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I love how you can happen across new blogs sometimes that just make you think. My parents must be so proud of their highly educated daughter trying to argue with a machine, but it’s what I do. I found a new blog today called Hands Free Mama who was linked to a thread discussing parents who walk their children to school with their iPods on.
When I first read the blog post I got a little emotional – mainly thanks to Catholic Guilt - and while I agree entirely with the idea of being “present”, I feel like this post takes something of a two dimensional view of what can cause parents to be absent. I know that gadgets today make it easier than ever before to live your life virtually and separately from the people who surround you. The reason people have embraced that technology is, perversely, because it is the these very technologies that re-connect us with the people we most associate with. I know I have bored you before with this notion of social media helping people to find their tribe but it is true, and it is powerful, because like most animals we are designed to be part of a group and suffer when we lack that contact.
I also take issue with the idea that today we are absent where yesterday we were present. I find it as emotive as the idea that “back when I was a child the streets were safe and everyone had lives full of sunshine lollipops and rainbows”. Before we had smart phones and iLives, there were other ways to be absent: mums shushed their children when they were in the kitchen untangling the cord on the phone while talking to Auntie Jean, or flapped them away while they were talking to Iris over the garden fence. Technology hasn’t changed the ability to be absent from our children, it has just changed who we are absent with.
For all of that, I do agree with the basic premise that it is frighteningly easy to miss out on the riches of the life surrounding you. I also buy into the idea that children deserve to have adults in their life who don’t treat them as a permanent inconvenience.
Hands Free Mama appeared in my life with almost serendipitous timing because I've recently been thinking a lot about whether or not I hold myself accountable to my children.
Yeah I know, odd concept.
I saw this posted on Facebook and was quite drawn to the idea. I'm not sure I compare it directly to the reward charts adults have for children – as a friend of mine pointed out they don’t focus on negative behaviour like this one does – but I like the idea of giving my children a simple way to keep me mindful of how I behave towards them.
It’s easy being the kind of parent you want to be when everyone is rested and in a good mood and nobody is running late. It is much harder at the end of a working day when the toddler is overtired and pushing his sister over. If I'm honest, I know what my “triggers” are for shouting, and I expect they are quite similar to a lot of other parents, but I'm not often very mindful of them.
I don’t think I say sorry as often as I should either.
I suppose this is where I agree most with Hands Free Mama, because what I really need to guard against as a parent is laziness. I don’t need to be with my children every moment, I don’t need to subjugate my entire life for their benefit, but what my children do deserve is for me to respect them enough that I care about the kind of mother that I am. I try to be a mindful parent, and I think part of that is to acknowledge that I am a very imperfect parent. My children deserve to have someone who is accountable to them, regardless of whether it is for shouting at them or ignoring them in favour of Angry Birds.
That’s a new concept for me, being accountable, and feels a bit like the lunatics taking over the asylum. I'm a firm believer that action speak louder than words though, so if I want a child who grows up believing that they matter then I have to live every day demonstrating what that means.  
Right now, it means mama’s gonna need some stronger coffee.

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