Screen House Rules

On the eve of our kiddo’s thirteenth birthday, we collectively decided she was ready for the wild and sometimes emotionally dangerous road of the SMART PHONE (insert the ‘Duh-duh-DUHHH’ sound bite). We had spoken over time about the pitfalls and responsibility that comes with allowing something so potentially pervasive in her life. This took place as needed over the past year and concluded with her reading a great book called Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen Jensen that discusses the problematic invasion of pornography on the internet and the larger issue around how much of what we use on our phone is purposefully wired to make us addicted. Collectively, we agreed on ground rules that would, in general, apply to everyone in the house to ensure we did not allow our devices to take away from the most important aspect of us as a family- our ability to connect. I share our credo as a way to consider and explore your relationship with devices as well as how we can work at both recognizing and engaging with technology in a more responsible way.

Screen House Rules

As a family, we agree that our smart phones and other digital screens can distract us from real connection. With that, we mutually agree on guidelines to maintain healthy use of our digital devices.

  1. We agree to stop looking at our screen (phone or Ipad) when another person is talking to us and make eye contact. If we need to complete some task we are doing, we will ask for a pause so we are not attempting to listen and write/read at the same time.
  2. If someone is sharing a story/interacting with you, we will not text or pick up our phone until the interaction is done.
  1. We agree that if you are under 18, no screens will be used in private areas to protect from others who may intend to infiltrate your life inappropriately. This also helps reduce unhealthy behaviors like needing to repeatedly check the phone, even in the middle of the night and immediately upon waking.
  1. We agree that if at anytime another person is harassing, sending inappropriate photos or experiencing any pressure or bullying; we will share it without any consequences. We will support each other in keeping the internet as safe as possible.
  1. We agree that all our social media will be mutually agreed upon and the ability to see what each other post will remain open to each other. If anyone disagrees with a post, it will be discussed and potentially removed. This could include any photos or information that make another person uncomfortable.
  1. We agree mutually to have reasonable limits on our social media screen time and will consider an App limiting our time to ensure we do not overuse distraction. In general, we will actively work to remain below averages.
  2. We will stop all screens when we each move towards ending our day and getting ready for bed. That time may vary, but will be accountable to ourselves and each other.
  1. It is understood that privacy is important and each will respect privacy overall. However, to ensure healthy and appropriate online behavior is sustained, parents will occasionally check the child’s phone.
  1. With #8 in place, no history or text streams can be deleted to ensure proper and appropriate use of smart phones and other digital devices.

Drowning in Denial

I stood on top of a tall lumpy rock overlooking the Benicia Bay while my baby sister climbed down and went for the sand. She was barely seven while I had already left childhood long ago. Reaching into adolescence and ready to die.

The ocean is majestic. Drinking in the salty waves and noticing the sweet breeze run along your cheeks takes most of us to smiling places. But perhaps its enormous mystery felt equivalent to my damaged heart while my mind regularly wandered away for its own safety. I would often burn things including myself. I was finding tiny ways to inflict pain; attempting to bring my body forward to finally greet my mind. I desired to be home, but it was a deep hole with an endless sea of shame so only visiting on special holidays was allowed.

On that day, at the precipice of adolescence, I was done. My second family had fallen apart and my first stepfather was greeted by another man in my so called home soon after. My stepfather had retreated to his family and we were left with mounds of spoiling leftovers to stare at. My sister began her career at eating the pain while I dug in, literally, until I could take no more.

So, THERE. There I was swallowed up, desperately wanting it to all be taken back, swish over this broken and damaged body. Let someone or something else be accountable to this life as I just could not do it any more.

It’s cold since the Pacific Ocean is rarely for lounging in the sun and the lumpy rock looked like a good place to lay this tired body to rest. I watch my sister edge to the water, feet wet, staring back at me, making sure someone was not far away. Yet…..I had been a million miles from a grounded place since she was born. Do I leave her? Would it matter? I just don’t know. I am not even able to touch my own emotions to understand what hers must have been like. She separates farther from me, like one of those wobbly watery force fields and to see her clearly I have to poke at the space between her and I.

I was ALONE. Not a soul had gotten close to this dangerous and treacherous heart. Not even myself. I wanted desperately to belong, but to what? I did not have a family. What once was family now brought trauma and shame into my life. I was so frightened of what may come next. What if this was not the end of the horror? How much more could I take?

I stood a little longer on that lumpy brown rock and edged just a little closer to the end. My heart did not race. I felt at ease and perhaps was breathing normally for once. I could end this madness and stop flirting with pain like it really offered me more than a mere 50 cents of release. I had become someone’s play toy so why not throw the used up rag doll down this rock and into the ocean?

The sea spray picked up and my sweet sister laughed and ran away from the waves playing tag with the bubbly water. She took her tiny fingers and dug them in the wet sand drawing her name…..and then mine. I don’t even know her. My baby sister was trying to craft a life in this moment out of the brokenness that she must have felt. This was her father and her family. I was just along for the bodily ride.

Then, my body must have startled in the wind. Did I hear my name and the warbled water divide and disappear in the sea?

I don’t know. But I took a broken-winded breath from my chest and sat down on that lumpy rock. For today dying was over. Perhaps I would be brave enough to take my own life and spare myself the lifetime of agony that I foresaw ahead. Today, I felt like a coward. I couldn’t speak my pain and I couldn’t stop it. I would continue to be forced to swallow it for many years to come.

Inside that deep darkness, suicide seems logical and brave. It appears to the mind as the one way to have some control over what has puked havoc over your life. The chaos of trauma is like carrying a soaked wool blanket over your entire body. One might think this was a cute trick or a funny attempt to play Halloween ghosts; instead it makes your body and mind unrelated, unknown and separated from yourself. And despite the confabulation of bravery in suicide, it was not a story I took off the table until adulthood.

I had to learn how to die internally so that I may rise again and fly.

This way is not easy or simple like a crash onto lumpy rocks in the Benicia Bay. I was so long away from understanding how courage worked, but as I reflect back, I thank my sister for remembering how to live in the moment. All the while I am attempting to die, she played, calling the waves to dance with her, scribbling her name in the sand with those stubby cute fingers. She carried such loss in that moment too, but perhaps had not yet lost the ability to remember to RISE.