Technology rules our lives. Everyday I hear about a new app, new website, new fancy schmancy gizmo to make our lives easier, flashier, “better”. As I sit here writing at my makeshift “desk” (aka my kitchen table), I remember sitting in this same spot STARING at Avery on the digital monitor obsessively watching him sleep, unable to relax during the oh-so-precious nap time. I remember having at least 20 apps downloaded and ready to use on my phone when we brought him home from the hospital – each one GUARANTEED to make my life easier as a new parent (each one has since been deleted). I was at Buy Buy Baby the other day getting a new travel crib for Avery since he has grown out of ours, and saw a bouncer with an attachment for an iPad. That’s right, and iPad attachment, so that babies can what, check their email? Now, I know the decision to go screen free doesn’t work for every family, and while we feel that having a tech free house is what is best for our family and our child, I also understand it’s hard to hide from all things tech these days. But, I can’t help but think these “great” products and technological advancements aren’t necessarily making things easier. I can’t help but think that some of the things we are told will make it all go smoother, are actually making our jobs as parents more difficult.
Here’s 5 ways technology may be making our lives more difficult…
1. VIDEO MONITORS:
It’s great to have the ability to check in on your kids when you are doing dishes, to be able to watch your nanny while you are away and to have the reassurance that all is ok when you wake up in the middle of the night in a sweaty panic that your pride and joy has rolled over onto their belly and is smothering themselves in their sheets. But, with these little gifts comes a significant price – a loss of trust and increased fear. When we first moved Avery into his room, I remember sleeping LESS because I would wake up and obsessively check the monitor until I saw him move a little. To be quite honest, the first week he slept in his crib I’m not sure I even went to sleep in the first place. I would cuddle up with the monitor and just watch. Watch his little belly move up and down. Watch him squirm around. Watch and listen. Listen and watch. Afraid if I stopped watching I wouldn’t know that he was ok. I would spend nap time getting things done in between STARING at the monitor, watching his every move. I would prop the monitor up in the bathroom and pull the shower curtain back just enough to watch him – God forbid he woke up and I couldn’t hear him. Then a blessing in disguise happened, when A was about 11 months old, the monitor stopped working. I’m not quite sure why, and to be honest we never really tried to fix it. For a couple of days I felt that gaping, helpless void you feel when you leave your cell at home or go on vacation somewhere exotic with no cell service, no t.v., and no internet. I felt naked, stressed, uncomfortable and acutely aware that there were quiet moments in which his activity was completely unknown to me. But then something amazing happened. I relaxed. I realized that I could hear him if something happened. I realized that if I had an overwhelming feeling that something was wrong, some fleeting moment of mommy intuition, I could always quietly peek in on him. (Although Micah would argue I am incapable of quietly peeking in, and that my “quiet” is more akin to a herd of elephants stampeding.) But the fact is, when 24/7 video monitoring was no longer an option, I was finally able to relax, to separate, to have a much-needed sliver of “me” time during his naps. Next time around, I’m not quite sure we will get that monitor fixed. I can’t help but wonder, do video monitors actually provide reassurance, or do they actually prevent parents from learning to let go, trust their intuition and take a moment to “turn off” hyper-parenting mode?
2. ELECTRONIC TOYS:
We have like two toys that require batteries and only one of them actually has batteries in it. Yes, I know, we are hippies and have the whole no technology schtick…but, full disclosure, the lack of electronic toys is partly because we are lazy, partly because the sounds they make (while cute at first, are quite irritating after the hundredth time, and super creepy when teddy starts spontaneously talking to himself in the corner at 10pm), and then of course, partly because we made the decision to be screen-free and low tech in our house. Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending no screen time before age 2, manufacturers keep churning out baby gyms and bouncers with iPad attachments. Toys today are like Disneyland on crack. They light up, sing, talk, make noises, move on their own, fly, and are pretty much a step away from living and breathing at this point.
I remember seeing slinky commercials as a kid and thinking “that is the greatest thing EVER!” or going ape shit over some silly putty – that stuff was AMAZING. Sadly, I’m pretty sure if you showed a slinky to a 10-year-old today or gave a 7-year-old some silly putty they would look at you like, “seriously, what did I do to piss you off?” The simple toys of our childhood definitely aren’t at the top of “must have” christmas toy lists. Parents are definitely not going to beat you up on Black Friday in a Walmart parking lot for a My Little Pony and a Skip-it.
I’m not a scientist, doctor, child development specialist or an expert in any way, but I do know that it only makes sense that if you take a child to Disney every weekend and then try to convince him the small town county fair is the bees knees, he’s going to call your bluff. If you give your kids all the bells and whistles from day one, and that is all they are exposed to, they are going to expect that, they get used to it. It just makes sense. Let your kids get bored. Let them chew on a wooden block for an hour. Let them stare at themselves in a mirror. Let them make up the vroom vroom sounds for their cars and push them around on their hands and knees. Let them run around and fly their airplanes, and play make-believe with their teddy bears. Let them be bored out of their minds. That’s where they learn to entertain themselves, be creative, use their imagination. Not to mention you will thank me when instead of hearing “YELLOW STAR YELLOW STAR YELLOW STAR YELLOW STAR” being blasted over and over All. Day. Long. (because they only ever want to press that ONE button), you can put on some music and enjoy the sound of your little one playing happily.
