People talk a lot about children needing to unplug more, to feel the touch of grass between their little toes and to free their hands so they can connect with the things of the natural world. So they can climb in trees and cartwheel on the beach and tickle pets. So that their fingers can delight in the cold of the sea (this is Cape Town) and the warmth of a hug. It’s something I’ve always been particular about – exchanging iPads for hardcover books and Pokemon on the TV screen for cousins and friends in the garden.
We’ve compromised, we’ve moderated, we’ve balanced. But Mum was always excluded. Exempt. Because Mum worked. Because Mum, I, had so many reasons for needing to pick up the phone and to keep my eyes on the laptop. There were always people I knew were relying on me, waiting for me, trying to get my attention, when the two people who matter the most to me in all the world were standing right in front of me, relying on me, waiting for me, trying to get my attention.
This year has seen a great shift. A beautiful, welcome shift. We’ve put rules in place not just for the boys but for me too. Cellphones down at dinner. Reading after dinner with Mum included. Cellphones out of the bedroom at night. Mum and sons play dates. Doing homework together. Travelling more together. Cutting my work trips shorter. Because really, at the end of the day, it’s Carlos and Renzi that I want to be holding, not Instagram. It’s those tiny special, secret moments with my little hearts that I want to remember when they leave the house one day and start their lives as adults.
The unplugging of Mum has brought us closer but it has also made me more present to the rest of the world. It has reminded me how to be fully present with friends, colleagues, family. And it has reminded me that our attention is the greatest gift we can give anyone. Naughty Labradors included.