Pulling away from a stop light today, reaching down to change songs on my phone, a thought ran through my head and then quickly punched me in the stomach. I could feel the eyes of my three year old behind me and I remembered that right now, today, I am teaching him to drive. The lessons are happening every time we get in the car, not waiting to begin when he turns 15. I'm teaching him how to "safely be distracted" behind the wheel...whatever that means...and he is watching closely.
I'm also teaching him how to use technology, how to create boundaries and what it means to develop a healthy understanding of self, others and an always accessible world begging for his attention every minute of every day.
I may worry about the friends he'll meet later and the influence they'll have over his decisions, but the truth is that the groundwork is here. I can't control what will happen the day he drives off alone, without me there to slam my foot on the imaginary passenger brake and magically protect him simply because I'm in the car. I can't control if he'll text or turn his music up to a level that makes coherent thoughts unlikely. I can't control if he'll go off to college more attached to the internet than people. But I can control what we establish as normal. I can lay a foundation for the behaviors I'd want him to follow.
Remember when a phone was just a phone? If it wasn't ringing or being used to call out on, it was forgotten. The computer was for writing and organizing and creating projects, but it had very little to do with connecting. It wasn't a window to someplace beyond. Now everything funnels through these portals. Email, bank account, connections with people I know and people I don't, creative outlets, world news, music, camera, picture storage, work....it's all right there, just waiting to be tapped into.
One day, not too long from now, my three year old will begin to wander out into that ever expanding frontier and he'll certainly be swayed by the way his peers interact with their new freedoms, but the expectations he has going in matter. A lot. We all start life thinking that the way it's done in our house is the way it's supposed to be done everywhere. That's normal, healthy, home base. What I realized today is that I don't like the way I'm shaping that starting place in a few specific areas, and that BJ and I are setting the tone for what's to come, even though one day he'll fly out of our hands and we'll watch nervously from our little nest, wondering what he'll do next.
So I'm leaving my phone in my purse and my computer on the desk.
It isn't simply about less screen time. It's about decentralizing something that should be nowhere near the center.
It's about wanting the only association between driving and the phone to be that it stays buried under my wallet. It's about wanting the world online to seem more like a passing thought...a platform we check in with every couple days...and less like a third child or a friend who swears she loves me but actually has a tendency to make me feel pretty lousy. It's reorienting values and moving items that should be in the peripheral over to the side where they belong.
Because this kid is growing fast and he's soaking up our every move along the way.
On a side note, when the day comes that he actually does crawl into a car by himself and drive somewhere independently, will someone please send a bottle of red wine and a full pan of brownies? I'm going to be a mess.