Bottles vs. Blackberries. Remember to "engage" not with technology but your life.
“Life gives us brief moments with another...but sometimes in those brief moment we get memories that last a life time...” ~ Unknown
As I am getting ready to speak on a panel for Digital LA tonight, and as I am thinking about some of the topics the moderator has suggested we will discuss, one that keeps jumping out at me is the subject of engagement. I have always liked this particular word both in the context of tonight's subject matter but also in my own life. In the digital entertainment space, engagement is a buzzword (buzzwords in this space often quickly fall into the overuse category and thus become almost silly, e.g., 360 degree became cross-platform which is now transmedia which is now everywhere but it's still the same thing as it was before, you get the idea) but engagement is different. Engagement applies outside the digital space and in the real world, and while to me it is still the most accurate indicator of how well an advertising campaign performs while being one of the most challenging to metrics to measure, the same seems to be true for life engagement. It is the most powerful indicator of how well you are doing in life, yet in this case, it is completely measurable because success is achieved as you make and take away memories.
In the context of tonight's festivities, I will be talking about engagement and what causes a viewer or customer to stop what they are doing online (reading the news, playing social games, checking Facebook, watching videos, etc.) to watch, actually watch a piece of content (that the content owner or advertiser wants and is soliciting you to watch) and that the person will hopefully click through on a link to watch videos in the series in a library of content stored somewhere like YouTube, AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Funny or Die, or some other portal or advertiser website. In real life, as I sit in my living room typing this with Nanna H playing with the Wondertwins (I am referring to them collectively as that this week because I am having shirts made for the walk on Saturday and it has a nice collective ring to it:)) on the floor, I am reminded to engage in my life and not let these moments with them pass me by.
As a working mom/work at home mom I am fortunate to experience both worlds to some degree. Like both working and "work at home" moms (I call them this because, when you are home all day with wee ones, lest anyone think it's not work, it's definitely a full-time job and for me sometimes going to my actual job is like a break), I am constantly multi-tasking and in the information age this often means managing emails, while cooking and feeding dinner, looking for blog images while giving a breathing treatment, ordering baby and medical supplies while making bottles and constantly being held hostage by a blinking red light on my blackberry, text messages on my phone and emails to my personal account regarding the various other projects I have going like this blog, start up company advisory roles, TV show development projects, etc. Oh and then there's the grocery shopping, bill paying, new home renovations, house cleaning, all while maintaining my sanity and trying to be a good mom, wife, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, friend, mentor, alumni, etc. The list goes on and on and I know I am not alone. The pressure to be "super mom" and superwoman is now more than ever. It's bottles vs. blackberries in everyday life (this is simply a metaphor because with kids, without kids, we are all doing more than ever before and with the proliferation of technology we are all expected to do more than ever before). Who wins is up to you, but they are forced to live in the same world so making sense of them comes down to engagement. I know this not only applies for ladies, men too feel the pressure. In KSP's world (disclaimer: this is my opinion), a portion of productivity is gauged by email response time and face time. Many organizations are like this which ramps up the attachment to our handheld devices and technology even more making it more challenging to engage in our own lives.
Case in point in my circumstances. Monday is my stay at home day and as I started my introduction to this post...E was doing therapy with our PT, the wonderful Sarah, and Nanna was playing with Q behind me as I sat on the couch. Meanwhile, my work blackberry red light was flashing in the corner of my right eye, and my iPhone gmail showed I had 5 new messages while it simultaneously rang to let me know I had a new text message, and yet I decided to quit typing and follow the laughter. The next thing I knew I was sliding on to my knees on all fours to chase Q around the house, still on my knees, and Q was squealing with laughter. I felt light as air and the flow of joy and I grabbed him and tickled him to help the hearty laugh continue (I do recommend knee pads for those trying this at home, as I now have a skinned knee and some light bruising, but it was worth it. If time will not allow for knee pads or you don't have any because you don't garden or play indoor volleyball on a regular basis, long pants and a slower approach to the floor are a must). It was a magical moment. I then diligently came back to my computer and continued to type, checked my emails and read a text message all at the same time.
So again, I went back to my post and as I typed, E started to cry during the crawling portion of her therapy. To be clear, this is not actual crawling but rather E on her belly as Sarah pushes the bottoms of her feet to help cue her to push herself forward. She is "patterning" her to remember the movements that her mind is trained to do but due to her delays she will not learn on her own. As she is doing this E starts to cry. Real crying, not complaining, she is crying, she has had enough. So again, I put my computer down while the red light on my blackberry screamed at me, "check me!!!", and hurried down to comfort E and take her to soothe her. We sat there as she rubbed her eyes incessantly to let me know she was tired and over it. We sat there and I stroked her hair and rocked softly back and forth and she quickly calmed down. Nanna H kindly came over and offered to take her (although we sometimes have a misunderstanding of whose ninos (babies) the wondertwins actually are, so she was also coming because she can't help but want to comfort "mis ninos/my babies" as she calls them) but I told her we were fine and I wanted to hold her. We stayed that way for a good 10 minutes and then she wanting to play so I put her down to practice her sitting with her large laughing wobbling blowup penguin (at some point I will address Nanny 101 in which you might all be helping me with your comments rather than me providing any real insight).
So back to the couch I went to try and finish typing, and as I did I sat and watched the Wondertwins, now again on the floor with Nanna H. as Q held up the ball and screamed "Baaaaa" which means Ball in Q, and then proceeded, for the first time ever, to throw the ball to Nanna H. It was amazing. Q didn't know what he had done and Nanna H. didn't see it because she was talking to me, but I saw it and a I got so excited I think it scared Q. I yelled "Yeah!!! You threw the ball Q!". He smiled proudly and showed me the Baaaa!!!! as Nanna H. rolled it back to him.
These moments, these are the ones to capture in your mind and take with you in your heart. These moments happen everyday but the question is, if you can turn off the other stuff, if only for a few minutes to know they are happening and embrace them. We have some very good friends who we often described as wonderful parents even before we had our own kids we used them as a model of how we would want to be. Every time C or C would come to them, they would politely request the adults attention and then tell them what they were thinking or what the wanted to do. As get-togethers with them were always fairly casual, it wasn't unusual to see one parent in the kitchen coloring with little C while the other kids and adults milled about. Engaged parenting. Granted, this does not apply to all children but giving them undivided attention when speaking with them or playing with them, so they aren't competing for it, seems like a good gift to give both them and you. I find myself struggling with this all the time as my multiple devices yell at me to pay attention to them, and work and all the activities that I want to do occupy my mind at all hours of the day, but I make it a mantra to engage, engage, engage...I look at my babies and know these moments are fleeting and I can't get them back. I have to make a choice and I try to choose them every time. So with that, as I hear Q laughing in the kitchen and E banging on the table (this is good, it's a new thing she has learned just today) I am going to put away my devices, including this computer and go into the kitchen to feed my wee ones dinner and get them ready for bed before I have to go my event where engagement will mean something entirely different. But if given the opportunity tonight, I may just reframework engagement for the attendees to remind them where engagement really matters: life.
I wish you all much engagement in life as a mother, father, wife, husband, friend, sister, brother, daughter, son or whatever you are or choose to be. Make memories today to take with you and today can be your be favorite day.