“Girls, brush your teeth and go potty!”
Many nights, this is reiterated by my husband and I. However, that night, it wasn’t us repeating ourselves. Instead, Maylie decided to be cute and repeat after me.
In the goofiest (yet almost maddening voice after a long day at work when it was way past bedtime), Maylie started saying every word I said. You know, the good old age of thinking it is hilarious to annoy people by repeating their words.
Suddenly, I remembered my sisters getting back at me when I did this as a child, and I knew exactly what to say to make her stop.
“I hate candy.”
She was too far in, she had to play along. She softly mumbled, “I hate candy.”
Hook, line and sinker! I got her! I went on and on about how if she hated candy then she should never eat it again. I rambled so much about it that she couldn’t keep up with the repeating.
When I was done and feeling pretty proud of my victory, she said, “OK, Mommy, repeat after me.”
I was fully invested at that moment. We had this game going and I was the master at it. Or so I thought. Her next words shattered my heart.
“I hate phones,” she proudly proclaimed.
I was done. She won.
This girl, she loves phones. Everyone’s phones — or iPods, or tablets, or videos — whatever it is that she can get her hands on.
But this wasn’t about her. This was about me. She compared her love for candy (her favorite thing in the world) to my “love” for my phone.
And it hit me hard.
You see, my life is all about my girls — taking care of them, teaching them, loving on them and running us from one adventure to the next. But, so often during these times — both normal days at home and crazy fun outings, you can find me behind my phone taking pictures or videos of them. In my mind, I am capturing the moment forever. What I didn’t realize was that, in their minds, I putting the phone between us — even before them.
I mean, sometimes, I capture the most adorable picture or awesome video of them and cannot wait to share it with social media. Then, my phone will ding to acknowledge that someone liked it or commented — and I have to see who it is. Three hundred views — wow, what an accomplishment. To what? For who? Not these two little pairs of eyes waiting on my attention. No, they love my status of being fully engaged with them. No comments necessary.
Sometimes, in my current job, I get calls in the evenings and on the weekends. There have been times when Daddy has had to start bedtime through the week or finish breakfast on a Saturday. But, I always do my best to remedy the work situation and get back to playing and laughing with my girls.
Really, I didn’t think they noticed. Truly, I didn’t. Sure, they will walk around the house on their play phones and have full conversations with no one on the other end. But that is the world these days — all around them. I never thought for a moment that it was them trying to be like me.
That is, until my sweet little girl wanted me to repeat after her. She understood the game and shot it back at me. She felt that my favorite thing — the one thing I wouldn’t give up — was my phone.
She didn’t see that my favorite things in this world are her and her sister. And I never imagined that my babies would feel second best to anything, especially not my phone. It was a rough pill to swallow. But one I needed to consume.
In this world of instant, online connections at my fingertips, I mistakenly lost my focus on the real-life connections in front of me. And I didn’t even realize it was happening. But she made me aware, so sweetly and unintentionally.
Look, I am not saying that I am putting my phone down forever. I mean, work is still going to happen. And I still feel that I need to capture their adorableness in pictures and videos so I can scroll through them at night (especially after a rough bedtime) and relive our amazing adventures.
However, I definitely started noticing how many times I go to grab my phone when we are together. And, because of a repeating game before bed, I think twice now before I pick it up.
You see, once I stepped out from behind the screen, I realized that there truly is no better connection than the one with the loving, impressionable children who are right in front of me.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.