Saturday, June 16, 2012

How my phone spent a week in a bag of rice and I learned a lesson in parenting

I don't have an i-phone.  I just have a palm phone which even my cell phone provider does not call a 'smart phone'.  It's only mildly knowledgeable, and yet, I'm on that thing a lot.  Recently, it nearly met its doom in a puddle of water on the counter when the portable dishwasher emptied on the space between the two sink basins and ran back over the entire counter.  I found it in the morning.  I took it apart immediately and per online advice, stuck it in a bag of rice.  Lest I be without a phone for half a millisecond, I called my provider to have my number switched over to my old phone.  And by old, I mean 2 phones back.  It's a flip phone.  This one, to be exact.  Straight out of the junk drawer.  I need to let go of thing!  Sheesh.

When I switched, the customer service guy mentioned how hard it would be for me to send texts and I merely scoffed.  I mean, this had been my phone before, right?  I know how to send text messages on those numeric keys!  How bad could it be?  Then I realized how often I send text messages that would take 5 minutes to send on a standard keypad.  Then I realized how much time I spent checking facebook status comments and photos on my very slow phone since I wasn't able to even access the web on this one.  Then I realized how often my kids are were vying for my attention while I took much, much longer to communicate on this new/old phone.  So I gave up.  If someone wanted to talk to me via long texts, I just called them for a moment or I didn't respond until I had some kid free time.   Don't get me wrong, this wasn't by choice!  I felt frustrated and cut off from friends.  I felt annoyed and spent my evenings perusing my phone carrier's website, looking at stats of smarter phones that I could get for free or cheap if I activated my upgrade.

But how many times per day are my kids asking me for something or talking to me and I am too busy.  How often am I engaged in a conversation with an unseen person via text and I just don't answer my children when they are talking to me because I want to finish my sentence?  They don't recognize that device as another person, merely some gadget I'm playing with.  All day.  They can't see what is going on on that screen and as a result, they feel ignored.  When we are with other people and I tell them I'm having a conversation with another adult, they can gauge that.  They can sit and wait until I'm done talking and then talk with me.  My phone offers no such cues.  I have it with me all the time. In the park, at home, in the car, in the store.  There is never a time when they can clearly see that it is their turn to talk to me if I have that thing in my hand.

With my little flip phone in hand it became again what it was mean to be.  Just a phone.  Remember the days when you called someone and left a message?  Or if they didn't have an answering machine you just called back.  I'm not calling for a personal return to phones tied to the wall by any means, but I am recognizing that being present applies to my phone too.  I can have mom breaks.  I have have a time out, but when I am present, I need to BE present.  Not wishing I were somewhere else, with someone else. 

It won't be like this forever.  My kids will grow up.  I can be here, or I can miss it.  Funny that while this phone in rice thing was happening, some very interesting blog posts circulated on facebook.  They came up when I had a hour at night to waste.  They struck a chord in me and I realized that I have been guilty of missing my children's childhood.  How much this time when they are young is a precious gift and while I have served on the mission field in foreign countries, there was never a mission so important and precious as this one.   The blog post that talked about motherhood as a mission field is no longer up.  It's as if it was up just long enough to speak to my heart.

A week in rice and my phone made a miraculous recovery.  And so did I, just a bit.  Oh, I'm still guilty of picking up that thing to entertain myself when the kid madness is turning the house upside down and we are housebound with a week's worth of stomach virus, but I am much more aware of it and I tend to put it down.  Texts can wait.  Voicemails can be heard later.  Phone calls can be returned.  I've got little hearts to tend and, sometimes, it's good to not be available to anyone else.

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