I recently had a situation in my life as a mother which brought connection and shared experience to the forefront of my mind. One of my children has not felt connected to one of his teachers and has expressed concern that this teacher may not like him. As a mom, I knew I needed to explore this since this child in particular craves connection. Words of affirmation are definitely his love language.
We are working through this issue, and I have hope that only good things will come from our conversations with the teacher, the principal, and other teachers who are on his team. These conversations were definitely a lightbulb moment for me.
All of us, young and old, rich or poor, of any faith or no faith at all, no matter where we live… We all want to feel connected to other people. Loneliness is an epidemic and I am on a crusade to at least put a small dent in its wrath.
During our brainstorming sessions, we realized that students in general are receiving positive and negative feedback mostly in a digital format. When I learned that my child received praise through an app that was cast on a screen in his classroom for all to see (and negative feedback in the same way), I was speechless. Do you not verbally praise or reinforce my child? What about in writing on his assignments? I was met with a blank stare. I cringed.
And then I thought about my own life and the life of all adults in 2022. All the likes, the comments, the shares, the tags, the texts instead of a phone call, the email instead of a conversation, the gift card instead of a thoughtful handmade or store-bought item, and I cringed again. How do I give my boys positive and negative feedback? Will they only remember the text I sent? Will they remember evenings of me responding to lab values and MRI results on an inanimate object instead of cuddling with them on the couch? Will they think that when I am texting a friend in crisis that my friend is more important?
I only have one child with a cell phone- thank you Jesus, but that will change. Will my communication with these precious boys change? Will I sit idly by and watch it happen?
I was not going to watch my child’s love for learning unravel due to one disconnected teacher. I was on that like white on rice. Even the school administration agreed that children need verbal feedback today more than ever since most instruction includes a screen unfortunately.
That said, am I walking the walk and talking the talk that I am demanding for my own child? How do I let the people I love know that I love them? Is it a text, an email? When is the last time we spoke on the phone - or better yet - saw each other in person? Yes a pandemic shut a lot of things down, but there are safe ways to connect. FaceTime is actually a beautiful thing. The Marco Polo app has improved my marriage tremendously since my husband and I work opposite shifts. And my family members that live under my roof? I have no excuse if I do not connect with them daily.
About a year ago, I placed time limits on my social media apps. I allow myself 30 minutes total between Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok per day. Gasp. When my timer is up, those apps go dark. Some days I override the limit if there are particular things I am interested in or if I am looking for something to make me feel better (did I just type that? Yes. Sadly, I did). But on those days that I stick to that limit, I am a better parent, a better wife, a better daughter, a better nurse practitioner, and a better friend. This may not be true for you, but it is for me.
So, if I’m not on my phone, what in the world am I doing? Have you ever considered how much time you would have if you plugged your phone in another room the minute you arrived home in the evening? What would you do? How would your spouse feel if you gave them an hour of your undivided attention each day? How would your child feel?
And if you live alone, are not in a relationship, or do not have children, this still applies. I’m sure you have friends, other family members, and hobbies. What about your faith or your mental health? What if you dedicated 10 minutes per day to either one of those?
In 2022, nobody knows what to do with themselves. It is a real problem I see every day in my practice. Rarely do I enter an exam room when a patient is not on their phone. I cannot remember the last time I went into a restaurant and didn’t see a couple who were both on their phone during the meal. Children do not know how to sit in a waiting room or in a car or at a dining table without a screen, and that literally breaks my heart. And what breaks my heart even more, is most of the faces on those screens are of strangers.
They are not the child’s parent, grandparent, cousin, mentor, coach. They are someone being paid by a marketing group to make our children feel good. And adults are just as guilty. When did mothers and fathers stop making their children feel good? When did teachers stop making their students feel loved? When did friends stop talking with actual words that come out of their mouths? When did spouses start sending each other videos and memes instead of talking about hopes and dreams and struggles?
I do not have all the answers. I only have my house, my family, my thoughts and behaviors that I can somewhat control. And I am ready to take back the reigns, ditch the digital input, and turn on the lights in my own life. I will no longer be an avatar of a human. I will be live and in person. My boys and my husband will hear my voice and feel my touch if I have any say so at all. We need a revolution my friends. Our children will never survive a marriage if they cannot talk to each other. They need us, and quite frankly we need them too. We are the solution. We just have to put our devices down and show up.
Please support my fellow hope*writers by checking out their posts about LIFE:
A Radiant Life By MelAnn of Grace and Rapture
Pursuing Life By Jessica Weaver
Parenting Advice for a Better Life By Ashley Olivine
Embrace Eternal Life in Jesus Christ By Lisa Granger
Living a Life Well Worth Living By Lori Shoaf
1% Living Every Single Day By Dianne Vielhuber