My kids and I were recently on a nature walk. When my daughter has dance lessons, there’s a lovely walking trail nearby and it’s something to look forward to on long nights of waiting for her to be finished. The weather has been really cooperative lately.
The trail lies next to a railroad track so while you’re supposed to walk on the actual trail part, my kids like to walk on the railroad itself. Hence, a lot of looking down so they either don’t fall off the rail, or trip on the old wooden slats. Naomi was taking her good-ole time walking on the rail so I stopped my walking to wait for her.
Maybe it was because it was a beautiful day. Maybe it was the clear sky. Maybe it was for no reason at all. But I looked up into the trees.
It was a strange feeling as I looked up. It was difficult to have my head leaned back as it wasn’t all that comfortable. And yet, I was mesmerized by the sight. Trees extending up, leaf colors yet unchanged but stretching as high as they could go. Branches bent in different angles. And, a huge bird’s nest!
I called the kids over. We are studying birds so I knew they’d get a kick out of seeing a nest, even though it was way too high to really see it. Suddenly, Micah was like, “there’s another one.” And then we found a third. We spent the next 10 minutes or so, walking and looking up and found 15 large birds nests high in the trees. Who knew there’d be so many? And they were so easy to spot, we simply had to look up.
It got me thinking a bit about how easy it is in motherhood to forget to look up. Everything requires me to look down. My kids are shorter than me (although gaining ground quickly) so if they’re talking to me, my head is down. Arms reach up to be held. I’m making dinner and chopping and looking down. We might do school work where I’m looking down over their paper. We read books and look down. I look down and see toys and laundry to be picked up.
And yet there’s another distraction to be had that requires looking down. You know…ahem.
It starts with a ‘ph’ and ends with ‘one.’
I had a lot of ‘distractions’ writing this post. Likely because I didn’t want to. Because it would mean having to admit that I sometimes have a problem with that particular distraction.
I often wonder if motherhood had distractions before phones existed. I guess there probably were but I think they were easier to avoid. It’s amazing how a simple device can hold so much distraction.
Social media. Apps. News outlets. Social media.
Even though I don’t have notifications on my phone, I’ve noticed how easy it is to pick it up. Do a quick check and see whatever I feel like seeing. A quick IG scan. A quick FB scan. A quick news check. A quick check to my email.
But I’m finding that even in the quick checks, it does something in my heart.
Even the quick checks get my mind distracted. It might be a piece of news or something I quickly read that someone posted. It might be a photo of something really lovely or a quote I want to remember and write down. It might be a recipe that I want to look up or a place to visit I need to check out. And so those quick checks end up taking away time in my head and time where I now need to later go back. But then in my distraction, I just want to do it now and cross that off my list.
If I get distracted by something going on with my Poofy business or my blog itself, suddenly I want to take care of it “right now” instead of doing something important. Not that work isn’t important but there’s a time and place to take care of it. But just those quick clicks and little glances can lead to more quick glances and little clicks. Texting? I can easily get into a texting conversation, although that’s not a daily thing. Afraid I’ll miss something? Sometimes, I guess if I’m honest, yes.
When the something I don’t want to miss out on is right in front of me.
They are not the distraction. They are the main event.
I find myself asking them to “hold on” or “wait a second” when really, the things I’m doing are the things that can wait.
I’m not sure how it got to this point, honestly. I don’t even feel like I’m on my phone all that much. Until I stop and think about it and realize I guess I am. I write a lot about living small. And I feel like in general, I do live small. But sometimes. Sometimes, the distractions take on a new direction and it doesn’t take much for the small living to become harder to focus on.
I don’t want my kids to see me on the phone all the time and think that’s what’s so important to me. And the truth is, sometimes I’m checking email or doing something for my business, or reading a blog or doing something that isn’t wasting time. But if I’m doing it on the phone itself and the kids might think that I’m actually just doing something fun instead. Because they see the phone more as a fun tool than a working or helpful one.
Let me say too. I’m happy that smartphones were invented in that they are handy and getting information quickly is amazing at times. I love some aspects of social media in terms of making connections with other mamas. Having a handy camera all the time! Yes, please! I don’t think in and of themselves phones are a bad thing. But it’s the distractive nature of phones can lead to a bigger distraction in my heart.
I can read information quickly and read lots of sources of information quickly and feel like I’ve learned a lot in just a few minutes. But sometimes it feels like my brain is on overload, constantly jumping from one piece of information to the next, trying to process it all at once. What results is that in the quiet time, when I should be “looking up,” I find my brain is a jumbled mess, jumping from one distracted piece of information to the next.
But if I want peace. And if I want a break from the distraction. And if I want my brain to stop jumping all over the place, I need to look up. Because looking up takes my eyes off of the world, off of the noise, off of the distractions, and forces me to focus. Looking up means really seeing my children. Letting them know they are the most important work in front of me.
When you look up, you see a new perspective. You’re not used to it and so you notice things you don’t normally see. Looking up to me isn’t just a directional thing, it’s a purposeful thing. It means looking at my kids faces without distractions in my heart and mind. It means focusing on a game when we play or a book when we read without the distractions. It means being present. I can’t be present with my kids when my brain is thinking of something else. And I find the days when I’m not on information overload, I’m so much more able to focus on them.
Looking up means saying yes to the crick in your neck and no to the phone, no to the distractions.
So here are a few things I’m doing to eliminate the distractions and look up.
- Use the computer more than the phone. If I’m doing work (school planning, recipe searching, blogging, Poofy, etc…), my plan is to use the computer. Then the kids know I’m not just using the phone for something “fun” but it’s work I need to do.
- Set aside certain times of the day for screens. Glancing here and there may seem harmless but it adds up. Let the kids know that I need a half hour or hour to do work and then explain what it is so they realize it’s something I do need to get done.
- Turn the phone off. We don’t have a home phone so I don’t like it to be completely off just in case of an emergency or something. But putting it in a drawer or cupboard so it’s out of the way is helpful.
I want to make sure my kids know that they are my number one. Not the screen. Screens are a part of life and they can be a fun part of life, but I have to guard my heart with what I see and how much time I allow for that.
How about you? How do you fight against the distractions of media?