Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Heart Challenge; The No Judgment Pledge

A couple of weeks ago I heard a women talk about how sad she was to see a women playing on her cell phone while taking her child on walk around the neighborhood. She said how she feared the mother was missing out on an opportunity to bond with her child and expose the child to vocabulary. As I listened to her story I felt my self getting slowly more and more frustrated. But why? I mean I honestly respected her, and even agreed with her sentiment that technology can be a barrier to valuable interactions with children. But I was definitely having an adverse emotional response. Hmmm…


Well here it is. Her reaction to the mom in her neighborhood was a trigger to emotion I had felt when someone had judged me about my phone usage. You see my daughter was two days old and in the NICU. (First I should tell you we had an INCREDIBLE experience with all of the hospital staff, except for this one woman who had the day shift on day two of Little B’s life.) With my room being in the post-partum unit and my brand new precious little baby being on another floor in the NICU, we had to decide where we would spend our time while in the hospital. And honestly that decision was a no brainer. We spent every waking moment we could in the NICU except for the times I was pumping and the times the nurses were having a shift change. So after the shift change which brought in the day crew for day two, we were at the door ready to see our daughter. We did the whole hand washing routine and came to sit next to her incubator. Though she was asleep, I wanted to hold her. Remember, she was only two days old, so if I only held her while she was awake, she would not be held very often. Anyways, unlike the previous two shift nurses, we were told no. I was heartbroken. (FYI- I will write more about the NICU experience in another post) Then I decided I would take a few more snap shots of MY kid, no one else's, just my kid. Exactly like we had done the past two shifts. But, she came to tell me I was breaking a NICU policy by taking pictures of OUR kid. Oh my goodness, as if I  hadn’t been crying enough. So we take a seat next to our daughter’s incubator and I log on to Facebook to send a private prayer request message to my prayer warrior friends… but guess what this little ray of sunshine (*sarcasm*) decided to tell me. She said that I should not be playing on my phone! And that while I’m in the NICU I should be with my daughter. And that cell phones have all kinds of germs that I could give my daughter. And that I should think about the extensive hand washing policy to realize how careful NICU visitors needed to be in regards to germs!

Oh My Goodness! At this point I felt like a completely incapable mom. Every single thing I did was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! Holy cannoli! I was shaking by this point. I felt totally cut down. (On a quick side note, I know she probably had good intentions to stick with every policy ever written. And I know that policies are written for the best health outcomes of each little NICU life. But, I was soooo overwhelmed by her aggressive enforcement.) So anyways, a saying my mother had said to me came to mind, and honestly I have said this mantra over and over in the past 4.5 months of Little B’s life. I remembered “God picked me specifically to be the mother of THIS child.” I was a good mother! Though my daughter was only two days old, I had long prepared for motherhood, and I was the exact mother Little B needed. I WAS capable of being her mom.

Now fast forward and it was again time for my pumping session, so I left and then came back. After the hand washing routine, I went to my sleeping daughters side and told the nurse, I wanted to do skin to skin with her. I asked the nurse if she would prefer for me to go ahead and take her out of the incubator on my own, or if she would like to help me. She reactively hesitated and then said ok. She then had the nerve to go on to explain the benefits of skin to skin!!! YES I KNOW, I was screaming inside! THAT IS WHY I WANTED TO HOLD HER THIS MORNING!" *phew* What a whirlwind! Eventually other nurses were catching on to what was going on, and started coming by to support us, but let’s just say I was relieved when shift change came that night!

*Okay, deep breath*

Now back to the cellphone and parenting comment. Please let me be clear here, I believe the woman from the story that started this post was not specifically trying to pass judgment on the mom with her cell phone on the walk, but rather trying to illustrate how a little momma moment was possibly being missed at that exact minute. However, her comment clearly brought emotions to the surface that I may not have fully processed in the prior 3 months. While I can still gleam insight from her point, her comments triggered emotions from a time I felt very judged. Like I said earlier, I agree that being consumed with technology poses a great danger to valuable interactions with our children, but what I'm getting at, is that we should think twice before drawing conclusions about someone else's ratio of (technology time : child interaction time). We should think twice before judging someone as this nurse had judged me.

This letter entitled "Dear Mom on the iPhone: You’re Doing Fine." originally published on a blog called Real Life Parenting sums up my point beautifully. Jennifer Hicks writes:
 "Dear Mom on the iPhone,
I see you at the park with your kids, phone in hand. Your cherubs are running around playing and calling out “Mommy, watch me!” They go down the slide squealing in delight yelling “Mommy, watch this!” As they climb the ladder to go again, they shout “Mommy, I want you to watch me!! Mommy, watch! Mommy! Mommy!! MOMMY!!!!”

But you’re not watching … because you’re on your phone–checking Facebook, email, or Pinterest.

You’re not watching … because you just spent every waking hour before arriving at the park watching everything your child did. Every. Little. Thing.

