It’s kind of ironic that Hands Off Parenting asks quite a lot of parents. Although the philosophy helps with independence and resilience, it also asks that parents closely observe their babies, needing them to be present always – there in the wings if they are needed. The hope is that by being present from birth, your child will develop a secure attachment with you; meaning they are secure in the knowledge that if they really do need your help, comfort, support or guidance; you will be there to give it. When children are confident their parents will respond to their needs, they need them less.
But what is “being present”? Are we present when we sit with our children, when we hold them – either in our arms or in a sling? Are we present when we are feeding them, changing their nappy, bathing them? Are we even present when we are not with them but busy in the kitchen, making dinner or doing the laundry? The answer is that so long as you tuned in to their needs, then yes you are present – whether you’re lying next to them in your bed, or in the back-garden lounging in the sun.
The reason I decided to write this blog today is because I read a post on neglect through addiction, specifically screen addiction. Where parents are present physically but not emotionally, due to their eyes being stuck to a mobile phone screen. I write this not to point the finger at others, but because I am guilty of this very thing. And it scares the life out of me. I absolutely have been guilty of using my phone when there was no real need for me to use it, just taking it out, starting to scroll and before I know it twenty minutes had passed that I haven’t even looked at my daughter. You might think – twenty minutes, that’s nothing – and maybe you’re right. But what about the time spent looking through a phone when you’re feeding a baby? It’s done without even thinking, but before there were phones that time was spent connecting with babies. Eye contact, little conversations, singing, humming, just paying attention; until I read that post I hadn’t thought about how much we are letting phones take away from our relationships with our children.
You know when you’re at the playground and your son starts shouting at you “Mama, mama, look, mama, look at me!” But you’re looking at your phone. You eventually look up, maybe you’ve missed the moment or maybe you catch it, but should he have to shout so loud to get your attention? When you’re pushing the buggy along and have your head down in your phone, not talking to your daughter. Before phones came along maybe that time was about connecting; your girl pointing things out that she spots along the way…
I want to emphasise that this post is not about lecturing people on mobile phone use, as there is so much positive about screens – the communities of like minded people we find online, the helpful groups that we go to with our problems, the connection with family and friend who live far away – and so much more. But I know myself that I spend too much time online. Reading that post opened my eyes to how harmful it can be, and although I have already been trying to reduce my hours on my phone, I am now going to try that little bit harder.