3. TRACKING BABY’S EVERY MOVE APPS:
Now here’s the thing…maybe these help some people. Or maybe they make new parents spend their days obsessed with bodily functions and how many hours of sleep their baby is getting…I think this one is a personal thing. For us it was no bueno. We didn’t even make it out of the hospital correctly tracking diapers and breastfeeding sessions. Micah was in charge of writing these down since I was drugged up and exhausted after my c-section, and when the nurse came in the first day to check the sheet she laughed. Just laughed. Apparently he was supposed to write down the times of day, and what side I fed Avery on. Instead he had just put a check mark, like “Yeah. She did it. WINNING!!” It still makes me laugh thinking about it. Even after she explained how it was supposed to be tracked, she came in the next shift and we still hadn’t gotten it down. Micah, my mom and myself would look at each other and be like “um, yeah, I definitely fed him, like maybe 20 minutes ago? I think. I mean, yeah. I’m sure it was on this side. Or that side. Let’s go with on both sides, 20 minutes ago, with the candlestick in the library – final answer.” When we got home I had at least 5 handy-dandy apps downloaded to help me track feeds, diapers, and sleep. And it all stressed the hell out of me.
The truth is they EAT ALL DAY LONG and when they are done eating THEY SLEEP ALL DAY LONG and in between the eating and the sleeping THEY POOP AND PEE ALL DAY LONG! It’s just what babies do. Once I stopped stressing about needing to track EVERY.SINGLE.THING. my baby did, all so that I could look at some chart and know they are pooping ‘enough’ and eating ‘enough’ and sleeping ‘enough’, I was able to tune out the “charts” and tune in with my baby. I was able to relax and trust that I would know if he was hungry, or full, or tired. I could trust that as long as those dirty diapers kept coming on a regular basis he was getting enough, things were moving through and we were doing just fine. For some women, maybe the charting gives them reassurance that they are doing it “right” (as if there even is a ‘right’), but for me all that fancy technology was just interference in my ability to tune in and trust my body, my baby and my instincts.
4. THE DAMN INTERNET:
I’ve always been a bit of a hypochondriac. (O.K., fine, I’m a complete and total hypochondriac.) I will never forget some of the best advice I got from our pediatrician after Avery was just born – “DON’T GOOGLE.” Truer words have never been spoken to a new parent. As a clueless new mommy your first instinct is google everything. However, you must know, that if you google ANYTHING related to a baby, the answer will always be one of three things: SIDS, Autism or some horrible rare childhood disease that is pretty much eradicated. Seriously, try it. I promise you, google is never the answer – instead do what I do – obsessively call, email and text your pediatrician. Yes, he/she will
think discover you are insane, but you will actually find out most likely whatever you are concerned about is in fact totally normal and most decidedly NOT SIDS, autism or Kawasaki Disease.
In addition to misdiagnosing our children, the internet is a slippery slope of horrible parenting advice. Anyone with a laptop and an opinion can make themselves an ‘expert’ and spew their misguided views on parenting onto the inter-webs for all to read. And each ‘expert’ contradicts the one before. Don’t even get me started on the bloggers. (Yes, I fully realize the irony here – I’m clearly a genius and an exception to this phenomenon.) But seriously, there are a gazillion mommy bloggers, all with a different point of view, all telling us how we should raise our kids. Read with a grain of salt and incredible discretion. Be skeptical and take each nugget of advice and filter it through your own intuition. The internet is an overwhelming dirty little place that when not used wisely can make you think you’re failing as a parent and your child is dying of a rare fatal illness. Don’t go down the rabbit hole.
5. SAY CHEESE!:
Back in the day our parents filled out baby books. Now, there’s an app for that. I think within the first week Avery was alive, I had over a thousand photos of him on my phone. Look, it’s AMAZING to be able to, at any time, be able to capture the insanely adorable things my son does – every coo, every first, every adorable temper tantrum, every silly little dance move, EVERY.SINGLE.THING. But, you have to ask yourself…are you enjoying all those moments? Are you RELISHING in every bit of cuteness. Are you spending more time behind a camera than you are gazing at your little one through your own two eyes? And more importantly, does your little one look over to you full of pride, joy or love and see your beautiful smiling face or a piece of metal and glass? Does your child think an iPhone is attached to your head?
I make a point to put my phone down, and NOT capture every moment, and instead enjoy it firsthand. And, it’s awesome! Now that Avery is older he will actually say “no pikchas no pikchas no pickshaaaaas!” when Micah or I pull out the phone and interrupt his fun. Because he is honest and sees the world through pure eyes, he knows that is what technology is – an interruption, a barrier. When you are spending quality time with your little one, bonding, exploring, laughing, playing and you want to hit the pause button to pull out your camera to “remember that moment” or take a picture to share, don’t. Let yourself have that moment. Let your little one see your eyes unobstructed by a phone or camera. You’ll be glad you did. You will never get that moment back. And I promise the memory in your own mind will be sweeter than any photo you could take. I’m not saying don’t take pictures of your kids – my phone ONLY has pictures of Avery (ok, maybe a couple selfies)…but I do make a point to NOT pick up my phone or camera 95% of the time I spend with him, so that he grows up knowing that life is meant to be lived, experienced and seen firsthand with your eyes unobstructed. I want him to know that when he looks to me for approval, acknowledgement, reassurance, shared joy, or pride – he will see ME, my eyes shining back at him WITHOUT a phone or camera in front of it. Give it a shot, I promise you won’t miss having that 1000th photo.
In general, as a society we are uber-attached to technology. Smart phones, smart watches, smart glasses, smart everything. Perhaps we should take it back a notch, and in our parenting, focus on the basics. Make family time quality time. Quiet the noise and tune out so we can tune into our instincts. Keep it simple.