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How I Became a More Mindful Parent When My Daughter Flushed My Phone

How I Became a More Mindful Parent When My Daughter Flushed My Phone

I did not miss the interruptions, or having my attention diverted from the important things in life.

It has been awhile since my cellphone took a memorable dive into the toilet. My then 14-month-old daughter took it, unbeknownst to me, and decided to play with it in the toilet like a sprightly kitten. Within the 2 minutes it took for me to give my son antibiotics for strep throat, that little nugget let my cellular device sink to the bottom of the bowl to its final porcelain resting place. She flushed my memories and contacts, but managed to give me a newfound freedom. 

I did not possess one single ounce of anger or frustration (I could never be mad at that face, anyhow). I just prayed my photos from the past two years could somehow be restored. Who backs up their phone, right? Sigh. I envisioned myself without my phone for a couple of days. I didn’t have any upcoming phone conferences, so survival was possible.

In the first 24 hours sans phone, I would reach into my empty pocket to text someone, or want to take a photo of my children to preserve the memory. By day two, I lost the urge to do my daily Facebook check or read the news from a tiny screen. Not once did I hear, “Mommy, look at me!” I was already present and watching. There was no need to glance down at a text message, or investigate why I was receiving a “ping” every other minute. Oh, those group chats... I felt as if I were more tuned in to each child, and truly able to give each one my full attention. 

In the couple of weeks following my phone’s complete engulfment into the washroom water abyss, each child made great strides. My then 4-year-old started reading three-letter words, my then 3-year-old was able to identify all of his shapes, as well as half of his letters and numbers, and my then 14-month-old said “purple” and something that resembles “caterpillar”. We regularly spend a great deal of time reading together, but for those few weeks, I was able to spend more time reading to them individually, as well as focusing on their age-appropriate skills. I could not help but wonder: Was my lack of phone contributing to these milestones? In addition, it felt like our 1-on-1 cuddle times were longer, and we spoke about the highlights of our day in detail. Not to mention, our finger painting and rock-finding explorations were more frequent. 

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My mom commented that I seemed more relaxed without my cellphone. I felt less tense by not reading stress-inducing posts on social media sites or foreboding articles that made me fret. I found myself reading tangible articles, and reveling in the smell and touch of paper, like I always have (National Geographic Traveler is my newfound love). I checked Facebook on a couple of occasions, but my broken iPad is slower than the dial-up AOL I used in high school. I’m glad it’s as slow as molasses because I think my mind had been craving a much-needed break from social media and other nonsensical outlets. I think we all need this, whether you have children or not.

Exactly three weeks after the incidental immersion, I received my new phone. While my contacts took an additional week to be restored, I was finally able to look up anything in an instant. Surprisingly, I did not touch it until the following day. Maybe it’s like after Hurricane Sandy, when I still sat in the dark even though the power was restored. I was used to not having power for 14 days, so it took time for me to register that I could finally turn the lights on. I had grown used to not having my phone on me at all times, and deep down, I know I had a couple of great weeks without it. I did not miss the interruptions, or having my attention diverted from the important things in life.

With a phone back in my life, I am going to strive to put away electronic devices until my children are asleep. My objective will continue to be more mindful, present, and living in the here and now with my family. They are my everything, and each precious moment does not necessarily need to be captured through the lens of my phone. The sights, sounds, and sensations I take in by being in the moment will far surpass dozens of digital prints I deem as being perfect.


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Main image: The author with her family

Courtesy Valerie Goldstein