Do you remember the tetherball?

Tetherball was a game where two opponents knocked a volleyball back and forth. The idea was to sneak it past your opponent, with a wrap-around approach of this ball tethered by a rope. It wasn’t really much of a sport, but for my older sister and I, this was the treasured possession of our big backyard and a lifeline to the success of our Colorado summers (that and playing tennis in the street).

Those joy-filled outdoorsy memories had me thinking a lot about technology and the ways it can keep us from even the most basic but beautiful seasonal simplicities. I’ve written about Facebook woes and the need for a social media break from time to time, but technology as a whole…it’s a whole different beast.

And like that tetherball experience, I keep feeling the wrap around tensions of the war I might be losing.  

I am in school full-time and do quite a bit of volunteer work.  I deeply love and have purposely sought out these responsibilities in this season of life. I am blessed to be unemployed (though my journey to unemployment is not one I would highly recommend). The shift from being employed to unemployed; a civilian family to a military one; well to unwell; left me isolated and alone for a time. It’s funny, that season of isolation right after a PCS is something I’ve come to cherish. But in the beginning, it was my arch-nemesis. 

Raising strapping young lads in the midst of my middle-aged, technologically savvy season of life (insert sarcasm) has me constantly mindful of where we have been both as a society and as a family, with an eye on where we’re going and the reality that we cannot always know where we are headed. Trying to balance the chaos of it all with a measure of joy and ease as it relates to how we spend our days can be really challenging. It is particularly challenging when technology plays such a big role in our daily lives, pulling us from so many things we hold so dear. 

Military families are a lot like that tetherball experience.

We are bounced back and forth often but deeply tethered and rooted to the one we love that serves. We didn’t choose this life. It chose us, and we bounce back with every tug of the rope but hopefully come up stronger each time. But the twisting and turning of the rope around the pole is the part I really want to write about today as it relates to our tug toward technology.

Technology can be a gift.

It can also be a curse.

I don’t know about you but I relished my outdoor childhood.

I loved:

  • The wind in my face as I rode my bike down the street.
  • The softball in my hand when I’d make that unexpected catch.
  • The excitement of the fish at the end of the line.
  • The trek to the top of every mountain where astounding beauty always awaited.
  • Heck, I didn’t even mind the stitches and injuries from time to time as I braved something far outside of my comfort zone.

Not one of nature’s realities made me afraid as a child. Like Nala from the Lion King, “I laughed in the face of danger”.

And then I had kids.

“Hello fear, so nice to meet you. My name is anxiety, stress, doubt, disillusion”.

There is a fearless part of self we often lose in child-rearing (particularly if the only station we attune our ears to is that of fear). And I am sorry to say, ladies, this is the station on every channel of every radio, every television, every social media platform, every inbox message, and the list goes on and on and on.

We are tethered.

rope tethered to a beamThere is no slack in the line. With every virus, every political agenda, every amber alert, or every video game, we draw safer and safer into our protective mom bubbles. Because the world we grew up in is no longer delighting in children, it exploits them.

Like those god-awful child-leashes, we are tethered to the world’s most devastating news one painful briefing at a time. Every technologically advanced place we turn shouts doom and gloom; hatred and division; devastation and distress. I am just not convinced these advancements have really advanced us.

I see my children’s frustration as they walk in the house after a long day at the office, ahem…I mean school (don’t get me started on creative play and sport and how that impacts child-development). I feel the frustration as the vast majority of my day has me sitting behind a shiny, bright screen promising me freedom while keeping me chained as I respond to email after email, post after post, and text after text.

Somewhere along the way, technological advancements were the only stations I decidedly attuned my ears toward and begrudgingly obeyed. Sit, study, work, write, research, be “in the know”.

I am ready to know less and experience more.

A good friend reminded me that technology, like a slithering snake, has found its way into our homes. It is in our living rooms, our bedrooms, our dining rooms, our kitchens, Lord help us…even our bathrooms.

We don’t know how to disconnect from these addictive little devices and reconnect with the actual people sitting beside us. You know those ones that we love and claim to be tethered to?

woman sitting with MacBook in dark on bedBut what can we do about it?

  • Set limits: If there aren’t limits, there are consistently crossed-over boundaries.
  • Be intentional: Don’t just talk about going outside, actually do it. There is a world to explore and it isn’t all doom and gloom.
  • Open up those windows: Be reminded of the sounds, sights, and smells of creation, even if you can’t get outside.
  • Schedule rest, respite, retreat: Get away from everything and just be together- device free.
  • Play: seems easy right? But sometimes we have to throw in the towel and stop being human doings and instead be human beings. Just be with the people you love, screen-free. Be ready for some awkward silence because it’s possible you haven’t talked to these folks for a while.
  • Last but not least – stop trying so darn hard to meet every beckoning request: You can probably let that Facebook post, epic Fortnite moment, YouTube prompt pass. But these childhood moments, they are fleeting. They won’t last forever, enjoy them while you still can.

As I said before, technology can be a gift or a curse. We get to decide how to use it properly and wisely. As for me and my house, we choose to be a little less tethered to our technology.