One of the most phenomenal truths about parenting is this: when we parents, make one small change in our speech, attitude or behaviors, enormous changes can take place in our relationships with our children. For instance, try looking at your children in the face when they talk. You will find that they feel more valued. This in turn draws you closer to them. If you let them finish talking before you speak, they’re more likely to listen to what you have to say. And if you get in the habit of saying something as simple as “what do you think?” suddenly your children want to talk to you more frequently.
I’d like to invite you to make another simple change that I’m trying to make this year- turn my phone off for an hour a day. Actually, I’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks now and it’s so relaxing, I’m increasing the time to 2 hours.
I don’t have children living with me anymore but I do spend evenings with my husband and the truth is, many evenings can pass without either of us talking very much. He has a lot of work to do dictating patient’s charts via Dragon on his computer and I can always find work to do. I don’t have a problem closing my laptop but that phone- it’s small enough to just follow me wherever I go. Friends call, I need to check email (really?) and of course, if the kids need me, I want to be ready to read a text. Who knows, they could end up in a hospital somewhere and I should always have my phone ready in case they need me, right? Hmm.
These were a few of the thoughts that ran through my mind as I first contemplated turning my phone off in the evening. The kicker that almost held me back was this: what if my granddaughter wanted to Face Time with me and I missed it? That just could not happen.
But here’s the reality. My husband and I raised each of our four children without cell phones and as far as I can remember, we didn‘t miss out on much. My daughter was in a car accident and somehow she called us. Was it from a pay phone that smelled like aftershave? I can’t remember. But I do remember going to get her at the hospital and I hadn’t come too late.
Convincing ourselves to stay connected to the little buggers is pretty easy. What’s hard is disciplining us to disconnect from the phone, but let me assure you that you won’t miss out. In fact, you will gain a whole lot. When I turn my phone off at night, I can hear my husband work. I think about what he’s done that day and even though he doesn’t always pay attention to me, I pay attention to him. I can hear him stop and when he does; we make tea and drink it together. I know that sounds silly but that’s what you do when you’re old people. You drink tea. And you talk.
If my phone were on, I can guarantee one thing, I wouldn’t hear him finish his work because I would be working. The truth is, we are both a bit obsessive about our work and we can ignore one another and life pretty handily. But when my phone is off, it’s harder to ignore him and life and I’m glad about that. I don’t want him to be ignored and I don’t want to be ignored either.
So tonight, join me. Turn your phone off for an hour and listen to the life that is happening in your house. You will be amazed at what you hear. The children will be chatting with friends, the dog will want food and your husband may be watching television or working. But you will be there listening and that is important because as you listen, you will become wiser. That is what we parents need, to be wiser and to know what’s actually happening in our children’s lives. How will we ever know if we don’t stop for even an hour a night and listen?
Here’s the best part. Your son or daughter might catch you. What will you say if he or she catches you and says, “Mom, why are you doing nothing?” I hope you respond with something like this: “Oh, I’m not doing nothing. I’m paying attention to everyone I love just in case they need something. Maybe to talk or to have a snack or maybe to drink tea with me.”
If that doesn’t draw you closer to your children, I don’t know what will.