A post on parenting. The perils and celebrations of it all. And the battle against screen time and lost connection with one another.
I wrote a letter to my son this morning. The letter was a product of hearing a hard truth awhile back, the truth that sometimes it feels to him like I’m not listening. That makes sense, because listening is a lot of my job during the day. Being present for other people is what I do. And when I get home I’m fortunate enough to have a clan of people also clambering for my attention. Burden? I think not, but sometimes it comes across like that. This means some work needs to be done.
The particular topic at hand here is if he can have his computer back. He wanted time to talk about it, and I wanted to not do any more therapy for the evening. Clash. We have learned in our home that over-tired is not the time to try for a family meeting. Which sadly for a long time were more like mommy bitch fests. Eeek. That’s a hard one to sit in.
The good news!? If you are brave enough to look at the hard truth at times, and find love and compassion for yourself, then you can do better. I am always trying to do better. Not type A better, but deep seeded repeating of painful patterns and behavior from how I was parented, better. We so easily and unconsciously end up parenting how we were parented. Even with a staunch commitment to doing the opposite. We can even believe because of our intention we are doing different, when inevitably some of those wired in behaviors are happening. This is a whole other post I suppose.
This summer we have been battling screen time (of many varieties) in this home. I noticed that mindless scrolling was leading to poor interactions between one another. That our priorities were all out of whack. Scrolling Instagram and cute videos became our focus. Just another dopamine hit mom please. As bad if not worse as any drug that has ever been made. And the proof is in the behavior particularly when said activity is removed. Suddenly family time felt like an inconvenience too. And that’s when I knew we were in trouble.
Now changing habits such as these are not for the faint of heart. They take constant effort and vigilance and for ourselves the parents to be accountable as well. If you’re thinking with all the demands of life today that that is just too much then you’re normal. But the proof in the theory and the effort is in what happens when you hold to your kids reading rather than binge watching a season of something and see the changes with your own eyes.
I think the saddest part is that originally this change was framed as grounding, as in a punishment. So the kids feel they are being punished. When what really happened was wanting to not go directly back to the terrible habit that made us treat each other so poorly. When the toxin gets entirely out of the system suddenly we returned to our normal selves. We could stop dreaming of perfect abs, mansions, becoming rich and successful just be being noticed, vacations, cute proposals, the list goes on and on.
Escapism. And why would we want to escape our lives? Well for a thousand fears I am sure. We are over worked and under connected in this time and in this place, and I want to change that in our family. If you can’t beat them join em’ is a powerful drug for me though. Always seeking belonging. I want to just emulate what I see in people I feel close to. So if I’m hanging out with friends who have all their devices going and think it looks so cool, all that technology, then I am more likely to think it’s ok. To not see it for the enemy it is. Substance abuse is similar right ?! If you find that group you feel you belong in, it’s more powerful than reality or truth. Belonging takes the lead.
I wish for our family that our hearts belong to communication with one another and to connection. Not dreaming about a future time when we have more or less of something. But that we feel as rich as we will ever be right now. This right now could be my happiest life. We rarely stop anymore to know what or when that is.
So for good reason right now we are concerned about giving my son his computer back. So yesterday he attempted to stage a coup. He felt it was an injustice he has been working so hard and not been recognized for his efforts. When it was never about that, it was about the fear of things going back to such an unhealthy state. Staring into that screen until 4 am regardless of the cost to the next day or our relationships in this home.
So I am just sitting here this morning reflecting on the root of the argument which was him thinking I don’t see him for his good, that I’m always just focused on his behavior as bad. Loving does not always translate as loving when it comes to parenting, and as someone who often didn’t feel loved, I am committed to cracking this code.
So for now I’ll leave you with this mornings letter I wrote to him. When I first started writing my kids I felt “like a weirdo”, but as I thought about it more and more, if I let them into my process see what it takes to truly weigh options and try to come up with a fair and effective choice, that they can develop empathy as well as know that I am spending the time I am not with them considering myself as a parent. I don’t know what’s more loving than that?! It certainly takes the guessing out of am I loved. At least from my lens.
I’ve had to argue with myself a lot as in my day children were never permitted behind the curtain. Separation was essential for them to know their role. So I tried that for a long time, but as they become older, and I become more human: I believe the importance in what is modeled to be the most invaluable source. So here is me modeling sharing my out-loud process.
I’m still thinking about all this this morning. You and I need to come up with a weekly “date” where we focus on nothing else but catching up. Funny how it’s so easy to make time like that for other people but because of our roles we let that slip. I noticed this am that I miss you. That I’m doing it again. Not listening when you talk. I didn’t listen enough last night. My best time is in the morning. By night after a client day I am toast and here we are in summer not utilizing that at all.
We could only need one hour a week of full presence to be close yet I let it go weeks and weeks and then we collide in some fight. Probably mostly because we miss each other.
I’m always proud of you Tyler. I always believe in you more than anything. I don’t always know what’s best of all the choices as far as parenting, but know that I’m trying to give you what I didn’t have. I’m trying to do my best.
What is most healing about Courtney is she is so generous with me. She’s never suspicious of my character or that things will fall apart. She never doubts us, this family, and that is so warm that I want to work so hard at being my best self.
I want to create that set up in this home. That you’re so well loved here, that you are successful because of all that warmth you’re wrapped in. Not beating yourself into action or out of it. Not so controlled that you learn to not trust in your own power and worth.
I love you with my whole heart. It’s family day today. So get up and get your dishes done and let’s schedule our weekly date always ok. For the rest of forever, even on the phone. Just like my morning writing it takes developing a habit to keep something consistent and it’s damn hard, but this is well worth it.
You’re the best son a mother could have and I never mean me trying to keep you healthy to go across different than that. If it is we need to tweak some things.
I love you….