For all the times I curse the invention of the smart phone and the 24/7 connectedness that threatens to swallow my life, I’m also just as thankful that it exists.
Both of my children were born in a state that was a solid 12 hour drive from our closest relatives. In the early days we stayed connected by taping videos on our phones and uploading them to YouTube- then emailing a link. This was how we shared our son’s first smiles, laughs, and steps. Soon enough, FaceTime entered out lives and we were able to connect with family like never before.
What once was a one-sided relationship became a dynamic interaction between my children and their grandparents. Before FaceTime, my kids hardly knew their grandparents and saw them infrequently due to the distance between us. Suddenly they could speak to them, and the grandparents got front row seats to their biggest moments. Fletcher had his Aunt, Oma, and Pawpaw watch him blow out his birthday candles when he was 2.
We opened Christmas gifts while Oma and Pawpaw looked on. They’ve watched the boys ride bikes in the street, even saw Fletcher ride his two-wheel bike the very day he learned how. When Everett took his first steps I FaceTime rights after to show them. One time, when I was very ill and spent the day trapped in the bathroom, Everett called Oma from the iPad and she was able to interact with him while I couldn’t. It was a little peace of mind that she could keep an “eye” on him and entertain him since I hadn’t been able to much at all that day.
Today I brought my phone to Fletcher’s school and invited Oma to the Grandparent’s Tea so that he wouldn’t feel left out when none of his grandparents could come. Of course, I’m sure his Oma was just as thrilled to be able to attend. She went as far as making her own cup of tea to enjoy while they chatted. The school said it was a first for them (I did ask permission yesterday and tested the signal to make sure it worked) and the other grandparents were looking at me strangely- but who cares? It made two people very happy.
There are days that I wish all of our devices would disappear. I know I am distracted by them, my kids use them more often than I want to admit, and at nights there are days when my husband and I are each on our phones vegging out instead of talking to one another. Then I remind myself that before these were invented we did the same, just less comfortably. We are the generation raised on computers. I’m older than the Internet, sure, but I came of age at the same time it did. I was making websites in high school and spent late nights with the “uh-oh” sounds firing off while using ICQ.
My kids say “lets call Oma!” and they really mean “Facetime.” They often get confused when on the phone and try to show people things, assuming every call is a video chat. This is their normal.
Life is lonely more than it isn’t when you live so far from all of your family. I would rather be back in NC where the rest of my technology challenged family members could spend time with my boys and I. At least some of our family will use the “internet machine.” For the rest, I send them all a DVD of each boy, each year with their birthday videos to catch them up on all of their milestones and big adventures. Soon, I’ll be making a 3rd and 5th year video (!!!) to ship out.
So thanks, really really smart people (Steve Jobs and co.) for creating technology that can make a few hundred miles disappear for 30 minutes a week. Life wouldn’t be the same without it.