Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Hustle and the Bustle

It is early but not that early. I roll over to greet my husband and then remember he is away on a business trip. He is not there. I say good morning to my phone. It greets me with its both incredibly satisfying yet intensely irritating round of clicks and beeps as I sift through a range of mostly useless information. Top stories on CNN, weather, TMZ, FB. I’m clearly checking everything of vital national importance. At the same time not too far down the hall, Ruby is just waking up. As she does, she hears the far away sound of my AM click click clicking. “Mom, what is that sound?” And just like that I’ve thrust her into this chaotic busy technologically savvy everyone’s checking everyone’s connected world before her poor little two year old body has had a chance to fully crank open her eyelids and greet the morning sun.

I feel like a jerk and a hypocrite. I always said I would never be one of those people and here I was – checking my phone before I checked on my husband or my kids or me. Was I still here? Who knew – but what was the latest on Lindsay Lohan? Ridiculousness. I feel like people talk a lot lately about how busy and noisy and hyper kids are today but the more I watch them, it’s not the kids that are changing – it’s us, the alleged grown-ups. I tell them to be quiet and listen and focus but on any given moment, am I modeling any of those things for them? I mean I really find myself wondering, if I completely fell off the grid and gave up a cell phone and the computer and forced myself to actually sit down and make a phone call or write a letter and do so with intention and thoughtfulness, my increasingly disturbing suspicion is that I would be far more connected to what is real and what matters, and be able to sort more appropriately in my brain what doesn’t.
Last year we rented a place in NJ when Phil took a new role at his company. In NJ, the kids went to a small preschool at an even smaller synagogue. On any given morning when you went to drop them off, the synagogue was quiet. There were maybe a few congregants and workers shuffling around: lots of love, little bustle. This year back in CT, we are at the JCC. And it is great. It’s a completely different experience but they have lovely teachers and friends and are truly having a great year. But on a whole different level, I can’t help but think how much more busy and noisy their lives are just by being in the bustling center every day. It’s a community center and it should be busy with craft shows and classes and workouts and play and theatre and school and the cafĂ© and all of the stuff that draws a lot of people from a lot of places. And I look at them running through the center and they seem so happy and busy and bustling themselves.

But I worry that amid all of the bustle they are losing this other part of themselves, the quiet part, the focused part, the part that can open their eyes without requesting to play the cookie game app on the ipad and watch Sesame Street at the same time before they’ve either peed or said good morning to me or Phil. They are learning to multi-task at the tender ages of 2 and 4. Which I suspect most people would tell me is a good thing for them to learn at an early age but I worry that they are increasingly losing the ability to single task. To listen, to think and to be in one place, one thought or one moment without interruption. Even more than that, I worry that I myself have already lost that ability. I am losing the present for the many and the silly and I am teaching them bad stuff. I can’t even do two things at once like play superheros and check Facebook: I have to do at least three things at once including play superheros, check Facebook, and silently berate myself for losing focus and teaching bad habits. Without question, I am multi-tasking at its least attractive level.
Ruby is going through my nightstand again. She comes across a set of DVDs my father made for me of our old home movies. She requests to watch one. I put it on and notice she looks worried. “Mommy it is not working. There is no sound.” I explain that the old movies were literally just moving pictures or images, no words to go with them. Nothing but the recorded tick tick tick of the old reel. She looks puzzled, and then accepting. And for the next 40 minutes she watches a movie largely of people she doesn’t know or may not recognize. There is no sound. I am so impressed with her ability to stick with it. I think more on all the business and noise on her life. It is not her seeking it out or needing it. It is me.

And so I am resolving not too withdraw but attempt to do one thing, whatever that one thing is, at any one time. It sounds relatively simple, but has become remarkably hard for me to do. I am learning to make my children wait more. I help one, then the other. Or perhaps even more shocking, I might help myself first. When I am playing superheros and princesses, I resolve to fully be in character in that moment. And when I am reading garbage on TMZ, I intend to do only that and furtively enjoy it while I make innocuous comments to Phil about the market that make him think I am reading something more nutritionally sound.
Or maybe I just need to stop sleeping with my smartphone. Baby steps Jenn….baby steps….

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