First Steps

Maggie was using my phone to Face Time with a friend…
so I  borrowed my husband’s phone to take a picture.

April 29, 2014 was an exciting day in the Pray household: Baby Cecilia, at a few days shy of ten months old, took her first steps. Luckily, but not surprisingly, my iPhone was within arm’s reach, and I was able to capture the momentous event on video and post it immediately to Facebook. Within an hour, friends, relatives, and acquaintances all over the country had seen and “liked” my second daughter’s big accomplishment.

This wasn’t the first time that I had advertised one of my children’s developmental milestones via social media. In fact, when I find myself getting behind in Maggie or Ceci’s baby books, and I can’t remember when they first smiled or said “mama” or spent the night at their grandparents’ house, I go back to Facebook to find out. What can I say? My kids are super amazing and talented, and as a proud parent I want to share. Plus, Maggie and Ceci are involved in probably 93% of everything that happens in my life that anyone else would find remotely interesting. But here’s the problem: I legitimately can’t stop. It isn’t just that I want to share. For reasons that I can only label as addiction, I’m compelled to share. And once I hit the “share” button, I’m compelled to keep my phone by me and check it every five minutes to see how my adorable photo or video or hilarious “kids say the darndest things” post is being received.

Clearly, I’m not the only one who is experiencing these struggles. All I need to do is look around me in any given setting to see the prevalence of technology in our lives. Human interaction is becoming a problem; patience, perhaps an even larger one. Like a controlled substance, the smart phone is our answer to boredom and loneliness. When I googled “smart phone addiction,” plenty of the results related to parents like me who want to raise their children according to certain principles but can’t seem to set the right example when it comes to technology.

Whenever I contemplate taking a step away from social media, I immediately dismiss the notion. Like anything that’s bad for me, I do it because I like it. I think it is so awesome how motherhood and Facebook go hand in hand. As soon as I became a parent, I joined a club that includes people I was loosely acquainted with in high school, cousins I didn’t actually know that well when I was growing up, and colleagues with whom I might not have that much else in common. These people get it. They understand why I can’t help posting pictures of my daughter’s naked butt. They are willing to respond to a question about car seat brands or baby constipation. They (I hope) don’t judge me when I have to vent about how “bad” my kids can be and how much my life “sucks”. Even better, the club isn’t exclusive. When I had Maggie back in 2010, people I hadn’t talked to in ages, who don’t have children themselves, suddenly came out of the woodwork. It was weird, but wonderful, to see the reactions that other people had to my little girl.

As a result, I have reconnected with the most unlikely people. Although these may not be “real” friendships, they make me feel supported, and sometimes that’s all I need. So I, in return, get to be a part of that support network for others, and cheer them on as they share their own milestones. I love watching families grow on Facebook, from the wedding to the first ultrasound picture to the soccer games and high school graduations.

So how do I find a healthy balance? How do I make sure that my daughters don’t grow up believing that an iPhone is an absolute necessity, an essential extension of the body? How do I keep it from becoming a distraction that causes me to miss special moments rather than save them? How do I teach my children that the people in front of them will always be more important than any device?

I wish I had the answer. Try, I guess. Take some first steps – baby steps, most likely. Press “Post” and walk away until tomorrow, so that I can be present for the rest of today.

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