Summer: Unplugged

My son loves to throw rocks.  Specifically, he likes to throw rocks into water.  Into the ocean, lakes, streams, puddles - you name it.  He also loves to run.  All the time.  He thinks running is the most fun when you are doing it with him.  He also likes to build train tracks and play catch and drive cars and paint and draw and cook and do laundry and brush his teeth and turn the fan (which he calls "the machine") on and off for as long as you'll let him.  And bubbles - don't even get me started on the bubble machine.

Today was a stressful day for me.  I've had a lot on my mind and after work I decided we could all use some time at the park. So, we loaded the kids in the stroller and walked to the park.  The nearest park also has a small beach which is where we spent most of our time.  Will wanted to throw rocks into the water and into the small tide pools left behind in the rocks.  I mentally prepared myself to just enjoy the rock throwing as long as he wanted.  Sometimes this is hard for me.  Rock after rock goes into the water and he squeals with delight, hunts for more and then repeats.  After 5 or 10 rocks, I'm done.  I've lost interest.

But, not tonight.  Tonight I was caught up in his joy.  Caught up in how fascinating it is to him that some rocks are black and some are brown.  Caught up in how he delighted in the big splashes.  Caught up in the excitement of finding a new pool of water or a waterfall.  He found so much joy in the whole experience and I was lucky to get to be invited to participate.

A couple of times as I was watching him I felt my hand wander to my phone, ready to peek at whatever inane information the internet had waiting for me.  Each time this happened I made a conscious effort to remind myself to stay present in the moment.  To remind myself that nothing on my phone couldn't wait an hour.  And you know what?  It was great.  I had so much fun throwing rocks and laughing with my boy.

For Christmas, my mom gave us a very cool old-school box called a "Phone Minder."  It was used in hotels in the past to remind users that they had a limited amount of time available to use the phone.  But, she encouraged us to use it to hold our phones during dinner time so that we weren't looking at our phones during this critical time of day with our family.  She said to us, "I didn't have these kinds of distractions when I had young kids.  I know that those times I spent with you guys were so special - and you'll never regret any time you spend with your kids without your phone or other devices."

Ever since Will was born, I've tried to keep my phone or computer away when we are together and I've done alright for the most part - but this summer I've got a new resolve to put away my phone after work each day until the kids go to bed.  I want to look back on these times and remember running and hopping and popping bubbles and dancing and laughing and even throwing rocks.  I want to foster my son's love of play and exploring outside and learning.  And, mostly, I want to be patient.  We live in such a fast-paced world that it's hard to focus on one task for too long, but I don't ever want my kids to feel like I wasn't interested about the things that make them excited.

So, here's to a summer (and beyond) of long, warm nights - unplugged.


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