Screens Down, Fun Up. - by Jessica Goodwin for MotherHustle
“I was worrying so much about whether or not I was getting good pictures that I wasn’t really enjoying those moments the way I should have been.”

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were on vacation in Canada with our three-year-old son. We were taking part in a home exchange – we swapped houses with another family for two weeks. We did it last year, in Copenhagen, Denmark and it’s an amazing way to see a place. You don’t have to rush or try to cram everything in. You really get to know where you’re staying. You almost start to feel like a local.

But on this trip, the one thing I kept noticing was that I couldn’t seem to relax.

I didn’t feel like I was on vacation. I recognized the feeling and commented on it more than once to my husband. I was enjoying myself, but I was stressed. I was anxious. I was so, so tired.

I blamed it on school. I’m taking classes online two nights a week, so that sort of put a damper on some of our afternoon/evening activities. I was constantly thinking three assignments ahead of where I needed to be for school just to make sure I didn’t miss anything while we were traveling.

I also set a lofty personal writing goal for myself, thinking that it would help hold me accountable. I pictured myself waking up early, rested and refreshed to sit down and write. Didn’t happen. So then I felt frustrated and guilty while I tried to juggle schoolwork and vacation activities – and didn’t come close to reaching my goal.

I thought maybe my funk was because our kid is older and more active.

I didn’t feel like this in Denmark last year. I was way more laid back. Maybe now that he’s more talkative and more go-go-go all the time I’m just feeling more run-down from trying to keep up with him.

And then halfway through the trip, I realized if I’m going to blame my funk on anything or anyone, I should be blaming myself.

I was worrying way too much about stuff, which was sucking the fun – the joy – right out of the trip.

I was worried about whether or not I’d have time to get my assignments done. I was worried about whether or not I’d get time to sit down and write. I was worried about whether my kid would nap or make it to the potty on time. I worried that I wouldn’t get enough decent pictures to remember our trip.

Every day, every outing, I pleaded and cajoled for perfect Instagram-worthy photos, taking in our surroundings through the lens of my iPhone without really getting to see anything.

Even though I was right there, I was still MISSING OUT ON THE FUN.

I was worrying so much about whether or not I was getting good pictures that I wasn’t really enjoying those moments the way I should have been. It got me thinking about what a distraction phones are.

I worry about my kid getting too much screen time, but what about me?

So I went through my phone and deleted Twitter and a few other apps. I tried to check my e-mail and respond to messages all in one sitting rather than checking my phone every time I got a notification. I gave up on constantly trying to take photos. In other words, I tried to leave the phone alone and focus on HAVING FUN with my son rather than just getting blurry pictures of the back of his head as he darted from one thing to the next.

And that was when I started to relax a little.

I tried to remind myself that this was a trip we’d likely only be taking once (no offense, Canada, there’s just a whole lot of world out there to see!) so I needed to soak it all up and just enjoy it while I could.

Now that the summer is half-gone, I am determined to focus on the fun stuff before the rest of the summer slips away. Hell, before time slips away in general.

In the two weeks that we were on vacation, my son grew out of his pajamas and went from being snuggly to really-freaking-heavy to hold. We brought a booster seat with us to Canada and never used it because apparently, he no longer needs one and can sit at the table without it. He slept in a full-size bed for the first time (in an unfamiliar house) and to him, it was all no big deal.  

My favorite moments from the trip were when we would go out into our little backyard and he would just run back and forth… to the playhouse, to the deck, to the picnic table, to the trampoline, over and over and over. I loved just sitting on the steps and watching him, trying to figure out what that little brain was thinking, what was going on in that imagination of his.

Yes, there are still things that I need to get done.

I have a class to finish and writing goals to check off my list. Chores to do and deadlines to meet. But I also need to enjoy the time I have with my kid while he’s still little.

So here’s to what’s left of the summer. Here’s to drawing with chalk and drinking lemonade. Here’s to playgrounds and Play-Doh. Here’s to sandcastles and splash pads.

And here’s to putting the phone down.

Jessica Goodwin lives near Washington, DC with her husband, son, and their two cats. She’s written four novels and her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Baby Gaga, Chocolate & Chaos, Tribe Magazine, Mamalode, and in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Nope, she’s writing. Follow her on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.


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