I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably clenching and bracing yourself for a heaping helping of sanctimommy.
Hear me out.
I took my kids to martial arts today. They’re only seven, so I stay there while they take their 45-minute class. I guess I could say I “stay there and watch.” I hardly ever do. Watch, I mean.
It had been an intense afternoon. I wanted to make my grocery list and zone out on my phone. I knew I had to be physically present at the dojo while they had their lesson, but I was excited at the prospect of 45 minutes for myself. For ME.
“Have fun, boys!” I chirped as they trooped into the dojo ahead of me.
My son Kyle turned around and looked at me as I was juggling my planner, my oversized bag, and my phone—all the things I needed to be “productive” during their class time.
“Yes, honey?” I answered without looking at him, busy trying not to drop my oversized pile of importantness.
“I just want you to watch me today.” That comment stopped me in my tracks.
I take my kids to martial arts three times a week. I hate going there.
Don’t get me wrong—I love that my kids are in martial arts. It’s done so much for them and has shaped the little men they are becoming. They’ve learned respect, confidence, agility, and compassion through their two years in Korean martial arts (aka: Kung Jung Mul Sul).
But, I hate taking them. We’re always running late because I can’t ever get my crap together. I always feel like I’m coming or going and that I don’t ever stop, probably because all those things are true. I like to think I’m not one of those hot mess express moms, but most of the time, that title fits.
I hate taking my kids to martial arts. The parking lot is crowded. The chairs hurt my butt, and the entire place smells like feet. This is the place where I encounter other moms and dads who want to make small talk. I hate peopling. I am not good at it.
“I just want you to watch me,” my son repeated. “Can you watch me today? Please? You’re always looking at your phone and you never watch me doing karate. I just want you to watch.”
I sit on those uncomfortable chairs three times a week and watch my kids do martial arts. Well, kind of. I’m present and I zone out on my phone or just zone out because the mental load gets to be too much sometimes. But, today he was asking—begging, even—for me to watch him.
A pretty small request, right?
I watch him three times a week. Sort of. I’m aware of what he’s doing and learning, in between checking email and making sure I don’t lose sight of what’s trending on Twitter for 45 whole minutes.
And he notices that. And, he called me on it.
“Today I will watch,” I promised. Feeling sheepish, I slid my phone in my bag.
And I did. I made good on my word, and I watched.
I was bored out of my gourd. If you’ve seen seven-year-olds do martial arts drills once…well, you get the idea. I wanted to check Facebook, check my text messages, or see if I’d gotten any interesting emails.
But in the space that I watched, I saw my son look back at me—I don’t know—20 or so times? Maybe more. He wanted to be sure I was watching, as I said I would.
I’m far from a perfect mom. I can probably list multiple ways I fall short every day. I’m so happy I held up my end of the bargain this time.
When my son looked at me and saw me looking at him, a blinding smile lit up his entire being from the inside. He stood a little taller and tried a little harder.
Because I was watching him and not my phone.
Mamas, I’m not saying don’t be on your phones, ever. I’m not judging you. There are enough people judging us for our parenting decisions. We don’t need to turn on each other. I think moms should stick together more.
I’m not saying you don’t have a good reason to look at your phone when your child is playing at the park or at soccer practice or whatever. You might be working. Maybe you’re ordering groceries online or looking at your bank balance. You might just want a stinking minute for yourself because you’ve earned it. You don’t have to have your eyeballs glued to your small human 24/7.
I’m not advocating for loving every minute of motherhood, or even appreciating it. There are parts of being a mom that suck. Potty training. Ridiculously picky eaters. Sitting in a dojo that smells like feet three times a week.
But, to the mamas who are zoning out on their phones: we need to listen to what our kids are doing and saying. We especially need to pay attention when they ask us to, when they tell us it’s important to them.
Because they are sure paying attention to us.