motherhood

The Screen and the Babies

The increase of screen time the children are seeing is shocking, toxic, bad for mental health, and to me, a bit sad. It’s such an addiction for these littles there are neighborhood kids who don’t want to hang out and play at our house because we don’t allow any video games in the summer. And that’s a problem. Not for my husband and I, but for our kids. While the youngers are usually happy to play outdoors, go to the park, run through the sprinkler, or figure something out to do (I’m in the camp of it’s good for kids to be bored - if you’re in the other camp, that’s totally cool too and I can see that side - idle hands and all that) it’s the olders, the pre-pubescent age group that are seriously unable (or unwilling) to play other than on some kind of console.

Lookit. I get it. It’s really difficult to regulate screens when all the kids have some kind of device or other situation and that’s what all the kids talk about and even when they are playing not on the device they’re playing the make believe version of the game! It’s also really convenient when your kiddo gets to an age they can stay home alone to be able to leave them. And aside from taking the thing with you or locking it up in a cabinet, it’s going to be difficult to regulate screen time whether it be television or gaming on a console, a device, or a computer.

At the end of the last school year, my older son told me, “It’s embarrassing - I have to lie and tell my friends I’ve played it,” (it being the horrible and disgusting Fortnite). To which I replied, “Too bad, tell them your mom is mean and strict.” And that’s just exactly how I feel. Too bad and maybe I am sometimes mean and strict - but they don’t get unregulated access to crap games and they also can’t eat Oreos for breakfast.

Ok, so now you’re like - oh great, another mom mom-shaming and judging and that’s exactly what I thought this blog wasn’t. So I want to acknowledge - I have judged and judged heavily, although silently. The mama I see with her toddler in the shopping cart and instead of teaching the little about the fruits and vegetables or listening to him ramble on and on about hermit crabs, she hands him her phone and plugs him in so she can shop in peace. The families who are on vacation, but are each plugged into their own device, even leaning over to share the screen with one another over a funny video or meme. My judgement in no way makes me right and them wrong. Maybe the mama in the store has a husband who is deployed and she’s so exhausted even getting to the store was a challenge and this is the only screen time the toddler will have all week. Maybe the teenagers on the family vacation are so used to their parents being plugged in they have no other version of normal, and that’s just what they know and if they didn’t have their face in their devices, they wouldn’t be getting any attention anyway. I don’t know their stories. What I do know is it starts with us adults. I take my phone everywhere - and will turn my car around to go back and get it should I forget it. I look at it while waiting for my cup of tea, or my hair appointment, or if I get self-conscious while waiting for someone. I have pledged when I am out with friends to never have it sitting out on the table and always to make sure it’s not a part of our family’s evening time. But my children see both my husband and I plugged in all of the time, and it’s just showing them this is how the world works, this is how adults are - we’re busy and you don’t matter unless you can post on Twitter or Insta.

The staggering numbers of depressed kids, kids that can’t connect, suffering from ADD, obesity and any number of other ailments comes from us, the parents. While we won’t let them eat Oreos for breakfast why do we let them have unlimited access to Vines and memes? Not to mention elementary school kids with smartphones and Instagram accounts. It’s not healthy for them and it’s eventually going to be not healthy for us.

I want my kids, just like most parents do, to grow up and be engaged, interesting and interested, and have the ability to form real connections. I also acknowledge the world is changing and we have to keep up with it. Hell, most of the young people migrating to our city work in some kind of software position. Maybe the personal connecting and the love of the outdoors and the want to ride on a real roller coaster and not a virtual reality roller coaster will be so outdated by the time they’re setting out on their life it’ll be as antiquated as asking someone out for a drink instead of swiping right.

I don’t know - the whole damn world’s going to hell in a handbasket. But what would it be if you didn’t even try - you have to try - so I’m putting my phone away, keeping the console locked up until the end of summer or maybe until it snows, maybe even giving the shit away. Because that’s all I know to do to avoid all of the pitfalls that seem to come from not being able to just get outside and play ball with your buddies.

And thank you for reading this on your screen of choice, I appreciate the time. See what I did there?

YAWN.

Parenting a new infant is something else. It’s really just Something Else. It’s so difficult to explain to non-parents exactly what it’s like to bring home a tiny helpless human whose wellbeing is your sole responsibility. Plus you can’t get over the fact that there’s a tiny person here that is yours. As in your kid, your baby, yours forever and ever.

And when you bring the baby home, you have no idea what to do with it. You have to feed it all the time, and then it sleeps. But it won’t sleep in the bassinet, it won’t sleep in the bouncy thing your cousin Suzy swears by, it won’t sleep in it’s crib, or that doc-a-whatever, or the co-sleeper or ANYWHERE BUT ON YOUR CHEST!! And you think, this can’t be right. There’s just no way that all these people all over the world who have tiny infants just hold them all the time. How do they do things like eat, or bathe, or I don’t know, pee?

