Hands free- A life lesson

Hands free- A life lesson

It must have been a week ago that my daughter said, ‘Can you tell me a story?’

As always, I was either fiddling with my smartphone or my laptop, answering texts, responding to blog comments, moderating groups or checking e-mail. So, I glanced up briefly and said, ‘Yes, go to bed and I will be there in five minutes.’

She turned on her heel, paused, then looked back at me, saying in an apologetic tone, ‘I mean, only if you can take a break from blogging. I don’t want to disturb you.’

You could have knocked me down with a feather or rather, the guilt would have done the trick just fine. In shock, I looked up at her, shut the laptop and hugged her saying, ‘You always come first. Always. Never imagine that I would put anything before you- not chores, not my work and definitely, not my writing or blogging.’

The next half hour I spent tucking her into bed, cuddling her and telling her one of my nonsensical stories. Turning out the light, I stroked the line of her chin, watched her chest rise and fall in rhythmic motion, her hand tucked under her face as she dreamed of mythological characters in the land of make-believe and a tear rolled down my cheek. To think that technology had come in the way of spending precious moments with my child was something I found difficult to digest.

Guilt would get me nowhere, of course, so the next best thing was to be realistic. So, I sat down one morning and chalked out how much time I actually spent with my hands on a device. Suffice to say that the results were alarming. Most of that time was spent just holding the phone, in anticipation of a new notification that my post had been seen or that it had been shared on Twitter. 

That time could have well been used to hold my daughter close and ask her about her day at school.

That time should have been spent talking total nonsense about a silly thing that happened on the playground.

That same time would have been utilised to giggle endlessly about a joke she had made up the previous day.

Instead, most of that time was spent clutching an inanimate object in my hands.

She is growing, this child of mine. Soon, she will be in her teens, looking back over her shoulder, saying, ‘Mom, I don’t have time to talk now.’ That day is approaching faster than I would like to believe.

 Two days ago, I made a decision. I chose to free my hands. I would still write, blog, network and connect, but not at the cost of my relationship with my daughter. I would turn off the allure of the Internet and be present- physically and emotionally- with her. 

Today, I raced her to the park, helped her change out of her clothes, listened wholly as she described a party game, told her yet another silly story and tucked her into bed. As I leaned in to kiss her good-night, she encircled my neck with her tiny arms and whispered, “You are the best ‘tucker’ ever. Nobody tucks me in the way you do.”

So, if you don’t get a response to a comment or a reply to your message right away, you know why now. In the time that exists, between now and later, I am filling my hands with the one thing that really matters- the love that comes from my child’s hugs.


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0 thoughts on “Hands free- A life lesson

  1. Indeed its necessary. Blogging does not define us. Blogging or social networking will never fulfill us the way our personal life and relationships would. A good initiative by you. Blogging should be the last priority.

  2. I am sharing this with a young mother, she struggles with this issue too. Technology can be a life line for young mothers but it can also be a burden. Well done!

  3. Totally with you on this, Shailaja. Not only for the sake of our children but we need to do this for ourourselves. I am happy to share with you that my smartphone use is really down. My wifi is always off. I read, reply and comment only if I have time. My new experiment stay offline on the weekends. I am proud of you for taking a step back and doing this.

  4. Life, real life is what you can cherish and hold, Shailaja. Proud of you! 🙂 The phone is useless unless you're actually connecting with someone, listening to their voice, laughing with them and making plans to do it all face to face.

    I'd say the secret of my happiness is precisely this. 😀

  5. Stacie, I am worried about that- the not answering texts 🙁 So much so that I hug her extra tight these days. Maybe I am paranoid, but I don't want to take a chance.

  6. Rachna , I am so glad to hear it! Yes, my smartphone use has come down drastically. I don't jump when a notification goes off these days. I just wait until I am free and then scroll through it all. The need to respond instantly is gone. Life is important, as we all know and I am glad I am taking it to heart now 🙂

  7. Very true, Vidya. More and more I have come to look at the phone as a mere utility tool. The fascination for all the apps is gone now as has the frenzied check for notifications. Too much of a good thing, as we say 😉

  8. This is so profound. Even though I don't have kids, I feel we need to be 'hands free' in all our relationships. We talk less with our friends and we spend less time with our spouse. Ironically I read somewhere online that ' this place has no WiFi, talk to each other'.Time we should start doing that!

