"Mommy, higher, higher!" my daughter begged. "One second My Love, I just need to send this message" as I responded, with one hand pushing her on the swing and the other speed typing away on my iPhone. "Push me with both hands, Mommy!" "Just another second, Mama's almost done with this email." "Both hands, both hands!" Going as high as she was going I hadn't yet understood why she constantly insisted on my second hand?
Besides, it was out of my control, as in this moment the Multi-tasking Queen Mommy had officially taken over; Superwoman had entered the building and time was of the essence. Within a matter of seconds, I found myself using my four ounce powerful weapon, deceivingly labeled a "cell phone," to check nearly all my items off my to-do list. I was sucked in to the dangerous rectangular vortex called a "screen" and I was unstoppable- restocking the kids spring wardrobe via gap.com, grocery shopping through Amazon Fresh, coordinating the next play-date with moms on What's App, reviewing a recipe for tonight's dinner, all while still finding a free hand to send my daughter soaring high on the swing. It seemed as though there was nothing I couldn't achieve with my handy gadget by my side, absolutely nothing- or so I thought.
In the midst of conquering the world, my battery reached the end of it's life and my cell phone was officially dead. You know you're an addicted cell phone junkie when that sense of desperation kicks in and you even consider administering mouth to mouth resuscitation on your phone, with the hopes of bringing you back just a quarter of a bar of battery juice. In no time the withdrawal symptoms began to kick in- it was just me and my daughter at the park with no other connection to the outside world. Suddenly, Queen Mommy had been summoned back to her castle, Superwoman's cape had been ripped off me and there I stood feeling deeply inefficient and utterly unproductive.
I couldn't help but think this is how it must have been when my parents took me to the park as a child. My goodness, how did they do this? How did they raise us children so deprived of the many resources we depend on today to keep our lives going? How did they just stand here and push us on the swings and do absolutely nothing else?
Well, I did just that, after all there was nothing more I could do than just be with my daughter and push her with both hands- nothing more, I soon noticed, than everything she ever wanted. I saw her awe, her amazement, her glow- and then it hit me. Would I have ever seen any of this had my phone not died? It was like my second hand gave her an entire world and gave me the focus to notice it. It was at this point I realized it wasn't the physical elevation she wanted in asking for both my hands, it was the emotional. She wanted to know mommy was fully present, fully in the moment, fully with her. Even if for a few sweet moments, she wanted to know she no longer had to compete with Siri for my attention.
She wanted my eyes to lock in with hers and watch them glitter as she experienced the wonder of the world. She wanted me to see her excitement as she went higher and higher and to imagine with her we were birds flying up in the sky. She wanted me to feel her passion for the outdoors as she gratefully closed her eyes and took in every breeze that passed. She wanted me to feel proud as she showed me how she knows to kick her legs forward going up and pull them back coming down. In the end it turns out, she didn't want my actions- she wanted my presence. At which point, child expert Daniel Siegel's quote raced to my mind, "When we are too busy doing things for our children, we forget how important it is to simply be with them."
Humility struck me like a ton of bricks. While I was sure I was doing all my online errands for her, ordering her cute clothes and setting up fun dates for her, her eyes told me all she wanted in that moment was me. Even more than anything else I could do for her, she wanted me to be there with her.
I closed my eyes and thanked Gd that my cell phone died that beautiful afternoon.
It was in this moment when I discovered our perceptions of our "deprived" parents' generation couldn't be further away from the truth. While they may have walked ten miles in six feet of snow to get to school, or actually did math the unimaginably long way without using calculators, our parents lacked nothing and in fact had everything. Because what they had then is considered today the rarest of all commodities, something you can't have delivered to your doorstep by any website nor something for which you can't even make an app in our high tech society- they had presence. Because they had none of the distractions we call "resources" they were completely and simply in the moment. They parented us with nothing beyond their full attention, nothing less than what every kid wants- both hands.
And when all you have is the moment something powerful arises from deep within, something our generation unfortunately never truly developed: an inner voice. Today, when we have online parenting groups, instant access to healthcare experts, internet diagnoses, and wikipedia to explain virtually anything we could possibly imagine, we have lost the the art of knocking on our own intuitions door and waiting in silence for the answer. We lost that with which our parents were so naturally blessed- gut instinct.
And so while we sense we have everything we still surprisingly feel we know nothing. Because what our parents had can't be tought- they had the awareness that the very moment they were in was the most important. While they didn't have an iPad to throw in our face to distract us as they shopped at the local store, or an app to tell them what developmental milestone to expect this week, they learned lessons in each instant along with us. In their humility, they knew we children would be their best teachers. They knew that each second with your children will never return and that time will pass by much too quickly. They knew that, as small children, we would never again look at them with such adoration and sheer admiration. They instinctively knew that parents will never again mean so much to their children as they do in their beginning years- we will never again be their entire world, their entire universe- we will never again be their everything. They lived fully present with us- a virtue proving to be indeed the most efficient use of a parent's time.
I can't help but imagine how much more fun we had at the park in the "good old days" than our kids do today. I can't help but imagine how rewarding it must have been as a child to have your parent reply after calling their name out just once, rather than waiting three or four times as they muster the strength to rip their glued eyes from their hand held screens. And with parents using both hands to push, I can't help but imagine how much higher the swings must have swung.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am not a famous author, a world renowned psychologist, nor am I a child expert of any sort. I am simply a mother who is going through many of parenting's joys and pains,successes and failures, while documenting the journey as I go along. My intention is not so much to offer advice as it is to make parents everywhere know that they are not alone- their experiences are universal and, if nothing else, that their feelings are heard and appreciated.