"Mommy, I want YouTube" croons my 3-year-old upon opening her eyes on a lovely Monday A.M. Next it's, "Can I see your phone please mommy? I want to watch something."
Admittedly, this situation is a problem that started in the home with me, Mommy. A working single mother, with no nanny or housekeeper, is bound to take a few parenting short-cuts from time to time. At least that's what I tell myself so I don't feel bad.
But my "rationale" for occupying my child with technology to an excess is exactly how I ended up allowing my daughter to consume 2 hours of YouTube, Netflix, or Hulu on a nightly basis. When I needed the dishes done I'd give my daughter, Esther, my phone to watch cartoons on YouTube. When I needed to fold the laundry? "Go watch Mommy's laptop."
I never thought this was detrimental behavior until the morning whining for YouTube and other forms of technology began.
Child screen addiction is real. If you don't believe me, try prying an iPad out of the hands of a 3-year-old. Note: You may lose your hand.
It used to be cute and funny to watch my child play with adult forms of entertainment. I felt as if I should be awarded a badge of honor because my kid could turn on a phone and know how to navigate it better than some baby boomers. This novelty wears out quickly however, especially after receiving a note from your child's teacher stating that she "refuses to color or write," and that questions "how often we do these things at home." Ouch...
After receiving the letter from my child's instructor, I shifted my parenting style and how I related to my daughter. Esther and I are now committed to mindful interactions at home, with less technology involved. Surprisingly, she's all for it.
My first step towards mindful interactions was to put my own phone down. Instead of heading home and throwing on Netflix or Hulu, we now prepare and consume dinner as a family, at a table, just the two of us. And you know what, I've come to learn some pretty tall tales that happen at daycare, better than a dramedy and scarier than a horror flick on some days. God bless the hardworking people in the child education industry.
It's also dawned on me that I don't have to suffer through chores alone, because I have the perfect helper. Laundry in need of folding? Her little hands work perfectly on small items and her motor skills are improving in the meantime. Can you say two-fer? After dinner and chores, we now do at LEAST a half hour of physical activity. When we are done with all of our to-dos for the night, we wind down with one episode of her choosing via laptop or TV, or we read 1-2 story books of her choice.
The goal is not perfection, but improvement.
In realizing how my inability to connect had an effect on my daughter's personality, I was able to come up with innovative ways to interact with her while still getting things done around the house. I've become the change I wish to see in my household. I now understand that one half hour a week in ballet class does not constitute adequate physical activity, and that movement should be a regular thing for a kid. Common sense for some maybe, but this mom is learning one step at a time, at her own pace.
While technology will always be a mainstay in our home, (I work in the industry after all), it will not rule us any longer. I smile with pride when my daughter exclaims to me after daycare, "Mommy, can we go do some exercise?"
Elizabeth Aguirre is a technology professional with more than 8 years experience working in the software industry. Currently, Elizabeth is pursuing an M.S. in E-commerce at DePaul University and works as a consultant for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing in Chicago. She is on a one woman mission to empower small business owners through the use of technology. When she is not being a "cool mom" to her daughter Esther, she enjoys working on her personal web page, the Chitown Reikologist.