I noticed a new sign on the door during preschool pickup. Plastered in bold right at eye level, these signs typically serve to communicate the most vital information, like when school will be closed and warnings against parking at the gas station next door while you retrieve your child lest your car be towed, which, in this particular example, was probably due to the fact that I had been parking there every single day. Whoops.
Laminated and taped to the window between the keypad and the bland, tan curtain, this one stopped me in my tracks:
PLEASE no cell phones during drop-off and pick-up.
Your full attention is needed!
Really? I thought. Who can’t put their phone down long enough to pick up their kid? Who is seriously that distracted?
Then I saw my own reflection in the glass beside it, and the sad reality hit home: so many of us are incredibly distracted, including me. It's a thought that crept into the dark corners of my mind only recently. At first, it was almost indistinguishable amid the cobwebs, hidden somewhere behind how to multiply fractions and conjugate verbs. But through this looking glass, I saw the truth for what it really was: I move through most of my days in some form or state of fairly continual distraction. In fact, I am a master of distraction...and I don’t think that’s a good thing.
I might not be on the phone during preschool pick-up, but I usually am during bathtime or a family movie. Sitting down on the couch at night is synonymous with pulling the phone out of my pocket, “just to check a few things.” Before I know it, an entire hour (or two?) has gone by.
This says nothing of the rest of the time I spend during the day where my mind is focused on everything else but the tasks and the people which are right in front of me. And I’ve realized, with a hefty pang of conviction, that I can’t walk through life both habitually distracted and intentionally cultivating...anything. Those two just don’t mix.
Distraction is never free, and whether you’re behind the wheel of a car or operating behind the scenes of your own life, the cost can potentially be devastating. It’s been important for me to spend some time with this reality, to let it sift down into the crevices of my soul, and to grieve the price I’ve paid. But the plain, unsightly truth also has a way of ushering in a newfound freedom, because once we know better, we have a fresh opportunity to do better.
If this essay finds you in the grip of distraction today, friends, I want to be the first one to encourage you! Something I’ve learned over the years is just because you’re failing in one area of life, even majorly, doesn’t mean you’re failing in every area, although it can certainly feel like that. There are many things you’re doing right––you just have to look for them.
Even if you find yourself perpetually distracted, like me, chances are you still manage to have an unplugged dinner together as a family, maybe even most nights of the week. When your kids get home from school or wake up from their nap, you meet their gaze with a warm smile, a hug, and post-nap snuggles or inquires about their day. You help with homework and referee sibling rivalry, all the while teaching about responsibility, good work ethic, and healthy communication. Maybe you regularly get together with girlfriends or keep a consistent child chore chart or create community in your home with routine hospitality. Or maybe it’s something else entirely, but look around and see all the ways you’re already being intentional with those you love.
Intentionality, like any kind of lasting change, starts small. So maybe today you start by putting down your phone for an hour (or less). Once the hour comes easily, maybe you set your phone aside during the evening when the whole family is home together. Next, maybe for an entire Saturday, or maybe, if you’re really brave, for an entire month.
On that note, I’m taking a break from social media for the month of July because I’ve been a little too tethered and distracted these days. It’s something I’ve felt the need to do for a while (probably since I started this post back in April?) and just haven’t surrendered. Why is letting go so hard sometimes?!?! Anyway, I’ve deleted the apps on my phone and I haven’t died yet. Imagine that?
Would you consider joining me? Leave a comment and let me know if you’re willing to live July like it’s 2002 (pre-social media) along with me!
Full Disclosure: I do have some sponsored content I need to promote via social media and also some marketing to do for our first Third Place event in July. For those reasons I will have to post to social media a few times over the next couple weeks, but I will only log in briefly for business purposes.