Truth be told, our infants as humans are born severely underdeveloped. And I mean that in the nicest way. They are literally born these premature little creatures when compared to other primate babies. This means their brains continue to develop at embryonic rates for a year after birth. Did you hear me people? Embryonic rates. Embryonic.

Why is this so, you may ask. Well it’s pretty simple. When we began to walk upright our pelvises had to change to accommodate this new modality. The pelvis became smaller and therefore the birth canal could no longer accommodate a fully formed head. Enter evolution and babies being born earlier in gestation and that means for a year after birth they’re completely not gestated. (Ok, gestated is ridiculous and I get that, but you catch my drift.)

So think of it this way - the damn thing should still be inside you. In its hot tub, floating around with food and drink on demand, being lulled to sleep by you walking around. Once we think about it - newborns like to be bounced and shushed. Remember what it sounds like in that pregnant belly from hearing it on the doppler? Member when the baby in your belly only “woke up” at night while you were laying still and not moving. TA-DA! The baby just wants back in, and can you blame it? In addition she wants to smell you. Hear your heartbeat and the sound of your voice. He wants your warmth and to know that he hasn’t been left for the wolves.

There are so many products that promise to lull your baby back to sleep for you so you don’t have to do that work. One in particular is extraordinarily expensive and will put the baby back to sleep with rocking, vibrating, and any other number of bells and whistles. I gotta say y’all, no. Just stop it. Now, there are the babies who never stop crying. Like never. And they drive the parents to tears and the edge of beyond. If that baby needs to sleep in a swing so it can stay asleep and let the poor tired mama get some much needed sleep - more power to you. The deal is, the parenting of the waking infant is not only necessary for that baby brain to continue to develop properly but it’s necessary training for the rest of parenting life.

Yes, it’s difficult with the baby up in the middle of the night. You’re exhausted and hopeless and frankly, helpless. But you have to do it. You must persevere. Because while they can develop a product to help rock a baby back to sleep I don’t think they have one yet to talk to your teenager about sex. Or one to prevent their first heartbreak or loss or to keep them from taking stupid risks and drinking at a party. Nighttime parenting is necessary parenting time. It’s necessary that you rock your baby thru the difficult nights. It’s necessary that you get up and change the diapers and attend to their needs for so many reasons.

Parenting is hard - just ask the parents of the teenagers in the High School down the street from you. It’s hard to be the parent. It’s hard to do all the things all the time. But you gotta do it, because they need you. They need you now and later and always. They need you and they’re crying out for you to tell you so. Remember, this first year you are completing the gestation of this tiny human. Remember, the baby is just a tiny helpless mammal. It needs you for literally everything, especially to make it feel safe.

But girl, let me tell you, if you need to get that damn rocker - soother thingy to keep yourself sane, get it. It’s better that than a really sad, tired, and crazy mama.

One Deep Breath by Faith Davis

I still remember one of the first times I sat down alone with the intention to meditate. I had recently returned from my first 200-hour yoga teacher training, a winter of slow living at a mountain ashram. I was just launching my massage therapy practice, working in Boulder, traveling to all of its suburbs, and reconnecting with old friends. Life was moving fast - too fast.

"I'm going to meditate every day," I declared with the zeal of a true beginner. My intention was to force life to slow down. Six years later I can very honestly tell you I still haven't gotten the hang of meditating every day, but, I no longer feel like life is speeding by me. What's my secret?

One deep breath. Inhale...exhale.

I take one deep breath as I wake up in the morning and one just before I fall asleep at night. I take one deep breath when I brew my coffee or tea, and one when I first step outside each morning. I take one deep breath when someone cuts me off in traffic, when I have a pounding headache, when I feel overwhelmed or terribly sad.

When it feels like life is flying by, I take one deep breath.

Taking these deep breaths offers a pause in my day. It offers one single moment to slowly notice how I feel. Sometimes I take a deep breath and simply ask: what do I need today?

*Sometimes I take a deep breath to remember to hold a particular feeling or moment in my heart. *

The beautiful thing about this practice is that it doesn't require any extra time or equipment. No matter how busy you feel, how joyful or exhausted, how capable or helpless, anyone can take one deep breath.

This single breath in each moment of life reminds me there is time for my experience - happy or sad, joyous or heartbreaking. I don't wish any moment away, and in this practice life stopped speeding by me and started flowing one breath at a time.

Faith Davis is a maternity massage therapist, postpartum doula, and Prenatal/Baby & Me Yoga teacher at the 'hood, with over 1000 hours experience teaching women, mamas and families. Join Faith at the Mama Mini Retreat on January 30, 1-4pm, for an afternoon of moving one breath at a time through simple yoga, meditation, and self-care. To find out more visit yogiinmotion.com or email faith.davis@me.com.