Friday, June 14, 2013

Thoughts on "How to Miss a Childhood" (Hands Free Mama)


All across the world, a great loss is taking place. Once gone, what is lost will never be recaptured. And one day, people will lay on their death beds, full of regret. 

It is a loss unlike anything humankind has ever seen before or that our forefathers would ever have imagined: parents missing out on the childhood of their own children. Older children/adults missing out on the wisdom of their parents and elders. Friends missing out on real friendship (not to be mistaken with the virtual friendship of FB and texting). Family sitting in the same room, and yet not really being with one another.

At the start of this year, I re-read an article I had bookmarked months earlier.  I had loved it when I first read it.  When I re-read it, I noticed that since then, I had somehow gotten caught up in some of the techno-obsession that now pervades our global culture. It literally moved me to tears -- let me tell you why.

I know people that are glued to their phones. That's not me. But the cell phone, at some point in the months leading up to my re-reading that article, had creeped it's way into the room -- in retrospect, all it took was a couple of friends who were avid texters. It sat somewhere on the ledge, beeping now and then...and being used as a watch. But that's all that needed to happen for my son to become so aware of it. Technology has this strange pull on us -- babies, children, adults -- on various levels and to differing degrees. When I read the line about your child picking up the phone if you left it in the other room and running to give you that beloved device of yours to win your good pleasure and gratitude, I thought "BabySalik has done that a couple of times recently"...and I began to weep. The lines warning us to not miss our children's glimpses for approval, filled me with fear of regret.

I may have thought I had a passing relationship with my phone. It was just "there". I wasn't obsessed with it, didn't have it on my person all the time or even next to me.  And I most definitely never gave it to my children to distract or busy them even for a moment because I am aware not only of the negative health-effects, but am an ardent believer in no screen time (not just TV, but tablets, phones...all screens...all techy things...the medium really is the message, but somehow we overlook that when we're told there are "educational" apps...there are also "educational" programs...but in the end, we all know that there are far superior forms of education through more traditional, tried, tested and true mediums...but I digress).  The reality from my son's perspective hit me in the face like a tonne of bricks.

I started to look critically at my day from BabySalik's perspective. I decided to make some changes.

When my husband came down, I asked him to immediately change the password on my Facebook account and only log me in when requested, once a week max when the kids were asleep. Again, I don't post my every breath on FB as many might. I don't put pictures of my kids up because I don't feel that their pure presence need have a virtual presence. I believe strongly that FB attracts a great deal of 'ayn in people's lives -- google search "Facebook Envy" or "Facebook Depression" and a flurry of articles to back that up will fill your screen and hopefully cause you to think twice about what you post. Salik doesn't even have a FB account so he was thrilled, but I keep mine to "stay in touch" with people though I'm fully aware of the faultiness in even that logic.

I also decided I would not check my email in the presence of my kids. And that I would only respond to text messages first thing in the morning, during nap, or after their bedtime. In essence, I decided to remove the visual of technology from their pure, blessed eyes. And I decided to fill my eyes, with absorbing their childhood and allowing them to purify my tarnished heart.

A week of no FB passed and I realized how much happier I was not to have it "there" all the time. I also realized what a waste of my down-time it was in the evenings and decided, I'd rather read a book, so I picked up CS Lewis' The Screwtape Letters -- a brilliant read. I didn't ask to be logged in for literally weeks. When I did, five minutes was enough. Months later, something brought me to it one day where I wanted to check on some feedback for something I had asked about so I kept checking my FB. As the day progressed, I told my husband I had been feeling so "heavy" all day. And then I realized was FB! The brainless clicking from one page to the next, one link leading to another...emptiness. So I logged off.

And there's that nagging phone. We seem to be obsessed with our phones, and the "smarter" the phone, the more we use it (perhaps in lieu of our own brain).  Look around you and you will see that people are doing one thing or another on their phones while they: walk, drive, "watch" their kids at the park or anywhere for that matter, "talk" to people they're sitting in the same room with, even people at the mosque, or in a majlis of dhikr!  There is no critical thought given to the apps we download, either. Tactile doesn't matter. The sanctity of a mushaf of Quran or the scent of a fine wood misbaha doesn't matter to us anymore -- Quran on screen is fine, as is a "virtual" tasbih...tap, tap, tap your dhikr away! Has anyone ever thought about the fact that this is the first time in history that people read Qur'an from other than a mushaf they are holding in their hands and feeling?

Let us take a look at our lives. Let us limit our distractions. Let us live on earth and be with the people Allah has put directly in our lives (physically present with us!) instead of giving our attention primarily to the virtual world we have created for ourselves.

Read the article. Allah gives wisdom to whomsoever He pleases: 


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