Home > Parenting > You Have My Undivided Attention

You Have My Undivided Attention

Being newbie parents, my wife and I still have many questions about parenting. How are we going to discipline? What are our core values? Should we put our kids in preschool? How in the world do you get your child to use the toilet? Complicating matters is the fact that parenting in 2010 seems vastly different than it was 10 years ago. Perhaps the principles and challenges remain the same, but technology has advanced at such a rapid pace that parenting–already a Herculean task–is becoming more and more complicated in an increasingly interconnected world.

For example, we weren’t allowed to have pagers in high school. On long car rides, my sister and I made up games or we sang 99 bottles of beer on the wall. Over and over again. I used to daydream to pass the time when I got bored.  Social networking required you to make eye contact and a good first impression. Now, parents are constantly in contact with their kids – just ask any teacher how much the classroom has changed. On long car rides, parents have to decide what DVDs to allow their children to watch. When kids get bored, they’ll use their parent’s iPhone/iTouch or whip out their own. And parents now need to monitor not only the friends that their children meet in person, but also the friends they meet online.

An interconnected, technologically advanced world definitely has its benefits, but is a parent who is constantly connected and using technology a good thing?

Last week, I was listening to Science Friday’s program: Multitasking. I also read some related articles: The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In, and Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price. As is often the case with me lately, I learned a lot of new information but still have very few conclusions.

I did however, reach a resolution: to give my undivided attention to whoever I am with.

When the iPhone was released, I drooled. When the price was lowered, I drooled more.  I’ve been using Macs since my first Performa and my cousin’s hand-me-down PowerBook 100, so I am admittedly a bit of a fanboy. But with a child on the way, a $300 phone wasn’t a priority. Since it was my last birthday sans child, my wife wanted to spoil me, so she got a bunch of our friends together and they bought an iPhone for me. My wife later said the look on my face was well worth the cost.

My iFriend

Two years later, my wife now dislikes my iPhone, which she has coined my iFriend. And in some ways, it has become a friend. It made sure I woke up in the mornings or didn’t oversleep for something important. It helped me find my way when I’ve gotten lost (no more stopping for directions!). It steered me away from terrible restaurants. It saved me money by allowing me to do price comparisons in store. It told me what was going on in the world today. It updated me on what my friends were up to and showed me photos. It played games with me when I was bored and passed the time quickly at the MVA or in long lines. It looked up movie times for me. So yeah, my iFriend and I had a pretty good relationship.

So much so that my wife often accused me of being addicted to my iFriend, which I’ll deny. Other people use their iPhones or Blackberries much more than me; I even have Push notifications turned off. But I can’t deny that my attention is divided.

When I was courting my wife, she had my undivided attention when we were together. Heck, even when I wasn’t with her, I was mostly thinking about her. After all, I had a huge uphill battle after once saying, “I could never date someone like you.” But now, in the middle of a conversation with her, I’m curious if a friend has replied back about big plans that we are making for an upcoming trip. While waiting somewhere with her, I’m curious about the day’s news – we’re both just staring off into the distance as we wait for something, so it’s ok to check it right?

I love my apps – though maybe not as much nor am I as prolific as this hip mom. And I love that I can find out what people I’ve met in person and online are up to. But today, I resolve to give my undivided attention to whoever I’m with. If I’m out with friends, I’ll enjoy being with them rather than sharing that I’m with them on Facebook or the Twitterverse. When I’m with my wife, I’ll seek to be as infatuated and wanting to know more about her as I was when we were dating. When I’m with my daughter, I’ll read her books rather than have her read on her own while I play on my iPhone in the same room. When I’m in church, I’ll stop pretending I’m reading my eBible when I’m actually following Twitter updates or Fantasy Football scores.

Will I still use my iFriend? Of course – but only during set times. Technology is wonderful, but investing in the people I’m with is more important to me right now.

Now, undivided attention at work, is a whole different issue. 🙂

How about you? What rules have you instituted in your home? Have you set any limits on technology use for your kids? For yourself?

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  1. Dionne Baldwin
    June 14, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I’m in a similar situation as alot of parents these days. I am blessed with a daughter of my own and two stepsons. Those two stepsons have different moms which means at one time we can have three houses melded together. Eek.

    One boy has a PSP while the other has a DS. Both have access to gaming systems at their mothers while my 7 year old has the Wii that we all share. We don’t encourage one to sit alone and tune out everything else. We play the Wii together or while interacting about the game. Stepsons cell phones go off and on the kitchen counter while here. Period. The kids are not allowed to use the computers without adult supervision (that means me or my other half physically looking at the computer with them) because if past rule violations. 😦 My 7 year old is allowed to play games like Chuzzle and she can play Farmville on my Facebook if I am sitting with her and she has to read the windows that pop up etc. Good reading practice. 😀 She listens to my iPod if she gets bored on long trips. Both boys have an iPod and they usually want to plug it into the docking station so they can play songs for us that they like. I’m flattered that they want to share their music preferences with us and I’m grateful that they help keep me in the loop! 😉

    If the kids give a hard time about homework or reading then video games etc are limited to a pointless fifteen minutes or eliminated altogether. Sounds harsh and very extreme, I know but when the boys have such limited time with their dad we chose not to encourage video games and watching tv in bedrooms. Actually, we’re very fortunate because all 3 kiddos love to help cook, clean and do yardwork. When they get real bored they ask if we can all go somewhere and do something together. Our tv time involves some movies, some Mythbusters, Ghosthunters but 75% Food Network. 🙂

    Don’t get me wrong, I love technology but I’m too cheap for an iPhone or a Blackberry! And I love my Mac, but when I was growing up we didn’t have much in the extras department. I daydreamed in my spare time, sketched, wrote, listened to music and took care of my siblings. I collected rocks, bugs and anything I found interesting! I want the kiddos to use their minds for something other than just video game strategies.