  9. That makes so much sense. Technology can be very very distracting. And we're setting up a bad example for the kids too. I like what you do – the disconnecting for short a while is like deaddicting yourself.

  10. This is something that I need to do too. I have limited my time on the laptop, but the phone is my undoing. Recently started switching off my wifi, but it is still a struggle. I am in the process of trying to find my balance. Thank you for this post 🙂

  11. A good initiative Shailaja :). I found that even when trying to prepare D for exams, she takes it much more seriously if I turn off all distractions and focus on her – scares her a bit even maybe but whatever works ;).

  12. Awww..your little girl's talks make me go weak in the knees! And, to think that an inanimate object took away your time with her! It makes me understand why you 'disappear' every now and then. It makes me understand why we need to switch off that gadget and switch on our communication lines with people who matter. As I wrote in my recent post, lose that gadget and reach out for that hand that craves to be in ours! Great post, S!

  13. Time management is an essential art and the internet takes up all of the time if we let it to do so. The important thing is to be actually present for our child when they need us, when they want us. You are doing great Shailaja. I have to reduce my screen time too. I always spent time with my kid, he makes sure that he gets my undivided attention. It is the big boy of the house (my husband) suffering because of my blogging activities. I shall learn to make time from you, Shailaja.

  14. Lots of hugs and love. We are lucky to get enlightened sooner. A similar episode happebed recently at home making me turn off the notifications. Setting priorities in life is well learned from children.

  15. Technically, Gy is not at all tech-addicted given how much she sees both me and V handling gadgets, which is very surprising as it is. I then realised it was not fair on my part to impose screen time restrictions on her when I was not doing the same myself.

  16. I recall that post, Shilpa and how relevant it is for us, in this tech-connected zombie world of ours. We can do so much, so much more if we just turn off the Wi-fi and focus on the real world a little more.

  17. The big boy of my house is equally screen addicted, so I let him be. Right now, time for myself and time for my daughter seems important. As it always should be.

  18. Very true, Rekha. These incidents are things we need to bless, because without them we tend to fall into complacence and treat things as all right. Glad to hear that you are turning off notifications too. God bless.

  19. Oh, such an endearing post to be wanted and needed by your daughter! And I'm glad that you gave up technology to be with her…not everyone would! By the way, I posted on my FB home page (I think) an interesting commerical – you may have seen it – about this very issue. It's quite moving. Your daughter AND you are so worth each others' time and I'd rather have you be with her than with us, though of course we love and admire you too Shailaja! 🙂 <3

  20. We all need to do this no Shailaja…?Good that you decided and chalked out how you'll go about it..I think in January I was so engrossed in reading one book after the other that I didn't notice that S was there… It was only when he pointed it out that I realized what I had been doing..So I'm also trying to cut down time on the net consciously..Let's see how it goes

  21. Reading this, I realized how less time I am spending with my family! Lost in the world of gadgets, it has become rare to take out family time! Will follow your steps and start taking out time for them from now on 🙂

  22. Whenever I am with my parents or in laws I make it a point to put my phone on airplane mode. We meet only on the weekends and they deserve that 'our' time.
    Good for you Shailaja! Great initiative and I hope many follow suit after reading this!

  23. At least in your case it was books, Naba. Way more forgivable 😉 But in all seriousness, yes, we need to take stock of what is important in our lives. Today and every single day. Good luck to you as well!

  24. I can so relate with it because suddenly there is so much happening in the blogging world that we find ourselves fiddling with inanimate objects more than required. But I prefer spending my time with books than anything else and the guilt does come sometimes.
    I absolutely keep a tab of how much time I invest in family, job, blogging and social media.

  25. Good call, we often overdo and over-indulge in our passions that we don't remember the other important things. Technology and online hobbies are just fine as long as the virtual life doesn't overtake the real one.

  26. I am very happy for your honest blogpost. Yes, I have seen in many places, people constantly doing something or other with their i-phone, i-pad and when the child calls, they are completely oblivious. The other day, I was in a temple and Sri Rama Navami pooja was going on. There was a young lady sitting by my side. As the pooja was going on, she was also constantly shifting her attention from the pooja to her i-phone. I was almost tempted to ask her, 'is that so important for you to attend to the messages?', but I didn't, as she was a total stranger and probably, she was attending to some important message. But I was sad to see that kind of attitude. T N Neelakantan http://www.tnneelakantan.com

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