Enough Stimulation?

Enough Stimulation?

Heidi’s recent post about screen time is important and very relevant to me.

I’ve been thinking of getting rid of our wireless connection. It was actually a New Year’s resolution, but in January, I was in no way resolute.

On a whim, I suggested it to my husband. It was a light suggestion, more of a hopeful wish than a practical idea. February came, and new year energy dissipated.

My hypocrisy as a parent got me more interested. Raised by energetic disciplinarians, I am a tireless enforcer of rules for my children, one of which is “too much screen time is BAD.” Since we don’t have a TV, we rarely had issues with this, until the iPad made its way into our home.

Don’t get the wrong idea; my kids don’t know that the iPad has games. No, it has carefully been explained that the iPad is for mom’s “work”. And as the months stretched on, I’ve been doing more “work” at home.

My sweet children are young, but they are no fools. They noticed what was happening. My son, on more than one occasion, said, “Mom, that is TOO much screen time for you.” I quickly responded, “I read A LOT” and that “My brain is already developed, and so the screen time doesn’t extend to me.” When your eight-year-old son looks at you with pity, it’s time for a change.

I say to my husband, “Let’s get rid of wireless…” and fear creeps in, changing that to “maybe we should test it for a few days…”

Test it as in it won’t work out. Because, I still do not want to commit.

Yet, I’m worried about its infestation into my life. I’m worried about my children remembering me as a distracted person, physically present but rarely attentive. I’m worried that I’m training them to escape the moment and that is becoming what’s normal for them. I see this everywhere now. People at the park, on their phones. People at restaurants, at movies, at games, all on their phones. Did you notice all the Super Bowl commercials that featured people “together” who were totally distracted by their phones? I counted three, and I didn’t even watch past half time. Is this the new norm?

I’m also worried about being a distracted wife.

My husband and I, years ago, began getting up at 5 am to have coffee. This was provoked by two events. The first was the arrival of our two children and our new interrupted life. The second was a study I read that married people with kids spend less than 12 minutes a day talking to each other. Considering the fact that 6-7 minutes must be practical exchanges of information about daily life, it meant that these life partners spoke personally only about 5 minutes a day. This is a disturbing thought to me, because how then do we connect?

And so years ago, we began to get up early, and we loved our quiet time. We are both morning people, so it works. We loved the quiet, the lack of interruption, the strong hot coffee, and we loved talking to each other.

Then came the iPad (for work!). It should be noted that I don’t even access the fullness of what the device offers, yet its impact is immediate. The access to constant stimulation and escape is intoxicating. My sudden attachment to Blogs! Pandora! Podcasts! (Should I mention Netflix?) is strong.

This wave of information, entertainment, and escape, infiltrated my marriage, but my husband is a quick resister. He was and is always committed to saving me from the quicksand I so often walk into. Frequently, while I was on my iPad, he would ask, “Do you need to do that now?” Now need is a strange word. Logically, I know the answer is supposed to be “No”, but the strange quality of the iPad is that whatever I’m doing seems important, crucial even, at the time. However, I do love my husband and did always respond to his displeasure, and in this way, for a short time, he saved me from myself.

His resistance abruptly ended when the iPod touch arrived. The fact that he didn’t choose it made it all the more insidious. My kids won it in a church raffle. Of course, remember, “too much screen time is BAD,” (for kids) and we are “good” parents, so my husband took quick possession of it—or the other way around. For as swift as my iPad current swept me up, the iPod Touch engulfed my husband, maybe even more quickly, because it is equally mesmerizing, but also handheld.

Now we wake up drink our coffee and interact with our devices. Sometimes, we “share” our information, but mostly we don’t. It is still quiet, but the interruptions are there constantly, hidden, just virtual. We are in the quicksand, and it feels warm and comfortable. I don’ know that we even know what we are losing (isn’t that always the way?), but the sinking feeling is there.

And now I’m ready. I’m resolute, decided on the experiment.  I want to see if I can be more deliberate in my attention to people, things and ideas. I want to see if I can seek out stimulation consciously, not continually. But the truth is I’m afraid. Because wireless is a connection to a certain stimulation. I fear the loss of this promise of constant escape, the elicser of stimulation accessed so quickly. I fear the feeling of being “disconnected” to people and information even as it is virtual. But, I’m most afraid to find that the wireless isn’t really the problem.

My hope is for greater connection moment to moment. I hope to practice being present, more alive and attentive to the stimulating environment I’m already living in.  I guess I just wish to pay attention to the things that matter to me.

  • Ellie Roscher

    Yay! How is the challenge going?

  • Bridget Manley Mayer

    Oh, I am full of warmth and admiration after reading that post. Tom and I have been struggling with this balance as well. Let’s discuss more! Way to swim against the tide!