I snapped this photo a couple weeks back and have been sitting on this post ever since, in part due to sheer busyness as we tackle our routine down for the school year and in part due to uncertainty of how to say this.
This was a hard moment for me as a mother. I have sided with the limited screen time rules for my early years as a mother and our one family tablet has been pulled out only for long plane rides or car trips. I loved growing up before the digital age truly hit and want my children to know the joy of grass on their bare feet and creations built by hand prior to knowing the thrill of a virtual chase. I have set boundaries and been intentional in maintaining these goals; our time in waiting rooms and at restaurants is spent with coloring pads and goofy jokes. To be honest this can mean more tears at times. Use of technology in public bears a “damned if you, damned if you don’t” title in this generation. Many restaurant goers are irritated if children speak and act as if they are, you know, there and others will judge you if you use technology to keep them quiet.
This shrugging off of others expectations becomes a normal habit early on in child-rearing. The realization that you will never please all of the voices and that you just have to do the best with the cards handed to you. I’ve mostly realized that and made my peace with it. There is only one person whose expectations are still rather painful to shrug off and that is my own.
I’ve enjoyed our non-tablet household for the past 5-ish years and would have been happy to continue on that way if we were absolutely certain about our school plans. If I knew I would be schooling children at home for the foreseeable future, then I would wait longer on tablet play. However, I try to hold my plans loosely. I know I want to raise kids who love God and love his people and will fight for those and try to maintain order for their benefit and clarity. Aside from that, however, I am reluctant to use “always” and “never” statements. So my children may find themselves in a public learning environment come Kindergarten and the reality is, that will mean screen time use. It is part of the fabric of our modern lives and my children will need to know how to deal with it well.
It is hard for me, because I tend to romanticize the past and want to stop the world turning so quickly for my kids. I want to give them the fun aspects of my own childhood and let them stay little longer, but I need to make peace with the cards I have been dealt. Technology is one of those cards. We are still being careful and limited. Half an hour, maximum, a day and I am right beside him, often doing my own computer work and available for questions. I’m allowing him the opportunity to familiarize himself with it and how to properly use the touch screen. Which, you know, is made more difficult by holding the device with your toes. Oh, my goofy boy.
I guess that is what I need to remind myself of, and I wanted to remind you too, that we will have to do somethings differently than our parents because of the world our kids live in and that is okay. It doesn’t mean a lack of respect or that all of their advice is archaic. Some of my absolute best advice has been from women with grown children. I’ll admit sometimes I do feel there is an amnesia that overtakes them when discussing the joys of the early years, as if the tantrums and sleeplessness didn’t exist. You know what though…I want some of that. I believe what we focus on is what we remember and I hope I remember the beautiful moments more than the hard ones when my babies are grown.
We want to set our kids up for success and to teach them the value of hard work and wading through the muck. I want my children to know the joy of building something with their own two hands…. and they do.
I love watching them dig in the dirt and run in our grass.
I want them to pick berries off a bush and hike to a mountain stream….and they do.
It doesn’t have to be either/or. We want to give them their best shot at this world, at the tangible beauty of nature, the reverence for its creator, compassion for humanity, and the logistics to be successful.
Maybe technology isn’t the struggle for you. Maybe you have made your peace with it, but there are others areas where you wish the world would slow down for your children. Perhaps you don’t struggle, but others around you seem to. Your children’s grandparents weigh in and can’t grasp why you are making these decisions.
Motherhood is hard and I think for our parents it can be hard to see us doing these things so differently, it feels like we are rejecting our upbringing or telling them that they did it wrong. It makes me worry that mom guilt never truly goes away. Then again, it might be the very thing that unifies us.
So much has changed; car seat safety information, allergy testing and nutrition practices, mental health awareness, the overwhelming exposure to screens. In many ways we are raising our children in a totally different world, but we still want the same basic things.
I’m fortunate to have a good relationship with my parents and in-laws. I recognize that there is a blessing of opportunity there and am so thankful for the respect that they give me and the way they encourage my motherhood and marriage. I don’t take it for granted and I realize it is a two-way street so there are some things that I do to try to keep the mutual respect flowing.
I realize the things that we do have in common; that we are all anxious to see the fruits of our effort. That we love our children so much that it physically hurts and we are wading through pools of information, trying our best with Christ at the helm (when we remember our place, that is).
I recognize that they might not understand the current car seat regulations and some of the things I worry about, but they do know what it is like to be exhausted beyond belief. They do know what it is like to wonder if you have what it takes. They can have great advice on making room for marriage in the midst of the craziness or on managing sibling relationships.
Here is a little freebie from my mother:
“If you worry that the kids are going to kill each other, give them an ‘unfair’ list of chores and they’ll bond in their mutual distaste for you instead.”
I mean, it does work.
We are unified in our worries and our joys. We are unified in the challenges and confusion. We are all trying to do our best with the myriad of information coming at us and we do better when we recognize what we do have in common.
When I am willing to receive advice about the things that we do share, it is easier for them to understand when the choices I make differ. When the conversation flows freely and I’m honest about what goes into my decisions, there is more grace for all of us.
We bear more fruit in community, and we do better in community when we manage our expectation of ourselves and others. When we see the advice as a helpful tool or an opportunity to remember their own motherhood, and not an attack on us. When we see that different decisions can be made for valid reasons and that we are all united in trying our best. It is so great to see the things that haven’t changed and to witness a mother’s love that truly stands the test of time.