You asked the question in just the right way. With a “Please”, while looking into my eyes, in a soft, sweet voice. There was no hint of whining or entitlement—just your sweet spirit.
Everything I have taught you about asking nice, you did. And then I looked into those precious blue eyes, and told you No.
For a moment I felt guilty. After all, it was your birthday. And birthdays are usually Yes days. Yes, you can have an extra piece of cake. Yes, we can go to your favorite park. Yes, you can skip rest time to play outside.
But then you asked to watch a show; a simple request on your five-year-old lips. But I had already decided the day before that screens would not be a part of your day. Your day was made for more than that. And I knew in a year from now, you wouldn’t remember the pixels that danced across that screen. So, I said No.
And instead, I watched you create and imagine and problem solve for the next two hours in the back yard. And when your little brother woke up, I watched you work together as a team, dreaming up and constructing Lego sets for hours. I watched you guys strategize, trade pieces, and come to each other’s help when your constructions fell apart. You sat side by side….not in front of a screen, but in front of a world of little boy opportunities.
You see, my sweet boy, as I have been telling you lately when I say No to one of your requests…I had a reason behind my No.
On this big day when you turned from a preschooler to a kid, half a decade out of my womb, I wanted to see your eyes staring into mine. I wanted to be witness to your creativity. I wanted to see you master new heights on the tree in the backyard, and push yourself a bit farther on your new bicycle. I wanted to see you strengthening the ties of your relationships with your brothers, so that your friendship with them will last for years to come.
I wanted to give you the opportunity to practice affection, appreciation, apology, and attention—virtues that the screen does not afford you, but that you will need more and more, with each passing birthday.
I wanted to see your eyes shine, and not from the glow of a screen. I wanted to see you live, really live. With your hands in the mud, and your heart soaring high. With your mind working overtime as you learn, discover, and take in the world around you. The screen only has so much to offer, and it’s nothing that will last.
I wanted your birthday to be made of things that last.
That, my sweet boy, is why I told you No on your birthday.
And you know what? As we danced, and played, and picnicked, and cuddled, and walked along the river together—and as I sat and simply watched you growing up before my eyes—we did it. We slowed time, because we chose to experience it. We chose to make your day really matter. And I, for one, will remember it forever.
So thank you, for your gift to me on your birthday. The gift of your full presence.
And happy birthday, my sweet boy.
This post is part of the #RedeemThe205 campaign, aimed at inspiring families to reclaim the 205 waking weeks on average that a child spends in front of a screen. It’s time to redeem childhoods and protect our families.