I used to be a better mom.
My first two kids had my constant attention except when I was cleaning.
I got online when they were asleep.
I worked on my novel when I had a sitter.
They had it good.
Then came light-weight laptops and wireless networking.
Now, I keep my laptop on the kitchen counter most of the day.
When it's in the basement at my desk, I sneak down and check my email hoping my 3-year-old twins won't notice.
I let them watch too much TV. I don't read to them quite as much as I should. I let the older kids stay up an extra half an hour while I finish one last blog entry, a couple of emails and take a quick peek at my Web stats.
I have excuses.
_ I recently started working as a moderator for a popular online forum.
(I have to become more familiar with its culture--the posters, the topics and the general tone of the community. Right?)
_ My agent might email with an offer.
(Okay, so he'd probably call first. Enough already. These are excuses, remember?)
_ Some horrible ailment might befall a friend I haven't seen in 20 years and the only way I will know is if I check Facebook. (How will it look if I miss the wall post and fail to send a "get well" card?)
Yes, I have excuses.
But today, it started to get to me.
I wondered whether I was cheating the twins.
(I rarely touch my computer from the time the older kids come home from school until just before they go to bed.)
I looked at them.
They were feeding each other pretzels.
Five books were scattered across the living room floor, books I had read to them earlier. Books they had pulled out again and flipped through, pretending to read them aloud.
In the midst of the books was a length of railroad track I had set up for them this morning. Thomas was towing Annie and Clarabel. Diesel pulled a Troublesome Truck. They had played with those off and on for hours.
The television was off .
And they weren't bothered.
No, Matthew and Jonathan were happy.
And I was getting some work done on my laptop.
I had even cleaned the kitchen.
So maybe I'm wrong.
Maybe it's not such a bad thing, this portable, virtual world in my kitchen.
I am not glued to it.
I still get down on the floor with the boys several times a day, flipping them, lifting them and letting them climb on my back and shoulders. I still scoop them up and cuddle them individually for several minutes at a time. We do puzzles together. We count our fingers and toes. We color. We sing the alphabet song.
We try to get out of the house for at least a few hours each day.
Perhaps the difference between the mom I was before wireless Internet and the mom I am now is that I am connected, connected with other adults and connected with my work. I am not going crazy for adult interaction or intellectual stimulation while I'm home with my children.
This time around, I have my laptop.
I have my email.
I have Microsoft Word.
I have it good.
But when I power down and take a look around, I realize this:
So do they.