Wednesday, December 30, 2015

HuffPost Live: Being Mindful of Kids' Screen Time This Holiday Season

We are knee deep into winter vacation and the tug of war between what Phil and I view as acceptable screen time and what the children deem acceptable rages on.

Instinctively, I like to indulge my kids in Minecraft and Mario (within some reasonable boundaries re: time) while I hide somewhere in the house, guilt free, with my own device. But my own personal goal this holiday season was to encourage their own interests and to find places where maybe I could learn to engage on some of this stuff too – learning to play and participate with them. It’s a role shift for me, one where I'm mindful of evolving into more of a digital mentor for my children. My thinking on this point was inspired by a recent article in The Atlantic urging parents to "reject technology shame." For more on this, click here.

Have you had any tech struggles this holiday season? What kinds of gadgets and devices did you buy for your kids? Come join me over at HuffPost Live to discuss navigating the delicate balance this holiday season between our kids and screens.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Almost Eight

Hope is in a phase right now. Frankly, it’s one that I had completely forgotten we’d already visited two times over before. Until I opened that car one chilly December morning to take her out of her car seat and found her barefoot.

She is in the taking off her shoes and socks while we drive phase.

I’d completely erased from my mind that this was ever a thing until I looked down at those pale pink little piggies staring back at me. Of course, Dylan always did this wherever we went. And Ruby too. And how it would frustrate me to have to stop and put back on the shoes and socks every single time no matter how short the trip or how cold the day. It used to annoy me but now, staring down at her feet I realize, whatever moment you’re in never lasts nearly as long as it feels. This is both the most beautiful and terrible thing about any single place in time.

The other day I went back and read through tons of old blog posts, now spanning nearly three years. It was amazing. Less because of what was published where, but especially because of those earlier posts that I wrote – why? Why did I write them? Partly not to lose my sanity. Partly to send out a signal looking for someone else to say, yes I too understand. Partly because I didn’t want to forget.

But I did. You do. I forgot what those early snow days were like, I forgot the moments of shopping in the grocery store in our pajamas and princess costumes. Inevitably you do leave the sleepless nights and the painfully early mornings. But you leave those other little moments too. Like most things, you never know when your last shoeless ride will be your last. But one day it just is. One day they are older. And so are you.

Tomorrow you are eight. EIGHT. How can this be?

Eight years ago at this exact moment I was 36 hours into the induction that wasn’t, certain that this was as hard as mothering was ever going to get. It’s almost laughable to think back on it now. I was so impatient to move past that moment in time, to rush through the end of being pregnant with you that I pushed for an induction when you were so clearly not ready. In hindsight, neither was I.

And now you about to turn eight. I am terrified that if I don’t write some of it down you won’t remember and neither will I. Every year I busy myself with holiday cards and Hanukkah presents and birthday parties. Every year I strive to just get through this place in time. But it occurred to me that one day sooner than I’d like they’ll be nothing to rush through. Perhaps I busy myself to not become overwhelmed with how emotional this time is for me, to not help but go back to that place in my mind’s eye when we were both so much younger. When your grandmother showed me how to hold you and give you your first bath. Don’t get me wrong. Things weren’t necessarily better back then. They were just different. It’s a space I both long and fear to travel each December. Back to your new wrinkled self and her arms and my own wonderfully stupid young mothered self.

Each year I rush through it and now the eighth night of Hanukkah is upon us. Your 8th birthday is nearly in the books. We’ll celebrate your sister today and I’ve got her cake in the oven. There are a million things to do but I’m here in my bathrobe with my laptop and coffee writing it down so we don’t forget.

You love Pok√©mon and Gravity Falls and Football. You are amazing at video games. You love Minecraft. I am buying you less and less toys each year. I guess you are playing with less stuff. But you love a good game of pickup basketball, baseball or football. You’ll go throw the ball around any old time. You love cards just like your Dad. You are great at remembering the rules of all of the games and get mad at me when I forget all the different games. You love to read like I always did and when I see you curled up in my chair with a good book and my face, I can’t help but narcissistically see my own little self curled up right there. You are reading The Hardy Boys right now. You love rules and order. In this way you are like me I suppose. You are afraid to step out of bounds and that’s not necessarily bad. Although it’s taken me most of my life to realize that it’s okay to challenge them once in a while. It’s okay to go on to the fifth book if you haven’t read the fourth. It’s okay.

You love to organize stuff and this you most certainly get from your Dad. You have to have everything on your desk a certain way. I appreciate that. I’m even envious. Your desk has two Lego Minecraft sets, your baseball trophies, and your Jets page a day calendar that you got for Hanukkah, and your football proudly displayed in the corner. It also has a picture of you and your sister that you keep taking down but I keep putting it back up. No matter how much you fight, you need each other in your lives (and on your desks).

Even though you are eight, you still like to creep into our room and our bed if only for a moment early in the morning. I admit when you were so little and we were so exhausted we didn’t always enjoy this. But now when I feel your cold toes and the way you lean into my warmth, I welcome it. I know we are on the other side of that hill. It won’t be too long now, I’m sure, before you’re too big for that. When that time comes, I’ll have to find another way for us to lean into each other.

I heard the weatherman say this morning that for the first time since December 25, 1977, there would be a full moon on Christmas Day. A cold moon he called it. The last time this happened, my mother was 33 years old. She had a 6 year old, a 5 year old, and a 3 month old. I was that baby. Time moves just like that. Doesn’t it now? We’re all seemingly just hurtling through space pretending actually to make sense of any of it. But really we’ll blink and it will be the next cold moon, December 25, 2034. I’ll be 57. And I’ll have a 27 year old, a 25 year old and an almost 21 year old. It seems best not to rush.

So the cake’s ready and I’ll leave it a bit. Sometimes you need to let things set and cool. Happy almost 8th Dylan. I won’t ask you to slow any of it down. Just don’t forget.