A few days ago this happened: I lost my iphone. I’m pretty sure it’s hiding somewhere in the apartment, not lost in the greater world. It’s just that no matter how many beds I look under, I can’t seem to find it. My last recollection of its being with me was a foggy 5am, when I was awake with the sun, and, as is often the case, with an over-active Baby J.
In terms of the deed itself, the misplacing of the phone, if I had to put money on it, I’d put it on Baby J as culprit. And it’s not just because Baby J is the youngest member of the family, and easy to pin the blame on. Sure, he has a smile that could melt Elsa’s frozen heart, but he also has something else. This baby has force. And cheek. And unusual power.
We call him the uber-baby, The big one. The mischief maker. Everything J does, he does large. If you don’t believe me, here is a recent example. To contain Baby J while we are out of the room, or in need of our hands free, we have a playpen in the living room. Not one of those lightweight wooden ones either, but a large white metal contraption complete with a gate and tall bars. A right proper baby jail. Like all of his kind Baby J is not so keen on going into his pen. But unlike others (or at least the children I’ve seen) he doesn’t go down without a fight. Tears and screams are not his only weapon. He uses his brute force. Like a baby strongman Baby J pushes his playpen around the room, refusing to be curtailed, simply driving it to where he wants to go.
There is little doubt in my mind that baby J took the phone sometime before sunrise and put it somewhere. But where?
That is the question that’s been on my mind the last few days. But alongside it another question has been forming: Why exactly am I so desperate to find it?
My relationship with my iphone
If Baby J took the phone, it wasn’t a one-off occurrance. Sure, the permanency of the MIA status of my iphone is unusual, but J has had his pudgy fingers grasping for the white rectangle long before this incident. Is it worrying, I have found myself asking, that the very young are attracted to an iphone like a seagull to hot chips? Is there something intrinsically interesting and play-like about the phone— its shape, its magical light and sound displays —or, and here is the concerning part, does Baby J, and his siblings, and I’m sure many, many other young children out there, want it because it is a form of treasure to be sought after. They only have to look at how much time their parents spend with their phones to figure out its worth.
I didn’t have a phone of this calibre with E, or even W until sometime after his birth. I was a late acquirer of the iphone, as is the case with most things me and tech. Dr M and I were late to get a DVD player, late to stream TV, and late to join Facebook (in fact Dr M is still a very elusive presence there). I used to scoff at people who sat fixated on their screens, snapping shots of everything in site, responding like trained dogs at the slightest ding. And then I got one for myself, and, as they say, the rest is history.
What I Found in the Loss
In the few days since my iphone went MIA I have observed several things about myself, and my life with and without it.
Firstly, I have come to realise how dependent I have become on it. So much so that points of my daily life are punctuated by its presence (or in this case absence). They say patients who have their legs amputated still feel the ghost of the old leg. Without my phone, I still have the instinct to pull it out, and this hasn’t just happened once, but again and again. The muscle memory of holding my white rectangle is so strong that I find myself continuously reaching for it at odd moments of the day, when waiting in traffic, when feeding Baby J, when in the kitchen making tea or washing up.
Secondly, I have discovered that despite the urgency of my impulse to consume the contents of that attractive screen, I don’t have to. It is not life or death. Nothing really depends on it. I went 30 something years with no iphone. I can go a few days. The things that matter, the people that matter, will still find me.
Thirdly, I hate to admit it, but yes, I have found myself less distracted. More present. More in tune with my surroundings. I look up now when waiting in a line, or sitting across from my kids at a cafe table. I am forced to take in life as it is, not life-mediated.
Fourthly, I have been more open to surprise, and spontaneity. I used to know what the weather was at every point in the day. Today the heat surprised me. As did the breeze.
Most importantly, those pockets of time, those odds and ends that make up a day, I haven’t stuffed them with the scrolling of the screen, but with other pastimes. Reading a few pages of a book, staring into the distance, the lilt of a chit-chat conversation.
Now, I’m not saying this is cold-turkey for me. I need a phone as we don’t have a landline, and besides this, many of the functions are both useful and can be used for good. Texting, emailing, facebook, all of these can be harnessed for love, as well as idleness and harm. But I am appreciative of this time to detox a little, and see life screen-less and in person.