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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.