Thursday, January 7, 2010

Being Present Means Facebook Can Wait

Ah technology, blessing or curse? For a more than slightly obsessive compulsive personality like mine, I'm thinking it can be a curse if not kept in perspective. I am reading a parenting book presently that talks about raising a spirited kid. I don't know that my toddler is necessarily "spirited" or just a toddler, but I'll take ideas anywhere I can get them. That's my way of tackling a problem, I research it from many angles and try to apply the best solution to fit the challenge.

The book speaks about the differences between introverted spirited children and extroverted spirited children, and asks the reader/parent to assess themselves as well. I was shocked to find that I would be classified as an extrovert. I know some people may say, "duh," but you have to understand that although I may not be at a loss for words in a venue such as this (which is why I write), in person one on one I'm not the most graceful conversationalist, shall we say. I associate an extrovert as someone who is the life of the room when they enter it. What was illuminating from this author was her definition of an extrovert as a person who draws their energy from being around others, whereas an introvert actually draws their energy by being more solitary. Aha, lightbulb city!

Making the transition from seeing literally dozens of people a day in my prior career life to being home with small children was tough for me in part because, it turns out that I need to be out and interacting with other people; It does actually energize me. Even the pain of my social awkwardness can not keep me from putting myself out there, because I need to connect.

Which brings me to Facebook and Twitter. You know where I'm going with this, right? How much time do you spend interacting with others on social networks? I fear too much for me personally. I worry it can cut into my relationship with my husband, my self care in the form of accomplishing the endless little details of running my family's life that keep me feeling balanced and accomplished (remember those endless lists I'm so fond of), and also for me the most shameful of all, my parenting.

Recently the blogosphere was on fire with the controversy about a work at home mother, very active on social networks, who lost her toddler in a tragic drowning accident in the family pool. Her extremely active interaction in social media while caring for small children at home drew sharp criticism as a contributing factor to her loss. I recoiled at that group that wanted to blame her for not watching her young child every single second to avert that disaster, because it could have just as easily been a case of making any number of split second errors in judgment such as zipping out to put a load of laundry in, grab a glass of water, etc. We all walk this tricky line every day.

But, I also saw their point. Social media can be consuming and addictive, and in the case of being alone with small people that are extremely needy, and not the most brilliant conversationalists, social media connection feels like a life preserver. It's nice to be heard, and it's nice to know you aren't alone going through it. But when the connection of others outside of your home becomes more important than those inside your home, you've got a problem.

This lesson came home for me today. I took my spirited toddler to run some energy off at the park. For various reasons I chose to revisit a park that has been a difficult park for us in the past because it has a lot of very tempting water. It has been a very long while since we had gone, and I decided that it was time to try again. Having my infant with me, makes this a tricky proposition under the best of circumstances, but I like to push myself to tackle challenges that scare me head on. (Another surprising thing I learned about myself as a parent actually) Well, while we did MUCH better than we have in the past, there were still plenty of stressful moments and my frustration with my son was aching for venting. So, I reached for my I-Phone... for about a second. When I realized that I was about to take to my social network to express how I wondered if I would ever have a time with my son when I felt that I didn't need to be right next to him to avert certain disaster, I realized I was about to take my attention away from my son, perhaps opening us up to that very disaster. I put the phone right back in my pocket, and trailed after a little piece of my heart who needs me to make better decisions about who needed my attention most at that moment. Venting could wait, he could not.

Score a victory today in my goal this year to be more present and in the moment for my family.

Photo courtesy of Matt Hamm

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