I thought, what’s the big deal? Everyone is doing it. Besides, it’s only once and a while…it’s not like she’s doing it all the time. She can stop any time she wants to. We all deserve a little treat now and then, right? Everyone needs a little something to help them wind down, to relax.
But deep down I felt uneasy. Who was really in control here? At times it felt bigger than all of us, that we were at the mercy of her habit. Before long it became obvious that she had lost her grip; things began to fall apart. How could I have stood by and let this happen? It’s my fault; I drove her to this. If only I could go back to that fateful day where it all began…
Back to the day I gave my toddler my IPhone.
Like many addictions, Phoebe’s phone use seemed so innocuous at first, so harmless. The look on her face the first time she saw the magical screen light up was priceless. Wide eyed and smiling, she murmured, “Woooowww. Mommy’s Colors.” She squealed in delight when Emma demonstrated that by touching the picture of the schoolbus she could be whisked away into The Land of Sensory Overload…a magical place where they teach you how to sing Wheels on the Bus in German.
At first it seemed like a God sent. Long car rides, doctor’s waiting rooms, the trip to the grocery store that treaded perilously on naptime…..Mommy’s Colors was my secret weapon. But before long, the phone became something Phoebe demanded rather than the occasional treat that I offered.
“Mommy’s Colors? I see Mommy’s Colors? Pweese? Pweese Mommy?”
Oh, what was the harm? I thought as I handed it over. I know, I know…Co-dependent, People-pleasing, Enabler-Mommy. What can I say, I am a sucker for this kid. She is just so damn cute. Plus, she said please. That should count for something.
The blurred boundaries on appropriate phone time soon became a slippery slope as Phoebe claimed Mommy’s Colors as her own. The once shiny screen was smudged with sticky fingerprints; Goldfish crumbs became lodged into the cracks of the case. Maybe it’s because her brain is still kid of mushy and absorbent, but Phoebe became like an IPhone air-traffic controller; the kid could launch a space shuttle if she could only find the right App. She changed my ring tone and my screen saver. She knows how to silence incoming calls, check my voicemail, take photos and download recipes. One day I heard chanting sitar music coming from the kitchen and I found her in a trance-like state, eyes closed and arms swaying in the air. She had discovered my Yoga Nidra App.
I have a Yoga Nidra App?
It was one morning a few weeks ago that I knew we were in trouble. I opened the door to Phoebe’s room, waiting for her sweet, sleepy greeting of “Hi Mommy! I so happy to see you!” But instead, with hair standing straight up, her half-opened eyes squinting through the bars of the crib she said: “Mommy’s Colors? I see Mommy’s Colors? Pweese? And then a little too desperately:
Oh man. I come from a long line of addicts. I flash forwarded fifteen years to me finding her drinking Peach Schnapps in her closet before school. Something had to be done.
We were going to have to go Cold Turkey. Operation Detox Mommy’s Colors.
It was not pretty, not pretty at all. For days she screamed and pleaded. She rolled around on the floor- actually…she WRITHED. It was ugly. She started chain smoking, drinking coffee and binging on chocolate Santas.
We hit rock bottom when I found her lying face down in the foyer, whimpering “Mommy’s Colors….Mommy’s Colors.” I couldn’t take it; I almost gave in. I needed reinforcement that I was doing the right thing.
“Don’t be weak!” Phil coached me over the phone. “If you cave now, we are screwed!”
He was right; it had to get worse before it got better…and it did get better. After about a week of clean living, the old Phoebe slowly returned. She no longer boozes pleads for electronics before breakfast. Her love of books and blocks has been rekindled; she is back in her play kitchen baking cupcakes.
Did I overlook the signs? The stoned expression, the social isolation, the way her body seemed to liquefy the minute her chubby little thumbs hit the touch screen? The violent bitch slapping of her older sister when Emma wanted a turn with the phone? Sure I did…probably because I was online Christmas shopping driving, or on Facebook taking a shower.
I am a big supporter of the “everything in moderation” mantra, especially as it applies to parenting. Mommy’s Colors has its place, just like television and Rice Krispy Treats. The phone use got out of hand because I got a little lazy distracted. It happens. Tis the season for relaxed parenting. I always find that the holiday season acts as a free pass for shoddy work and erratic behavior. Better to recognize it, fix what you can fix and then move on without judgment…because it’s the judgment that sends you running for the exact bad habits you were judging in the first place.
You get caught in the Judgment Jug Handle.
Is it possible for Phoebe to use Mommy’s Colors in moderation, or is she really an IPhone addict? Time will tell.