As I recently mentioned, my-seven-year old daughter has had an extensive array of medical appointments lately. This translates to an astronomical amount of waiting.
Before I began my Hands Free journey, I would have passed this “wait time” by occupying myself with my phone. My daughter would have sat and read a book or colored a picture while I read email, checked Facebook, sent a text, etc.
Things are different for me now. Thank God, things are different now.
Though I have noticed that occupying oneself with a hand-held communication device is the preferred method of passing the time by many parents in waiting rooms (and even the receptionist, as I noted in Monday’s post).
It is almost as if we have forgotten what to do with ourselves if we have to wait. I have noticed this in doctors’ offices, and also in post offices, restaurants, movie theaters, concerts, sporting events, and even at stop lights. If required to wait on anything, for any amount of time, people feel compelled to check their iPhones, Blackberries, and cell phones incessantly.
It appears that waiting has become strongly associated with playing on our phone. Call it a compulsion. Call it a habit. Call it a pastime. Call it whatever you want, but I am here to tell you, there is a better way, my friends. There is a better way to wait.
Why not spend that time waiting interactively? This simply means spending time interacting with the person (big or little) that accompanied you to this place where you find yourself waiting.
Let me tell you about it.
A year ago, I would not have had anything positive to say about waiting for two and a half hours in a tiny room with no windows and two small children.
But like I said before, things are different now.
During the first 30 minutes of our lengthy wait, we read through all of my seven-year-old’s correspondences with Priscilla, the child she is sponsoring from Ghana.
In a Ziploc bag, I brought the most recent letters from Priscilla, along with the old ones. We read her all her letters several times. For a change, we actually had time to talk in detail about the content. I was able to answer every question that came to my daughter’s mind. Then my daughter had time to write back to Priscilla. She even had time to decorate the edges of the paper carefully and lovingly.
I would have missed this moment of connection if I had chosen to play on my phone instead.
The next 30 minutes were spent having a coloring contest. I brought my four-year-old’s new Chipmunk coloring book, as well as her Mega Mind coloring book.
Whether you are four, seven or thirty-nine-years old, you never outgrow coloring.
I would have missed this calming, creative, and therapeutic experience with my daughters if I had chose to play on my phone instead.
The next 30 minutes were spent simply talking and answering questions.
We talked about the four-year-old going to kindergarten, which somehow lead to a lot of laughter about how much Mama was going to cry that day.
We talked about the four-year-old’s swim lesson progress and her dreams of being on the swim team like her big sister.
Swim talk led to a very brief discussion about sharks.
We talked of summer plans to head north to see our adorable little nephew, and how we would take him to the park.
We talked about the upcoming spring concert and how my daughter singing “Amazing Grace” while strumming her ukulele would sound like a little slice of heaven on earth.
I would have missed these priceless conversations if I had chosen to play on my phone instead.
The next 30 minutes were spent cuddling.
My seven-year-old unexpectedly came and sat on my lap. She nestled her head in the crook of my neck. I couldn’t recall the last time she actually sat on my lap, but in anticipation of the doctor’s entrance, she needed the sanctity of her mother’s arms.
So I held her, and she rested. She took deep breaths and allowed faith to surround her.
I would have missed this opportunity to comfort her if I had chosen to play on my phone instead.
And the last 30 minutes were spent creating a mural of an ocean scene on exam table paper.
I would have missed the captivating looks on my daughters’ faces and the stream of lovely comments they whispered to each other if I had chosen to play on my phone instead.
And my phone? I had totally forgotten about it. Once I entered the building, I zipped it tightly inside my purse. (I have found that not seeing it, nor having easy access to it, greatly reduces my habit to “check” it.)
It may not seem like much. It may not seem like a big deal to be occupied by your phone in the company of your children. It may not seem that important to put the phone away while waiting. It may not seem like much until a preschool teacher who reads your blog sends you something like this:
“Last year around Mother’s Day, I was helping students in my preschool class write about their moms for a card they were making. I asked each child to tell me what makes his or her mom special. One child’s answer was about how much her mom loved her phone. That’s what she said, so that’s what I helped her to write.”
What you do while waiting in the presence of your children does matter. With each minute spent texting, surfing the Internet, checking Facebook, or reading emails, a chance to make a memory with your child is lost. A chance to form a bond is lost. A chance to nurture your relationship is lost. A chance to connect is lost.
A chance to be the parent they want you to be is lost.
Put the phone away.
There’s a million better ways to spend your time.
But only one that really matters.
There’s a live human being sitting next to you with a hopeful heart…and he or she is just waiting for you to put down your phone.
A dear reader sent me this wonderful picture of a poster displayed in the waiting room of her son’s speech therapy clinic at Nova Southeastern University. I have printed this picture and keep it handy in times that I find myself waiting with my children. Print it today. Keep it handy. Instead of reaching for your phone, reach for this list. There’s a better way to wait than playing on your phone. Try it today.
The Someone is Waiting For You by Hands Free Mama, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.