Have you seen the latest viral blog post going around? Don't worry, if you missed "Dear Mom on the iPhone," allow me to sum it up thusly: it's a finger-wagging bunch of mom shaming aimed at parents who do not spend every waking moment wrapped up in their little snowflakes' lives.
Written by a mom whose blog pronounces, "I'm a Mom, what's your super power?" the sanctimony is to be expected. What's shocked me is how fast it's traveled around the blogosphere, and how furiously it's being defended. I guess it's obvious, isn't it?
I am that mom on the iPhone at the park.
Well, not specifically THAT mom. I was not the particular mom who sat on a bench in the sunshine "messing" on her phone instead of playing with her kids while the mom blogger seethed.
I live in upstate New York. We haven't had bench-sitting sunshine moments in months. But man, oh man, when we have them again, I'd be more than happy to take my kid out to the park and park my butt on a bench with my iPhone (or a book or a friend to chit chat with).
Before you say it, I'm well aware my daughter's childhood will be over in a blink of an eye. And if I were one of those parents who was always out to lunch, I'd be getting my mea culpas ready.
But I'm one of those moms who has some strong ideas about park time: my kid should be off playing. She doesn't need me for much more than some backup if an emergency crops up. She does need to PLAY.
I'm raising an only child. She has my time, sometimes too much of it. My husband and I don't go out on many dates. We tend to organize our weekends around her social schedule.
Sometimes, she needs me to tune out. She needs to go off on her own adventures, to take risks, to chart her own path. She needs to be an individual.
Sure, she's only 7. She is just a little kid, and everything she does is just soooo darn cute that only a meanie mom could possibly ignore it.
Call me a meanie, but I say she's plenty old enough to pump her own legs on the swings, to slide down the slide by herself, to settle down in the sandbox and make a castle. She doesn't need me to stand there, encouraging her, telling her what to do and when to do it.
If I did it all the time, I'm afraid of what she'd become: one of those spoiled brats whose mothers never get to have their own fun because their kids are constantly at their side, demanding their attention. I've met those kids. Hanging out with their parents is miserable for everyone involved because Mom can never shut off and kids think all adults should give them the same amount of attention they get from their parents. Kids stop being cute very quickly when they can't let adults say two words to each other without interrupting.
I don't want that to be my kid. So I take my iPhone to the park, and I let her entertain herself. There's plenty there to do it on: swings and slides, a giant climbing "thing" that gives me agita just looking at it, and often other kids, with whom she makes instant friends in the way that only a bunch of 7-year-olds who just met become pals.
This is the dark side of parenting, the side the mom berating us iPhone moms doesn't want to admit exists: sometimes being "there" for our kids means backing off. It means seeing them fall down and letting them get up and dust themselves off instead of running immediately to their sides. It means answering "I'm bored" with "well, go find something to do" instead of "OK, let me entertain you."
It may not be perfect to outsiders. But if you're considering trying it, allow me to drop one more benefit on you: my kid never says, "I'm bored."
Would you take your smartphone to the park and ignore your kids?