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What You Don't See When I'm On My Phone Around My Children

I take photos of my children, and in moments when they seem to feel less than special, I pull them out and we retell the stories within them. I use them as a tool to help them remember the details of those moments.
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There is so much talk, these days, about parents and their overuse of smartphones around their children. If I took the time to scroll through a day or two on my Facebook feed, it wouldn't take long to find that one of my "mom friends" shared a piece like this one, titled "Dear Mom on the iPhone: Let me tell you what you don't see."

Now, I'm not for a second saying I'm perfect. I'll be the first to admit I'm far from it! My phone is more of an appendage these days than it is a device. I am a mother of three young children. I work full-time. A significant portion of my non-working hours are spent facilitating the care of my youngest child, who has special needs. I write, and when an idea inspires me, I pick up my phone and transfer the idea to something concrete. Otherwise, amidst the shuffle of daily life, these moments that become the stories I share will be lost on me.

So, while you might look at me in those moments and think to yourself that I ought to put my phone down and attend to my children, I would like to tell you what you don't see.

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Photos courtesy of Angela Ashton Smith

The photos above were taken early on a Sunday morning on a weekend trip to the beach. This was on a "date," to which I was invited by my 6-year-old son. He has earned the nickname "Rooster" because no matter how late we keep him up, he awakens with the sunrise, ready to take on the day. On this particular morning, we set out early to walk the shoreline and collect shells. These particular photos were taken just moments before my phone slipped out of the pocket of my sweatshirt and into the ocean water.

That Sunday morning, I lamented the loss of that phone, but it wasn't because it meant I'd be disconnected from the world around me. I was saddened, because the loss of that device meant the loss of a weekend's worth of family photographs. In particular, I was upset about the loss of the simple photos above.

What you didn't see when you saw me pull out my phone on the beach was Cameron, asking me on that date, with sincerity in his big blue eyes; you didn't see a little boy pleading for some time alone with his Mommy. You didn't see the afternoon trip to the aquarium the day before, cut short when his little sister, who has autism, had a meltdown. You didn't see that we almost didn't make it into the aquarium at all, or his frustration as I couldn't stop to talk about the sharks, which are his favorite. You didn't see a little boy who tells me a lot, lately, that we don't get to spend enough time together. You didn't see him at my bedside that morning, as he took my hand in his and led me to the door.

I take photos of my children, and in moments when they seem to feel less than special, I pull them out and we retell the stories within them. I use them as a tool to help them remember the details of those moments. These stories stop time, and make them realize that while they don't always get enough of me, the moments I do get with them are dear to my heart.

Our date to collect shells didn't end when my phone slipped beneath the waves. In fact, we walked for over an hour, his hand in mine, inspecting and discussing all that had washed ashore after the storm the night before. I may have my phone in hand more than you deem necessary, but I don't rely on it as I enjoy the company of my child. Just being with him is enough.

If you see me out with my children and I pull my phone out of my pocket, I'm more than likely just making an effort to capture a precious moment. Spare your judgement in those situations. If you choose to judge anyway, ask yourself this -- How many of you are reading this on your phone, right now, in the presence of your children?

Today, that phone came back to life long enough for me to upload those memories. Tomorrow morning, I will show my son these pictures and spend a few minutes remembering. He will start off his day with a little extra love in his heart, because of what that device allowed me to do on that walk alone on the beach. As the days turn into months, then years, I will get asked out on far fewer dates. If using my phone in the presence of my children means that I can keep them little a bit longer in my heart, perhaps I'm not the negligent mother you saw at first glance. Perhaps, before you choose to judge me, you should realize that you don't know me, at all.

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Photo by Angela Ashton Smith

Follow Angela's journey at justdrivingthestrugglebus.com