Over the past two weeks I have become acutely aware of infants and their mothers throughout my daily outings. I don’t believe in coincidences so I have wondered if this peaked awareness has to do with my youngest turning 9 and an internal mourning of those precious early years coming to an end.
Either way it has me thinking on this topic of a fundamental human function that I believe has been thwarted by the electronic age.
The first experience happened at Costco where an infant was crying/screaming as she was tucked away in a bucket seat in the grocery cart while the mother was checking out. The bagger and cashier seemed concerned and even tried to coo to the infant while the mother casually, as if she was completely disconnected from the experience, texted on her phone, swiped her card, gathered her things. The bagger said to the baby, “Here’s your mama, she’s right here…it’s ok.” All the while the mother seems disconnected as if it’s not any of her business. When she gets to the cart, she said “You’re fine” and then pushed the cart away as she checked her phone.
Struggling to stay in an observer space and holding back my urge to judge I was strongly effected by the disconnect especially with a baby at such a young age. I never believed in the cry it out, in fact I was an “Attached Parent”, still am, in fact. Whatever you call it, it’s the only way I know in my body and heart and soul to parent.
The second incident happened in the library. Regularly a visitor to our local library, my boys and I ran in for our weekly trade ins. I stopped in my tracks as I heard the high pitched screaming of an infant in distress. My mommy heart and ears on high alert I looked around – no one – NOT one single person was looking toward the distress call, instead hunkering down further into their computers or business as if to stave off the siren sound.
I was overcome with a mission in that moment and I went straight to the sound. A beautiful mama who was clearly stressed but about something she had to find on the computer. So while her baby girl screamed strapped in a car seat in the stroller and her toddler son strapped in the front of the stroller eating a cup full of Oreo cookies cried, she was trying to enter data into the computer.
I asked “Is there anything I can do to help you?” She looked at me stunned. I asked again, letting her know I cared and was there to support her. She held back tears as I squatted to be eye level with her and connect with understanding. She began to explain her situation and I connected with the baby to let her know she was safe get her pacifer. Acknowledging she was upset I asked “May I hold your baby.” In that moment it was one mama to another with compassion and understanding as her story unfolded.
Her story was one of many and not so unfamiliar to my own. “It’s ok, you’re doing the best you can.” I held the infant against my heart and faced her to her mama and sang a low hum. Assisting where I could for Mama to get the things she needed to find a safe home, food and the wherewithal to survive.
When I walked through the library after helping the family, I was still amazed at how disconnected everyone was. Even the librarian seemed put upon and said they had called security. When I said she needs help, not the security guard harassing her, she seemed confused. Where have we gone so far off as a culture, as a society?
The third experience this past week was at a farm tour where I observed a new mom with her mother and a toddler and the infant held as if it was a toy. She was passing the infant back and forth while trying to gather her things including her phone. I couldn’t help but ask how old the baby was – it was clear it was newborn. She said proudly, “a week today”. I was taken aback.
We as a culture have stripped away one of the deepest and most profound of sacred bonding experiences and the damage has been done.
I want to stay as objective as possible but I am tormented by what our future holds as the sheer lack of what is important becomes more and more misunderstood in lieu of the utter insanity of being bonded to a phone. So much so that many have to take it in the bathroom with them.
This attitude and this disconnection reminded me of a story by Louise Erdrich. From The Blue Jay’s Dance
The Ojibwa word for mirror, wabimujichagwan, means “looking at your soul”, a concept that captures some of the mystery of image and substance. If it is true that we are mirrors to our infants and that looking forms the boundaries of a self, then perhaps we are also helping to form a spiritual soul self during those concentrated love gazes during which time stops, the air dims, the earth cools, and a sense of deep rightness takes hold of our being.
Have we forgotten how to actually look someone in the eye and connect with them? What does it mean that we cannot bare to know ourselves through our own eyes but instead look at our own worth through that of a selfie.
The true nourishment we are needing as a society has been supplanted by a superficial idea of this digital connection and we see the consequences every where we turn. But as a sustenance like no other, we must restore this connection now more than ever.
Are we a society missing that nourishment at the depth of our souls? It saddens me to think so.
Either way, here are 5 simple and beautiful practices to help nourish at the deeper level.
1. Take one full minute to do this. Sans phone and without any distractions, go to your nearest mirror and gaze into your own eyes. Intentionally set aside any thought around any physical attributes. Free yourself of any judgment, instead be full of compassion as if you were looking in to the eyes of one most precious to you. Place your hand over your heart and breathe deeply into your lower belly, bringing your breath all the way into your toes. Any thoughts that come up meet with a sense of gratitude for the gift of your life.
2. Make a dinner date with your beloved. Inform them you are going to have a collaboration beginning with the shopping, prep and cooking a favorite meal. From the beginning of the process, intentionally hold hands, gaze into each other’s eyes, entrain your breath with each other. Leave any discussions or other “situations” out of this time. As you share the meal, gaze into each other’s eyes and just BE. Once you are complete with dinner and clean up together Place your hands on each other’s heart and as you gaze in to each other’s eyes say “I see you” I feel you” I love you” breathing that nourishment in to your very soul.
3. Now do the same thing with your whole family. Again with the whole process of cooking together, delighting in each other’s company and then when it’s finished have everyone clean up together, hand washing the dishes, drying and putting away and bring out a beautiful puzzle and build it together while enjoying a delicious cup of tea and each other’s beingness.
4. Bake fresh bread with your children. What a luxury to do the essential work of bread baking. Be present in the motion of kneading the dough, helping little hands mold and form and push and stretch. Allow for the bread to rise in the warm kitchen and tell or read a treasured story from your childhood as you look lovingly at your children. Share the enjoyment and the wonder with the children as the bread continues to rise. When the bread has baked, delight in the rich smells of the fresh baked bread, encourage the sounds of satiation and delight as you savor the warmth of fresh baked bread and meaningful connection.
5. Take a fast from your phone. Unless you absolutely need it do not keep it near you or on you for a day. Go back to the days where the phone was at a fixed location and leave the phone there. Create a new ritual for making eye connection with at least 1 new person each day. Connect with at least one old friend in person inviting them to leave their phones at home and going out or coming over for a cup of tea and conversation.
Let’s bring a resurgence back where we connect with ourselves as well as others to find the nearly extinct nourishment so fundamental to human function.
Send me a note and let me know how you connect with yourself and others. Are you finding it a struggle and how is it impacting your life and the lives around you?