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Hashtags In Pampers: The Day I Used Technology To Babysit My Kids

[While I attend a dance class, my three-year-old updates my Twitter feed, above.]

A funny thing happened on the way to handing my phone over to my children: I realized I'm attached to the belief, my belief, that putting my kids (or any kids, for that matter) on i-devices is harmful, negligent and clear and present evidence of total parental failure.  So what brought me to cross over to the dark side and what happened as a result?  Pull up a i-chair.

Earlier this summer, while in the throes of no school and lots of time with my children, I decided I'd like to take a dance class.   My teacher had been holding a weekly class which I had sacrificed attending for most of the summer so that I could take my kids to swim lessons.  A break in their lessons afforded me the opportunity to attend mine and I jumped.  My challenge, which quickly morphed into deep fear and feelings of inadequacy, was: how to occupy the dumplings so that they didn't tear the $#*@ out of the studio waiting room while I took class.  Envisioning them glued to my phone while I fed a passion felt indulgent, detached, and a host of other character judgments. It also felt shameful.  Wasn't I the one frowning upon the parents of infants wielding sauce-covered tablets so that the parents could wine and dine the night away in a restaurant without interruption?  Yes, guilty as charged.

Guilty, ashamed, fearful of the unknown and fearful of being present with the experience of handing over the device to my young children, I showed up for class and handed over the device to my young children.   I watched the judgments rise.  Can't you just allow them to be with the class instead of distracting them with media?  They're going to glaze-over from lack of stimulation so you can do something selfish.  They'll be exposed to harmful EMFs.  This is bad.  You're bad.   The judgments were many and heavy, and I found it difficult to fully immerse myself in class.   I tried to remind myself to come back, to remind myself of the reasons I showed up, and to allow myself to get lost in the music and the movement.  And I did.  For some moments I was fully in the moment.

When I wasn't dancing, I would glance at my kids.   From what I could determine, they were 'just being kids,' as my teacher noted.  My son had made a tower out of small, plastic drinking cups.  My daughter picked up a hula hoop and was trying to keep it in motion.  They both found an empty studio and inhabited it.  And they seemed to alternate turns on the phone. It wasn't their sole activity, as I had projected.  Nor was it anesthetizing them to their experience beyond the phone.  I was surprised. I also noted that I might (just maybe) be able to take some space and welcome compassion for myself and for others when combining kids with technology.

Over the course of the next few days, as I used different applications on my phone, I found more glimpses of my children's technological foray.  First came the receipt from the Amazon purchase they had made for one Angry Birds video game. (Something we're not allowed to play.  Brilliant.)  Then came the messages from my friends alerting me to evidence that there had been questionable updates to my Twitter feed.  Here's an example:

John:  Hey L's, did one of the kids hijack your phone? Check your twitter.:)
 Sent at 8:57 PM

Then came the montage of pictures taken in the empty dance studio, below.

I layered a ton onto the technology and the experience opened me to other vantage points.  It also reminded me that 'things aren't always anything', as the Buddhist teacher David Nichtern points out.  Though, I am just about completely certain I'll need to be reminded of that again, before I finish writing this sentence. 

My children's photos of the empty studio
This post is a companion piece to a video my son made of his sister dancing.  You can view it here.

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