Mama, look up

Have you ever heard the saying, “The days are long, but the years are short?” This profound truth applies to parenting, to the day-in and day-out of raising our children. 

You’ve been there, no doubt. From the early days of exhaustion that accompany newborns, to the trials and tribulations of navigating the toddler wars, to the nail-biting, white-knuckled years of raising teenagers, we all get it. There are days we aren’t sure we’ll survive (or that they’ll survive!). 

I also imagine that for many of you, your children, like mine, are grown and gone. They’re off building their adult lives and making their own families (if we did our job right), and our homes are now quiet. Some rooms even seem to echo, don’t they?

Make no mistake; I love this time of our lives. Sure, we’re slowing down a bit. We ache here and there. But we’re also re-learning what we like to do. Perhaps we’re learning for the first time, things we enjoy doing. There’s adventure and discovery and excitement in that. We’re still in there somewhere!

Still, there’s the quiet that can sometimes loom large. 

I was at the pool the other day, relaxing and drying off after a water aerobics class. I was enjoying the warmth of the sun and patting myself on the back for keeping up with the instructor (sort of). A little girl’s voice interrupted my relaxation; she sounded so sweet that I had to smile.

“Mommy, watch me!” she called to her mom who was lounging poolside. “Watch what I can do!”

“In a minute,” Mom called back. She was looking at her phone, never glancing up to see the pride on her little girl’s face. And in that moment, my heart wrenched for both of them. There is a time in a child’s life, however brief, during which Mommy and Daddy’s attention and approval are paramount. And there’s a time in a mom’s life, however brief, during which her children are young, when everything’s new, and when they want to share every exciting accomplishment with her.

That time passes in a flash, my friend. Children grow up. Their friends become more important to them than their parents. They yearn for independence, and that yearning will be answered someday, sooner than you think.

My heart wrenched for the little girl, because when Mom didn’t look up from her phone, she lingered for a minute, then went on playing by herself. And my heart wrenched for Mom, because she was completely unaware that the moment passed, never to return. 

I am not a fan of technology. Oh, I understand that it has revolutionized communication, medicine, commerce and entertainment. It clearly has its uses. But I fear that technology has usurped connection between families – between parents and children, between siblings, between true friends. We’ve become a hyper-connected society of very lonely, isolated people. 

I’m not writing this to judge this young mom, believe me. There were many times that I did the same thing when my children were little, but we didn’t have cell phones then. It was everyday life that often diverted my attention, but the end result was the same. 

Technology is a double-edged sword, and we as human beings must rein in its control over our time and attention, don’t you think? The days can be long, yes, but the years can be so very short.  Look up.

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