Technology is a great escape; one my children are learning, and one I wish I could unlearn.
Life is more hectic than it has ever been, and more and more I have to urge to disappear into my phone, so much so, that when I'm with both kids, the food/toys/books are being hurled across the room, and the screaming of "Mine! Mine!" can be heard across the street, I'm increasingly tempted to retreat into a corner and check my email. Check Facebook. Certainly someone has said something trite and clever, certainly someone has posted some cute innocuous editorial about motherhood or child-rearing or politics or fashion that I'll find clever and "like" and share with others. Certainly someone's posted some cute pic of their baby or cat or breakfast. Maybe I should post that picture of my baby, cat, or breakfast, so others can enjoy it and think of me. Did the cat throw up on the carpet again? Is little brother pulling big sister's hair out by the root again after attempting to eat all of her crayons? Hmmm. What's on Pinterest? Instagram? Anyone? Help?
Of course, the answer is, put the phone away. Out of sight of the preschooler who wants to play Disney Princess Stickerbook and the toddler who wants to wrench everything from her grasp and throw it in the toilet. And most of the time, I manage to do this, after a minute of compulsive checking has not succeeded in making me feel any better about the current situation. I don't, in fact, want to read anymore emails from my daughter's preschool list serve. This is all that's waiting in my inbox, this and perhaps a low balance alert from the bank. I don't really want to see pictures of other people's sweet well-behaved children or pets when mine are playing "10 Little Monkeys" on my bed and the cat's coughing up another hairball in the corner. Even a message or sweet photo of a dear friend serves to remind me how far they are away from me.
I've always had mixed feelings about the web; all this virtual connection is so ephemeral. It's the illusion of connection. There are very few people I can get on the phone anymore, which is ironic, given that the long distance calls that once came close to bankrupting me are for all intents and purposes free now. Now we text. I can't see you anymore, I can't hear you anymore. Facebook pages are storefronts. The best goods are in the window. The rest, out of reach.
I've noticed more and more on Facebook that instead of sharing original thoughts, people are simply "liking" inspirational or humorous internet posters. It reminds me of the actual posters, coffee mugs, t-shirts, felt-bottomed paperweights of golfers or kittens that were everywhere in the 80s, at the mall at Spencer's Gifts or the Hallmark store or the boardwalk shops in Ocean City where we spent a week every summer. I'm sure they still make those things. Why do they make those things? Why do people buy them?
Facebook has its value, of course. I can still get into fun exchanges with old friends that live 3000 miles away. I can see pictures of my friend's kids and they can see mine. We wait for airfares to come down; we say we'll see each other again someday. I really hope that's true.
My daughter has started asking for apps instead of toys. My 15 month old listens to Spotify and dances in his gorgeous baby way. I guess I feel the way my parents did the first time I tuned them out with a walkman or played Mario Bros. on the first Nintendo. The way all parents do with a combined what-a-wonderful-world/what-a-terrible-world-they're-growing-up-in feeling.
Escape is nothing new, and I'm certainly not the first parent who's wanted to retreat at times. I'm not the first stay-at-home-mom who's felt lonely. The landscape is different, but the story doesn't change. And it's still true, too, that when I stop fretting, stop looking for distractions, unplug and jump right in to the chaos of my children's lives, I rarely regret it.