I’m as bad as the next parent, if not worse, in regard to being on my phone and social media too much around my kids. Not to mention how it wreaks havoc with my ADHD and executive function. Yesterday, I decided to put some guidelines in place. This is an evolving guide.
The first and last hour of the day are for my family and myself, free of social media. Email only if necessary.
My time with my kids is for my kids, free of the phone. In fact, the phone is in another room entirely.
Social media consumption is once a day, for one hour in the morning.
Posting on social media will be intentional and considered. No knee jerk posts, no knee jerk responses.
Remove all the push notifications from my phone and Apple Watch that I can.
This morning was rough getting the kids ready to daycare. Mondays are the hardest. They always are.
Really, I should say it was the hardest on Mom, Dad and Harrison, four years old. Eleanor, who just turned one this past weekend, was happy a clam.
Harrison had a challenging morning.
After a rough Sunday evening and bedtime, we decided there would be no screen time this morning, something we indulge Harrison in too much.
He didn’t respond well to that.
Nor did he respond well to Mommy and Daddy’s insistence he wear weather-appropriate clothes. He’s insisted on still wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, even as the temperatures have gotten warmer. With it expected to be close to 90 degrees today, we didn’t give him a choice in wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. We knew he’d be playing outside today, and didn’t want him to overheat.
I never use the word ‘whining’ in front of Harrison, but this morning he was whhhiiinnniiinnnggg. He threw a tantrum or two. He physically refused to move a few times. It was a struggle to get out the door.
Then the entire way to pre-school, through dropping Eleanor off at the little in-home daycare we send her to, and on to his pre-school a couple of miles away, he begged us to come back home so he could change into different clothes.
Me and Betsy did our best to make him feel heard and validated, but still he that he had no say in the matter.
He didn’t want to get out of the car. Betsy had to coax him out, and then stand with him a couple of minutes at the door, chatting with one of his teachers.
The teacher assured Betsy that other kids have had some difficulties this morning being dropped off. Mondays are the hardest – for both adults and kids.
“I just want to scream. I want to cry,” I said to Betsy as we pulled away.
The struggle of being a parent is so hard some days.
We’re about three weeks into a new sleeping regimen for Harrison. It’s going pretty well, on the whole. He’s sleeping through the night (although it takes him a while to fall asleep many nights), and he stays in his room until his designated time (6:30am), even if he is awake.
For the most part. In the space of writing the above, he has opened the door to his room through times, and then shut it as soon as he heard me coming. In a game playing mood, he is.
Yesterday morning, I was doing yoga in the back sun room, with just he light from the street coming in through the windows. It was about 5:40. I looked over at one point (door just opened; I’m going to ignore it and see what…yup, he just shut it), and there was a silhouette of a tiny human standing in the dining room, watch me. He is learning the Stealth Mode of his toddler hood. I went over, walked him back into his room, and he stayed there until his wake up time (he’s playing in his room now, singing.)
When I reported this to Betsy yesterday, she noted she was napping on the couch while he was playing the other day. She noticed it had gone silent, and she opened her eyes to see him standing right in front of her, staring at her.
(He just opened his door again. I can’t tell if he’s out. Going to give it a second.)
(I was sure he was out, but he shut his door when I got within a few steps of his room.)
One of the key components of this new sleep regimen is to engage with him as little as possible when he comes out of his room before his wake up time. We don’t make eye contact. We gently take him by the hand, and escort him back into his room, and shut the door. No emotion. No pleas for him to behave. We have stuck to that by and large, except for a couple of occasions when it was clear he was game-playing, and wanted us to keep walking him back into his room for his enjoyment. In those cases, we (he’s out now…or at least his door is opened) have spoken to him, reminded him of this “sleep rules”, and expressed disappointment because “we know you can understand this”. I had no clue if this was going to work the first time we did it, but surprisingly, it works (for now.) (He’s back in his room with the door shut now.)
That component – as little engagement as possible – has been helpful. It makes things simpler: He has a job, to test his boundaries. We have a job, to enforce them.
He’s pushing them this morning, no doubt. But it’s 6:18, and he’ll be able to come out soon, and we’ll eat breakfast and listen to some music.
I sit in the queue three cars back to pick up my son from daycare, and read the news story: Two dead, several injured, the shooter in critical condition after shooting himself, at a school in California, this morning.
