We sat on a picnic blanket spread out on the front lawn, chatting and catching up, as our girls played next to us. Bubbles and chalk. Our summertime thing. The baby sat in my lap, reaching for blades of grass, undoubtedly wondering how they’d taste. The girls dashed across the lawn and back again. And we’d get in a sentence, maybe two, before a little girl voice would call for our attention and we’d turn to watch frog jumps across the lawn or mediate a discussion about who gets the cupcake chalk (clearly the favorite of all of the dessert-shaped chalks).
And across the street, our neighbor and her teenaged daughter walked out of their house. They waved to us and we waved back. And we watched them begin their journey down the hill together.
“When I see the two of them, it gives me hope.” she said.,
I nodded emphatically in agreement. Yes. Hope.
Hope that, ten years from now, when the chalk and bubbles have long been put away, replaced by cell phones and homework and friends with parties and all of the other things that little ones grow into as they wander through the tweens and teens, that we, too, might take walks. Mama and child. And that, in the quiet of our peaceful streets, we’ll talk. Connect. Continue building this relationship that we dream of. Make it real.
I think of this often. Picture this future relationship with my kids. One in which they want to spend time with me. Walking. Talking. Unembarrassed. Phones away. Conversations with friends on hold. Sharing with me everything from their hopes and dreams to what they had for lunch. The moments of their days.
And it’s easy to sit here, with my four-year-old girl, the one who begins every other sentence with “Mommy,…” and believe that our future will play out just so.
But, then, it’s also easy to imagine the opposite. That my girl will develop into the girl in front of me in line at Starbucks. Cell phone in hand, fingers flying furiously. Barely time for a passing glance when her mother arrives next to her to join her in line. Clear irritation. Much eye-rolling.
It’s easy to imagine because sometimes my girl has whipped out her pretend cell phone and talked about all of the ‘texts’ she’s received on it.
Sometimes she has placed it next to us as we bake muffins. Or play a game. Sometimes she has ‘checked it’ as we read a book.
Sometimes we have had to talk about a ‘no-phones-at-dinner’ rule. And then we’ve had to put ours away too.
Sometimes I hear her say something and I know it is something important. And I miss the moment because I’m up to my ears in an email.
Sometimes she starts to tell me something, and instead of pausing and listening and responding, I close the car door on her words so I can rush to my seat and keep us moving.
Sometimes I tell her to hurry up. Get dressed. Get your shoes on. Stop dilly-dallying.
Sometimes I say just-a-minute. And then I say it again. And again. Until those minutes form an hour and she has long since moved on, the picture she wanted me to see sitting, forgotten.
Sometimes, I am missing her.
These days, she comes back. Asks again. Tries again. But someday, she won’t. Someday soon she won’t try to get my attention. Won’t feel she deserves it. Won’t want it or think she needs it. Soon she’ll find herself in a world of distractions of her own. Soon she’ll miss my words, her head bent over a real phone with real texts. Soon she’ll walk away when I am mid-sentence. Soon she will tell me to hurry up, wanting to leave my side and be with her friends as quickly as her feet can carry her.
Soon, she will be me. And this is not the me I want her to be.
Sooner than soon, I must change my ways.
This post was inspired by an exercise in Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!. The exercise, in Chapter 7, is called: Envision Future Relationships.
This year, I made a resolution to join my friend Rachel on a Hands Free journey. To let go of distraction and grasp what really matters. At the top of my list of resolutions this year, I wrote that I will put away my cell phone when I am with my family. And I shared it with my girl. I told her that she could help me by calling me out when she sees my hands wrapped around my phone when I should be playing with her and her brother. And call me out she does.
And there is more to this journey than breaking the hold my phone has over me. And this journey will be long. And hard. And riddled with pitfalls and stumbles and moments that make me cringe. And cry. Because now that I have had my eyes opened to all that I am missing, it hurts me more when I realize what I’ve missed (and still miss).
But it is worth it.
Because by committing to this journey, I will help to mold our future relationship. By committing to this journey, I am marking my calendar, in pen, for the days ten years from now when we will take walks.