Last week, I spent quite a bit of time explaining why we should log off and check-in to daily, face-to-face human interaction with other adults. So, why are we still here? Because we live in the real world and the internet is here to stay. If you’ve taken a class with Shawna or me (Margarita) you’ve heard us say: “Stay away from Google, call us instead”. Google is a dangerous place at 2am when you’re trying to crack the code of your infants’ sleep patterns. That said, the internet can be a useful tool for us parent folk. But let’s agree to use it as just that, a tool, a resource, a way to stay connected to people we actually see and communicate with in real life.
So, we have some idea of how the persistent use of social media impacts us, as adults, but what does that mean for our children’s experience of us? I’m not talking about their experience of screen media, I’m talking about their experience of US – their only reference of how life is lived in the world by people. First, before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, I’ll clarify that I am NOT shaming any moms who take their kids to the playground to let them play on their own while catching up on FB and email. I’m right there with you, that’s why playgrounds exist – so that children work on their gross motor and interpersonal skills by running, jumping, playing with their peers and learning how to problem solve.
What I am talking about are the basic needs of infants and toddlers – the first 1000 days ARE in fact the most important and critical to social, emotional and cognitive development. The relationships that we humans form in our early childhood, determines the quality and structure of our relationships with others for the rest of their lives. Don’t take my word for it: click HERE for a concise explanation from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard, HERE for concise, evidence-based narrative courtesy of Zero to Three, and HERE to watch a TED Talk by the one and only, Dr. Alison Gopnik. Research on the topic is abundant and overwhelmingly clear: everything we do, (not what we say) what we DO, teaches children how to be people – relational, emotional, functional, good people.
What does all of this mean?
OMG that’s so much pressure! But I need to connect with other adults, I can’t just be 100% in tune with my kid 24/7, what do I do? I’m sure to mess this up!
Deep breath, friends. You got this. Connecting with other adults in real life IS the best way to show your infants, toddlers and young school age kids how to relate to other people. Our babies and toddlers experience us by how we experience others, including: our babies, our own friends, other family members, neighbors – through eye contact, touch, gesture, and tones of voice.
The best way to build a healthy attachment with your child is to model healthy relationships with other people.
And of course you will mess it up. We ALL mess up at being parents. I would be very concerned for the child in a child-parent dyad where mistakes are NOT made, because that poor kid wouldn’t know how to solve a problem to save their life. Making mistakes is part of being human, there simply is no exception to that rule.
Herein lies the beauty of sharing our messy lives with other people. We don’t get to a certain age or stage in life and then all of the sudden we’re ready to be parents. Being ready for parenthood isn’t a thing. NO ONE is ever ready for that first night at home with that snuggly little human, causer of time warps, observer of lights, gorgeous little, wrinkly, sleepless, stealer of hearts. While our babies learn who they are in the world, as their parents, we too are learning who we are: learning to decode and maintain relationships in ways we never knew existed, finding strengths and weaknesses in places that we could only see through bleary eyes and in piles of tiny, milk stained laundry.
There’s no reason for you to do any of this alone, we were never meant to do it alone. Supermom isn’t a title I desire to have. Find your people and hold onto them tightly, online if you must, but make sure you’re holding on to them in real life. Real life is where it’s at.