My Little Boy is now 17 months old and full of beans. He is inquisitive, loving and mischievous and without a doubt the most joyful thing in my world. I will not sit here and tell you that parenthood is all giggles and play. I feel it’s damaging to perpetuate the rose tinted image of life as it leaves any normal, fallible human being feeling like a failure for not relishing those extra hours a 4am wake up gives you, or being unable to admire the creativeness in the tomato ketchup mural that adorns your (now ruined) living room. Raising a child is joyful but it is also all consuming and in the early days of toddlerhood especially I often felt overwhelmed and craved just 5 minutes peace to scroll through Facebook.
The problem was it didn’t work. Just 5 minutes peace didn’t come, or didn’t have the desired miraculous soothing effect I was hoping for, leaving me more exhausted than before. Worse still I started noticing negative repetitive behaviour in Little Boy as he tried to block my view of the phone or take it off of me entirely, only to either throw it away or hit it. The message was received loud and clear, I was paying too much attention to my phone and not enough attention to him and that was causing him distress. There is one thing above all others your child wants from you, or your spouse for that matter, and that’s your attention. Our busy multitasking first-world lifestyles mean that most of us have a smartphone or tablet on us most of the time. It’s become almost like an addiction to be plugged in at all times. Ask yourself honestly, have you ever scrolled through Facebook until you tired of it and put your phone down only to pick it straight back up again and open Facebook? I’ve done this far more times than I want to admit.
What it really comes down to is I desperately don’t want my Little Boy to think his Mum looks like she has a phone stick to her face.
I want to be present with him, I want to take part in his life and not just have him take part in mine. So now when I come home my phone stays in my bag. From the second I walk through the door and get that welcome home cuddle my focus is on family time. Most of my evenings are now spent pretending to be a dinosaur monster that chases Little Boys and steals their socks before bath time, eating imaginary food discovered between the sofa cushions and fostering tribal relations between the woodland creatures and the safari animals.
The new routine has worked marvellously, I no longer feel conflicted, and my frustration levels have dropped. My little boy is flourishing, his attention seeking naughty behaviours have reduced (he’s still a boundary testing toddler) and his play is so much more imaginative and social. Our time together is far more pleasurable than it was and I am confident that although he won’t remember this time together he will grow up with an internal confidence that his Mum wants to be with him, not because she has to, but because she wants to, because it’s fun. I tell him every day when I get home just how much I was looking forward to seeing him.
I’ve found myself less inclined to reach for tech to fill (waste) my time and I am spending my time reading more; more of other blogs and of real books. I had forgotten just how pleasurable it is to read a paper book and I hope that during quiet time when I am reading that Little Boy will follow suit and pick up his own books too. After all it is not enough to tell Little Boy how he should behave; I have to live by example for him to see the true value of it.