The story has been developing all day, the main picture different every time I’ve checked this afternoon. Now, the photo is one of a father and daughter being reunited near the school sometime after, and I can picture the story that goes with that: The dad learning of the shooting, being terrified for his child’s safety, rushing through traffic to get to the school, and the incredible relief of seeing her, knowing she’s safe.
I’m now two cars back in the queue.
I think to the future, and imagine my own child and me in a scenario like this. I imagine getting the news there’s been a shooting at his school. I imagine the terrified calls and texts between Betsy and me as we rush to get to the school, not yet knowing if our child is okay. I imagine that eventually we learn he is, because I cannot let myself play out the alternative in my head.
I’m now one car back.
Before that day, though, a day I pray never comes, I imagine the day that all too likely will, the one where my child will have to go through his first “Active Shooter” drill at school. No doubt, his teacher will do everything they can to make the scenario as not scary as possible, but still, my son will have to imagine he is trying to hide or run from someone with a gun.
I wonder how I can have any sort relationship with some of my family after that day, family who is staunchly against any sort of reasonable gun control. Family who has resolutely told me they never want to discuss the issue with me again, because they have a right to “believe what they want.”
I’m now pulling into the one dedicated spot in front of my son’s daycare, and I am grateful it is an in-home one with no visible outdoor signage or indication of what it is, other than the street signs indicating the one spot is reserved during specific hours. Because, yes, I know, who would want to shoot up a daycare, but anymore, how can you know?
I think about the news of the day, and I find myself grateful that it’s only two kids dead, that the shooter had only a handgun, and not some sort of assault weapon.
I get out of the car, walk up the front steps, and I know I will hug my son extra hard when I see him in just a couple of moments. As I wait in the small foyer, I am confronted with this sign.
It’s always been there. I’ve noticed it before, but it looms a little larger today.
The door opens a little more quickly than usual, my son’s already bundled up and ready to go. I whisk him up in my arms. The daycare worker and I briefly chat about his day, and then we are out in the cold, and I am more than a little extra grateful for him today.
He is oblivious to anything different. He just wants his snack, which Daddy has forgotten.
He whines a little. I say I’m sorry for forgetting, but we’ll be home in a just a few minutes. I load him into his car seat, and we drive out back into the street.
When Betsy and I talk about social media, she often remarks that we are still in the “wild west” days of the medium.
I like the imagery “wild west” evokes, maybe because I watched a lot of westerns with my dad when I was a kid. The “wild west” had laws, but was also in many ways lawless. People were figuring out what worked as they went. It was a time of great opportunity, but it was brutal, especially, of course, to anyone not white.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how much I should engage in social justice causes on social media. No doubt, it can be time-consuming, and if not careful, one can find themselves going down a lot of mentally unhealthy avenues. It’s easy to get sucked into soul-defeating fights with people who are committed to not changing their minds, if not outright trolling in some cases.
As a largely self-employed person, time is money. I have a family to support. So sometimes I feel like choosing to get heavily invested in a post here or a thread there is simultaneously a decision to not be working towards making money and helping to provide for my family. And yet, I am mindful of the world my son is going to grow up in, and I do feel that online social activism is an important part of shaping that world, even in my very small capacity.
Finding the balance is difficult, and I don’t have any clear answers, but I’m working on it.
About a month ago, we hired a sleep expert to get Harrison’s sleep under control. There’s been some bumps in the road with him testing boundaries on occasion, but on the whole, it’s been a game changer. (Perhaps more on this, and a review of the company and consultant we used later.)
This means we’re all sleeping better, and I have been able to get back into a routine of waking up early and having some time to myself before the rest of the house wakes: Light yoga, journaling, getting my day in order, etc. It’s done so much for my mood and outlook.
A letter I would write to my younger self, or anyone who doesn’t have children or someone else to be a caregiver for: Make time first thing in the morning for yourself. Wake up just 10 minutes early. Stretch. Write. Take care of yourself before the world piles on the rest of the day. Make it a regular part of your life.
Go on social media any given day, and you’ll find no shortage of posts reminding you there are certain businesses you shouldn’t give your money or support to, either because of their problematic labor practices or financial ties, both of which often have deep-seated issues of oppression and bigotry.
It’s banal to point out there’s no such thing as being an entirely ethical consumer in a capitalist society – buying anything mass-produced and marketed most assuredly means you’re contributing to someone’s harm somewhere in the world – but it is worth it to try as best you can. It’s important to call out businesses that are especially harmful and abusive, but at the same time, allowing yourself to constantly get upset over where others spend their time and money is a set up for misery. It’s a reactive, unpowerful response.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to be more proactive in trying to be an ethical consumer. By that I mean, thinking more about where I want to spend to money, not just where I shouldn’t spend my money. What does that look like?