    I have to admit, I am a huge Zelda fan so when my stepson brings Ocarina of Time or Majoras Mask I bust out Twilight Princess and we all huddle around and play for awhile. 🙂

    • Pop
      June 14, 2010 at 9:39 pm

      “When they get real bored they ask if we can all go somewhere and do something together.”

      That’s so awesome! That’s totally the type of family interaction my wife and I would like to develop in our family.

      • Dionne Baldwin
        June 14, 2010 at 10:41 pm

        It’s pretty cool, but then again if we could all play together like Angelia that would be a blast! The downside of my situation is I need to educate my daughter in these things or she will grow up very uninformed…I need a happy medium I think. 🙂

  2. June 14, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Limits? Yikes! My fiancé and daughter have an iPhone. Thank goodness or I’d be in trouble. 🙂
    We sit at the table playing tap tap revenge with each other in game room #4. I always lose. Heh!

    I really should try to wean off a bit (shudder).

    Love that you called it ifriend.

    • Pop
      June 14, 2010 at 9:41 pm

      Well, I’m sure if we all had iFriends, then it wouldn’t be as big a deal. 😛 I guess the problem for me was that unlike yourself where the family is doing things together with technology, my iFriend was distracting me. So for now, I’m cutting back – trust me, it isn’t easy. I miss my apps, but I’m also enjoying giving my family my undivided attention.

  3. Veronica
    June 15, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I have no phone issues but I spend way too much time online once I get home from work. I get so many emails, and I have to check in on my buds on myspace and facebook and sometimes write a blog, then read comments, blah blah blah. It’s actually getting a bit out of control. I think I’m going to have to unsubscribe from some of the blogs I read b/c I seriously spend HOURS reading them. And I have no time to keep the house clean and it’s grossing me out. I need an intervention.

  4. amyblam
    June 15, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Bratchild has a ds and a wii but we are pretty strict about when/how often and how long she can use them. No more than 30 minutes a day and she has to earn that time. We don’t play games at restaurants but they are allowed on long car trips/flights-mainly for my sanity! 🙂

    • Pop
      June 16, 2010 at 8:28 am

      Sanity is definitely something to be treasured. On our 14-hour overseas flight, I nearly felt like jumping out of the plane as we passed over the Pacific.

  5. kwest
    June 16, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Before we had our son (almost 2 now), we decided he wouldn’t watch TV and we wouldn’t use the TV as a baby sitter. We actually don’t have a TV any more, so that’s not too hard, right? But now when we need to actually do something, like clean the house (or just sit still for 5 minutes), we’ll put in a video or let him watch cartoons on the ibook. So much for that plan.

    I find it interesting that you seem to characterize kids’ use of technology as an inevitability, such as DVDs in the car. But I think kids don’t miss what they don’t know about. Almost everyone we know does the DVD thing on car trips. We don’t, because we don’t have a built in DVD player and we’re too cheap to buy a portable one. When he gets fussy, we make do with books and toys and food, or we talk to him. Maybe a DVD would be easier, but I’d rather him look out the window and ask lots of questions then numb his mind for the thousandth time with Dora or Shrek.

    But in the end, as long as you try hard as a parent, love them and are there for them, all of this little stuff doesn’t matter as much as we obsessive parents tend to think.

    • Pop
      June 16, 2010 at 8:27 am

      Thanks for the comment kwest, and a really thoughtful bottom line!

  6. June 20, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Good post, Twin! It’s always worth reminding ourselves of who and what are truly important to us. I started leaving my phone in my purse during lunches and dinners with friends. If the other person checks his or her phone, then I’ll break mine out. But, I’m trying to be better about giving my undivided attention to the person I’m with, especially since he/she might not be as addicted to their Crackberry/iPhone as I am. xoxo

    • Pop
      June 22, 2010 at 9:08 am

      I too am guilty of pulling out my cell phone if whoever I’m with pulls theirs out.

  7. August 23, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    iFriend. I’m totally stealing this term. My husband has one of those. He was actually texting his work while I was in labor. And, yes, he still gets crap for that one.

    • Pop
      August 25, 2010 at 8:46 am

      LOL. The things I’ve come to realize is 1) women have an incredible ability to know when her man is distracted and 2) women have an incredible memory of dumb things their man does. So with those 2 this combined, it’s best that a man pay undivided attention to his wife. Especially during labor.

  1. June 23, 2010 at 9:55 am
  2. August 9, 2010 at 11:05 am
  3. August 23, 2010 at 10:17 am
  4. August 27, 2010 at 10:18 am
  5. September 21, 2010 at 1:00 pm
  6. October 6, 2010 at 9:26 am
  7. October 18, 2010 at 3:19 pm
  8. March 25, 2011 at 1:38 pm

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