My son and I arrived at his weekly swim lesson with 3 minutes to spare. Thanks to GPS, we took a tour through narrow inside streets to get there, rounding corners of little neighborhoods that were crowded with parked cars, and of course, lots of red lights. It was supposedly the fastest route according to the almighty mobile device.
My son had a smooth and brisk transition out of his Crocs into the pool. I parked myself on a chair in the parent section. By sheer habit, I reached for my phone. Even though I wasn’t completely sure why I needed it just yet, it was second nature to expect to feel it and reattach it to my hand without even having to look.
Swim towel. Car keys that were thrown in haphazardly upon arrival. Snack bag. Shark bathrobe. A clear tote was my choice that day so all of the contents could be seen from the outside. Not thinking that I needed to use this feature at that particular moment, I picked up the whole thing and scanned for a visual.
NO PHONE. I LEFT IT IN THE CAR.
Warm ups had already begun and I noticed that my son’s confidence in the water had grown a lot since previous sessions.
Unfortunately, I also noticed how distracted I was, worrying about my precious mobile device trapped in a hot car. I knew exactly where I left it; exposed in plain view, still in the holder from when it played the role of navigator. I visualized a smash and grab situation, shattered window and all, based on my own biases about the surrounding neighborhood. I self-talked my way back into reality. It was SO HARD. I didn’t stay long.
Could I just run out to the parking lot real quick to go grab it? Yes, of course, but it would be a silly waste of time and I would feel major mom guilt. I would also totally distract my son by leaving and his teacher probably wouldn’t be a fan either. I stayed put.
This is actually a good thing. I can totally focus on my child’s progress without distraction.
Failure. Four other moms were positioned around the pool “watching” their kids too. Two were texting or typing. Another one was actually taking a phone call for all to hear. I guess she didn’t want to step away either. And finally, the last mom was cheering on her son and daughter while they swam. However, it was all via her phone’s screen while taking pictures and video.
I was experiencing a very screwed up type of FOMO. I was the only phone-less mom in the room. No quick checks for text or email. No chance to take the perfect photo even though all the swim lesson photos on my phone end up looking the same. I was distracted by my phone and it wasn’t even in the building.
17 minutes of the swim lesson remained and I FORCED myself to refocus AGAIN. I really had to tap into some mindfulness strategies, a few of which I implement on a regular basis in my classroom with a room full of 8 year olds. Deep breaths. Focus on one object or one sound at a time. Acknowledge feelings of anxiety and let it go for the moment. It was definitely a “practice what you preach” situation.
By the time the lesson wrapped up, I had caught my son smiling multiple times and laughing with his teacher. I noticed when he actually turned his head to look over at me after he had done something major like dive to the bottom of the pool to retrieve a ring. If these small seconds would have been missed because my neck was bent down and my eyes turned away while looking at a screen, that would have been a bit of a bummer. Especially from his point of view.
I feel really silly to have been so conflicted during a little swim lesson. I definitely re-learned some lessons myself. Moving forward, I’m still left with some interesting questions and wonderings:
Why do some parents default to using their phone so often during their child’s events or activities? Is this just the expectation now?
What are the long term impacts on a child’s well being due the amount of time their parents spend on their phones?
Is smartphone addiction real, and are people recognizing it as a true problem?
I’m not sure I’ll find out the answers, but for now, I am still very much dependent due to fear of living without it.
■ Elementary Educator for Equity & Cultural Responsibility
■ Collector of Small Moments & Thrifty Finds
■ Wife & Mother
■ Bay Area, CA