It may look something like this:
Seeking out small and local businesses that support their surrounding community; businesses that provide good services at a reasonable price, and are also welcoming and inclusive of everyone.
Being mindful that no matter how great a small business is, it often doesn’t have the bandwidth to provide some services as cheap or as quickly as big corporations, but still making an effort to give them my business anyway, and being patient when things don’t go as smoothly as it might with a company that has, say, a slick website with a one-click buying option and same-day delivery.
Being respectful of the fact that more and more services are being driven to the gig economy, which inevitably means there’s always someone willing to work for less. Being an ethical consumer means not taking advantage of that and trying to get as much as I can out of a freelancer for as little as possible, because I know I can.
Much of this is easier in theory than in practice. The world is going a 1000 miles per hour, and so much is expected of us every single day. We not only want, but often need, our purchase options to be quick and seamless as possible.
But again, I think it’s worth trying. And I’d rather give more thought about where I want to spend my money than allowing myself to get upset over where other spend theirs.
Our little family said goodbye to its first home this week – the first home, at least, with the little guy and our pup, Jessica Jones. A tiny condo on Ardmore Avenue in Chicago, in the Arcadia Terrace neighborhood. We’ll miss the neighborhood dearly. We’ll always have fond memories of our first home together, but we are so happy to be moving on.
In truth, Betsy and I didn’t buy smart. The place was too small from the beginning. We would have soon outgrown it even if it was just us. Add a growing baby to the mix, and it was never a good fit: No formal dining room, a small living room, and two small bedrooms. Our son’s room didn’t even have a formal closet, just an IKEA wardrobe.
We were taken by the eagerness to buy, and the updated finishes, especially in the kitchen. We had come from an apartment in a two-flat that desperately needed updating. Our sense of what was important and what we needed was a bit off.
Betsy was at the condo tonight putting on some finishing cleaning touches before closing tomorrow. She cried a little cry when she left.
I was there the other day moving some stuff out, and when I left, I barely looked back. I’m sure it will hit me soon enough, but it just hasn’t quite yet. But that tiny condo is where we brought our puppy and baby home to. It’s where we sat devastated the night we were supposed to bring Jessica home from the animal shelter, only to learn she had been taken to the vet for overnight observation because she had eaten something, and may need surgery. (She eventually passed the object without surgery, a small metal spring.) It’s where we watched the Cubs win the World Series. It’s where we sat in shock and watched the news as Trump was elected. It was where Betsy’s water broke, and we watched The Crown for a few hours while waiting to go to the hospital to deliver our child. It’s where he had so many of his firsts – his first rolling over, his first steps, his first poop on the potty.
It will eventually hit me. It just hasn’t yet.
For now, I’m sitting in our new home, a rental a couple of neighborhoods southwest, with literally twice as much square footage as the old place. We’re still buried in boxes and surrounded by Home Depot logos everywhere, but this place, with our furniture and things, and new (well, new to us) dining room table, and our son’s toys already strewn about – this place feels like home.
We live on Monticello Avenue now. We’ve already dubbed this place The Monty.
We’re ready for the next adventure, whatever life may bring at The Monty.
We moved our son to his first “big boy” bed a few months ago. It was a challenge, no doubt.
The first couple of weeks was him constantly climbing out of it the moment we left the room during his bedtime. Some nights, we put him back to bed repeatedly for close to an hour or more.
Those days are past, but he still frequently needs company as he falls asleep, and also if we he wakes up in the middle of the night. From the get-go, we knew we needed to have a semi-comfortable way of sleeping with him in the room. We have a small mattress set up, from his old crib, padded with a fur blanket, and a couple of pillows. Many nights, his mom or me might spend anywhere from two to four hours lying on the floor next to him instead of his bed.
I don’t mind. The set up is actually fairly comfortable, and there’s a lot to be said for the bonding time it allows us. I’m especially appreciative since my work schedule often has me away on the weekends, and many of his bedtimes.
Some nights, we have to sleep in the chair next to his bed for a bit. I’ve gotten some good snoozing in sitting in that chair.
Some shots from the monitor from last night, trying to get him down at bedtime. For whatever reason, he was particularly wired last night:
And then in the middle of the night, I spent a couple of hours with him, both of us lying on the mattress next to his bed.
These are the moments that make parenting worth it.