It is no secret that we are in uncharted waters when it comes to the technologies and the imprint they are leaving on young bodies and young minds. It is turning up everywhere. Our children are being exposed at ever younger ages and with increasing frequency. Shouldn’t there be some kind of vetting system for parents? Something that will help us make our way without feeling as though we either have to make this a full time job to figure it all out, or are left needing to turn a blind eye due to the overwhelm of it all.
We need a True North. An orientation. Something that we can refer to in the midst of the sea of changes the technology is bringing. It is impossible to do this on the fly; there are too many choices, pressures, and ever increasing speed around all of this. Where can we stand in the midst of a constantly shifting terrain and still remain clear and firm in what makes sense for our families? What is it that will endure through all of this; lighting our way so that we can make sound decisions on something that is so thoroughly impacting the lives of our children?
It can be summed up as follows: Your presence, the ability to live your values, and the real developmental needs of your children. In this first part, we begin with you and your ability to be present. This can be the most challenging. There are so many demands and distractions. And yet, without your presence, you will not know whether or not you are living up to your values. And you will not know who your child is, or what she needs. Learning to be present requires that you slow down and notice. It asks that you make room for the more subtle interior flows of a child’s unfolding world and of your family’s inner life. In a world big on what is grandiose, overt and dramatic, it can feel as though you are being asked to attune to the mundane, the boring, the insignificant. This could not be further from the truth.
How does one go about learning to be present? In a word, mindfulness. Straight out of the Buddhist traditions and right into the pressing needs of life in the modern world, this ancient practice is all about learning to be present moment to moment without judgment. There is learning involved here. This will take time and practice. And there is the prerequisite of letting go of judging what it is that you notice. To judge is to believe you already have the answer, that you already know all there is to know about something. Judgment keeps us from seeing things as they actually are. And without an open and curious assessment regarding who and what stands before us, we will miss the mark every time in our decisions and in our choices.
Mindfulness opens us up to seeing when we are present to our children and when we are not. The practice helps us discover what it is that keeps us from being where we are, and this may be the most important thing to discover; what it is that keeps you from noticing your life, your child, and how you are living. In that noticing resides the potential for change and for realignment with what matters most. And so, it might look like this: You begin to notice that there are times when you do not feel good about what your child is doing in front of a screen. In the early moments, there is no need to do anything other than to notice what it feels like to be ill at ease in this moment. Maybe there is tension in your body. Maybe you notice the beginnings of an argument about to erupt. Perhaps there is an association that keeps playing through your mind. Maybe there is something about your child’s behavior that leaves you feeling uneasy. Keep noticing whatever is there. Keep suspending judgment. Be willing to wait. Be willing to be surprised by what reveals itself to you. And then act on that revelation.
This is the first of a three-part series.