You watched as he ate his breakfast and “drove” his waffles around his plate. You watched as he held the fork upside down and stabbed at bites with the handle and said “Mommy, now watch me do this!” And then he picked up his napkin and put it on his head. And you were watching.

You also watched as your daughter picked out her clothes–only the shirt with the monkey on it would do today. Then you watched as she got dressed. You watched while she struggled to put on her socks–determined to do it herself. You watched–sometimes helping and guiding but knowing that letting her figure it out is an important part of learning and growing.

You watched when she twirled around her bedroom. You watched as she played with her stuffed animals. You watched as she put away her toys. Slowly. Stopping to play with most of them on the way to the toy box. You were watching it all.

You watched as your kids brushed their teeth and hair. You watched as they played blocks and Playdoh and had a dance party. You also joined in the playtime because you love being a part of their fun. You watched while they pooped and you helped wipe their bottoms. You watched them wash their hands with too much soap–or maybe not enough. You watched as they splattered water all over the sink. You watched them jump off the stool. You watched as they ran around the house with wet hands.

You’ve been watching your kids–playing with them, helping them, singing and dancing with them all morning. All day. And now, at the park, when they can run around and play, you’re taking a few minutes for yourself on your phone.

Maybe you work from home and you’re still actually working, checking email, responding to clients, sending a proposal. Your lucky kids have the benefit of spending some of that time playing outside, making new friends, running off steam, enjoying the sunshine. Kudos to you for giving your kids such a fun way to spend part of their day while you take care of business.

Maybe you have a friend or family member who’s been ill and you’re taking some time while the kids are happily occupied to send some texts to check in on them, arranging the timing to know when you should drop off dinner at their house. Or you might be looking for the email follow-up for your own test results you’ve been waiting on. Maybe you’re writing or reading kind messages on Facebook, offering condolences for the loss of a loved one. All while your kids are outside, enjoying some free time to play.

Maybe you’re on Pinterest looking for ideas to help your kids adjust to their dad’s latest deployment–finding tools to help them stay connected or searching for party ideas to welcome him home.

Maybe you have an older child in school and his teacher emailed you about a concern with behavior that you need to address … and now that you have a few minutes with your younger kids happily playing at the park, you return a message.

Or maybe you realize that watching your kid every second of every day isn’t necessary and that it’s totally acceptable–and actually good for everyone involved–for you to have a few minutes to yourself. At the park. On your phone.

So, to you, dear Mom on the iPhone, I say this:

I’m not going to judge you. I don’t know you. I don’t know your story. But I do know that you don’t need to watch every hop, skip, jump, twirl, swing, bite, song, dance, blink, or breath to be a good mom. There’s a lot that demands our attention in this parenting life–and a lot that we want to soak in and enjoy. There’s also a lot that happens in our lives outside of parenting that we cannot neglect. While parenting might be our most important and rewarding job, it’s not the only one. We’re all working on balance and finding that area where we can be satisfied that we’re making enough time for it all. For the record, we’re all failing at that. Every single one of us wishes we were better at juggling our responsibilities … and many of us spend time beating ourselves up for how we’re doing. You’re doing fine. As long as you’re doing your best to make it all work for your family, you’re doing just fine, and that’s what matters.

It’s actually good for your kids to know they’re not the center of your attention every second of every day. It’s good for them to learn to play independently and do things on their own without accolades for Every. Little. Thing. That’s good parenting–allowing them to learn that some things are satisfying just for the fun and enjoyment of doing them, not for the praise or attention that comes with them.

So, find your balance. Be a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor, mentor, employee–wear all the hats you need to wear. Do what needs to be done … which sometimes includes taking a little time for yourself–even if it’s just checking Facebook while your kid runs around playing at the park.

Sincerely,

This Mom with an iPhone who isn’t judging you for yours"

So there you have it. I couldn't have said it better myself. So thank you Jennifer Hicks for saying what my heart felt. My response to your post is THANK YOU! Oh how I wish that NICU nurse had read this before she met us. I wish she understood this before she enforced a policy without any sight of bedside manner. What a powerful message, reminding us that though it may be SOOOOO easy to judge other parents, we really should think twice.
 
Realistically and unfortunately, it is so easy to judge others for a multitude of things, not just this technology issue. I was actually reminded this week that just because someone parents differently then me, it doesn't mean that their quality of parenting is some how lesser than my own. It just means they parent differently then me. And just because I parent differently then someone else, it doesn't have to mean that I think their way is wrong. I simply parent my way. We really should think twice, and keep our hearts and mind in check. In fact, I am issuing a challenge! A challenge of the heart. If you have read this, will you join me in this No Judgment Pledge.
 
I, April Faith (Replace with your name of course, lol!), pledge to keep my heart in a place of support instead of judgment when interacting with, or observing other parents.
 
Short and sweet, but to the point. I may not succeed every time, but I believe having a predetermined mind set will help guide my behavior.
 
Your turn. Accept the challenge.
 
Love,
Little Momma, April Faith

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