Thursday, September 06, 2012

joy is on the other side of the screen

there was a little boy at the water park last week, about 2 or 3 years old. by the excitement in his eyes, i thought it was his first time there. everything was new. i watched him take it all in as his Mom lay their towels across chairs, tuck a big beach bag on the side, and get comfortably positioned in the sun.

my kids were bounding up the stairs and sliding down the slides again and again. they bounce out of the small pool at the end of the slide and look over at me, standing just a few feet away. i flash a smile, a thumbs up, or clap my hands. "wow!" "super fast!"  their joy is my joy.

but i was also watching this new little guy, he was just so cute and so excited. i wondered how long it would take him to warm up to the splashing, if he would venture up the stairs and brave the red waterslide. i remember each of my little one's first time to the water park, i remember being nervous and giddy. i remember having my camera in one hand and a life jacket in the other. i remember taking a zillion pictures and applying gallons of sunscreen.

the little boy stood under a stream of water, giggling. i glanced over at his Mom with a smile to tell her, i know how you must feel and isn't this fun?

she didn't see me. she didn't see him. she was holding her phone up to her face, scrolling with her fingers, completely focused on the world inside the screen. 

i looked back at her toddler, enthralled by this adventurous place. i watched my kids run circles around him, everyone laughing and living up these splish-splash moments. their joy is my joy. 

he made his way over to the stairs, i could see his courage building. you're missing it! my heart cried to his Mom. lounging there, getting a golden tan, she scrolled and tapped on her phone's screen.

eventually the little boy went slowly up the stairs, carefully sat at the top of the slide, and holding on tightly to the edge, he sat there and watched my kids go down with smiles. and then i watched him take a deep breath, close his eyes tight, and push himself forward. at the end of the slide, my kids stood there clapping and "you did it!" and they gave high-fives. the little boy beamed joy. he looked toward his Mother, saw what i saw, popped up out of the pool, and ran back to the stairs to do it again.

my heart ached and i wanted to take a picture of his great big, brave smile at the top of the slide. i just kept watching the three of them, dripping and glowing, pure excitement-driven energy.

barefoot on the wet concrete, splashes and squeals coming from everywhere, i prayed that i was wrong. i prayed that this wasn't this little boy's first time to the water park or his first time down the twisty red slide. i prayed that wasn't his Mother, but maybe a nanny or cousin. i thanked God that these moments were not missed. and i prayed that i am never too busy scrolling and tapping on my phone to see the joy that's right in front of me.

please know: i have a job that allows me to work from home and requires me to be accessible via email, and active on Facebook and Twitter. i do 90% of my work from my phone. so please believe me, i know what it's like to really have to check in from time to time. and that's the benefit of the doubt that i give to everyone.  

having access to the internet from anywhere and everywhere is a great thing because we can take our work with us wherever we go. at the same time, i wonder...if we take work with us wherever we go, are we really going anywhere? if we take our kids to the waterpark and check email every 10 minutes, are we really even there? if we constantly update our Facebook status at the T-Ball game, are we truly our little slugger's biggest fan?

especially when we are with our children, life is going on on the other side of the screen. life's best moments are happening in real time. joy is over there. we have to know when it's time to check email (or update a status, check the stockmarket, make a move on Words with Friends, scan Instagram) and when it's time to put the phone away. we have to use this technology wisely, set office hours, and online boundaries. we have to intentionally choose to put away the phone and look at what's right in front of us. we have to know the difference between being productive online and being distracted online. we have to protect our family time by respecting our family time.

i don't want to be part of the generation of The Moms Who Never Missed A Tweet. i want to be one of The Moms Who Never Missed A Fleeting Moment.

it's time to put the phone away when we're with our family...
at the waterpark
in the car
on a walk
at the breakfast/lunch/dinner table
at the amusement park/museum
at the movies
at the playground/library
playing a game
when the kids ask you to play Legos/Barbies
at bathtime
doing homework
listening to one read aloud
at the game and at practice
when they just want to talk
when you don't want to just be there, you want to really be there

put the phone never know when a milestone might be reached, when a moment will be precious, when you'll need to hear important question, when your eyes could prevent an accident, when your undivided attention could fill your child's heart full.

joy is on the other side of the screen. 

live purposefully and worthily and accurately, 
not as the unwise and witless, but as wise,
making the very most of the time, buying up each opportunity, 
because the days are evil, fleeting. not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, 
but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.