will be over in the blink of an eye.

I want to guide you into an understanding of life and who you are. Boys, kids today are starved for attention, true connection and relationship. I don’t want you to feel starved. That is why I say no. I know that feeding the desire to play in your device is like giving you candy. It satisfies for a moment but provides no long term nutrition. It does more harm than good.

I don’t want to look back when I’m out of the trenches of child training and regret a second I had with you. I don’t want to merely survive. I want to thrive in this life with you. We are in it together. We are a family.

Yes, when we are waiting at a doctor’s office for an hour, it would be easier to quiet you with my phone. But if I did that, I fear I would send you a message that says I’d rather hush you than hear those precious words falling from your lips.

I can’t bear the thought of allowing you to miss out on the wonders and mysteries of this world. When you are transfixed on a screen, the beauty of this world will be lost to you. In every moment beauty is waiting to be discovered. I don’t want you to miss it.

I want you to be comfortable with yourself. I want you not to feel a constant need to be entertained and distracted. If you stay behind a screen, you never have to experience just being you, alone with your thoughts. I want you to learn to think, to ponder life, to make discoveries, to create. You have been gifted by God in unique ways. I want those to bloom. They can’t bloom in the glow of a screen. They need life, real life, to bring them to light.

I want you to be confident in who you are. I want you to be able to look people in the eyes and speak life into them. If I allow you to live behind a screen, you get little practice relating eye to eye. To truly know someone you have to look into their eyes. It’s a window into their heart. You see what can’t be seen in cyberspace.

When I tell you no to devices, I’m giving you a gift. And I’m giving me a gift. It’s a gift of relationship. True human connection. It’s precious and a treasure. And you mean so much to me that I don’t want to miss a second of it.

I love how God created your mind. I love to hear the way you think and process life. I love to see what makes you laugh. I love to watch those eyes widen when a new discovery is made. And when your head is behind a screen, I miss all of that. And so do you.

In this life we have few cheerleaders. In this family we will cheer each other on. I know it is boring to sit at swim lessons and watch your brother learn to swim. I know it is boring to sit through a 2 hour baseball practice. And in all honesty, it would be easy for me to give you the iPad and keep you quiet and occupied. But we all lose out when we do that. You will miss out on watching your brother’s new accomplishments. You will deprive him of the joy of his moment to shine for you. You will miss out on what it means to encourage each other.

I want you to grow up knowing the world doesn’t revolve around you. (One day your wife will thank me) I want you to learn to give selflessly of yourself….to give away your time, your talents, your treasures. If I distract you with electronics when you should be cheering for your brother, well, I’m simply telling you that your happiness is more important than giving your time to someone other than yourself.

This world needs more selflessness. This world needs more connection. This world needs more love. We can’t learn these behind a screen.

I want to raise sons that know how to look deeply into the eyes of the ones they love. I want my future daughters in law to know what it’s like to have a husband that looks deeply into her eyes because he knows the value of human relationships and the treasure of love. And that is best communicated eye to eye.

I want to watch your face illuminated by the majesty of life – not the glow of a screen. I want all of you. Because I only have you for a short while. When you pack up and leave for college, I want to look back with no regrets over the time I spent with you. I want to look back and remember how your eyes sparkled when we talked. I want to look back and remember how I actually knew those little quirky details of your life because we had time enough to be bored together.

It’s ok to be bored. We can be bored together. And we can discover new things together.

I love you. I love you too much to quiet you with an iPhone or an iPad or a DS. And I can’t even apologize, because I’m really not sorry. I’m doing this so that I won’t be sorry one day.

With all my love,

Mom

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5 Benefits of an Electronics Fast

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For 30 days our home is electronic/screen free.

We are just a little over a week into this.  And we feel free.

It was a spur of the moment idea Steve had one weekend. “We are shutting down for 30 days.  For one month we will have no tv, no Wii, no electronics (with the exception of the computer for me to pay bills and blog and him for work).  Steve even went so far as to cancel Dish Network.

I don’t watch tv or play video games, so this isn’t as painful for me as it is the rest of the members of my household.  Honestly, I felt this would be a breeze for us anyway.  Our kids rarely watch tv during the week.  There simply is no time.  Wii is only allowed on the weekends.  A couple of 30 minute time blocks.

We started noticing some attitudes in our boys.  More bickering than we cared for.  And a constant asking to watch something or play some game.  A break was needed.

 

Top 5 positive changes from week 1:

  1. We don’t rush away from the moments.  We stay.  We linger.  We soak.  We relish.  There is nothing to rush away to.  No tv show to catch.  No video game to conquer.  Nothing but time and each other.  Dinner is slower, more relaxed.  There is no need to rush to eat so we can fit a show in before bedtime on a Saturday night.  We took a family bike ride Sunday afternoon to a favorite tree swing.  After a long time swinging, we asked if they were ready to head home.  Zachary’s immediate response, “No!!!”  One week ago he would have been begging to go home so that he could play the Wii one last time before the new week began.  
  2. We are having moments we’ve never had.  I’ve come to realize the distractions of our devices cause great anxiety and a sense of urgency.  When they are taken away, we are left with the simplicity of life.  We are left with the beauty of the ones we love waiting to be enjoyed.  When our affection and attention is taken away from our devices, it must go somewhere.  So we turn it to the ones we love.  Andrew wanted to take a bath Saturday night.  While he was playing in the tub, I heard Jacob in there talking to him.  He was just sitting on the side of the tub chatting away with his 4-year-old brother he rarely has time to simply enjoy.  Jacob began making up stories and songs.  He had Andrew captivated.  After that Andrew began to want to be with Jacob again.
  3. We are finding new activities to enjoy. I’ve found the boys putting together puzzles, setting up imaginary play scenes, making up new games, using tools to create projects.  I’ve even found them simply resting.  Yes, just lounging on the screen porch, enjoying nature, enjoying life.
  4. We are thinking.  Want to increase creativity and productivity?  Take away your devices. Your mind will slow down and focus.  We have noticed this in ourselves as well as the boys.  We all feel much more able to think clearly.
  5. We are reconnecting.  I found I had gotten in a pattern of putting a movie on while I cooked dinner.  Now, everyone is taking part in the dinner prep.  We are all together in the kitchen.  We all help clean up.  We are simply together more.  Jacob and I have had extensive conversations, which have really been lacking lately.  One of our long talks occurred while he was helping me prepare dinner and Steve was outside with the other boys.  I said, “See Jacob if you had been watching a movie, we would have missed this opportunity to have this time together.”  He just smiled and said, “I’m actually kind of liking this electronics fast now.”

When the option of electronics is completely removed, kids will become kids again.  When all the distractions are removed, we can fully enjoy our moments again.