Okay, so I’m sitting in front of my computer, trying to navigate this social media, internet marketing minefield. My book came out a week ago, and I am desperate to get it noticed, to get people aware of it, to gain Followers on Twitter and Likes on Facebook and Mom Bloggers to mention it on their websites. And suddenly, out of nowhere, a bug starts distracting me. So I start batting at the insect, trying to wave it away so that I can concentrate, because this is important. This is my career. My book’s success or lack thereof will mean the difference between my writing full time and languishing in a job I can’t stand. I’m furiously swatting at the insect now as I retweet a tweet in the hopes of someone else retweeting mine. And then I realize something that fills me with regret.
The bug is my son. And he’s trying to talk to me.
I totally suck.
My kids always come first. That was the deal I made when I birthed them—or more to the point, when the doctor yanked all 10 pounds of them out of my filled-to-bursting uterus. But lately, I have been letting them fend for themselves. That’s not to say I’ve shirked my responsibilities for the care and feeding of them. I still do the laundry. I haven’t told them to fry their own chicken tenders or make their own lunches or change the Sparklett’s five-gallon jug. But I haven’t been present. Because I have been sucked into the Matrix of the internet, although unlike Keanu Reeves, I have yet to conquer an Agent or do a series of back flips followed by serious butt-kicking and bullet avoidance. I admit, I have used the TV, too, letting them watch far more than their usual hour so that I can keep working, keep surfing, keep trolling for supporters. And you know what? I feel like a heel. Because too many Ninjago episodes are seriously bad for seven- and nine-year-old brains.
I try to assuage my guilt by telling myself that I am doing this for them. I want to be successful so that I can provide them with all of the things they need. So that I can be a happy fulfilled mom who doesn’t scream and bitch and take my frustrations out on them because I have to work in a crappy office covered with piles of papers that makes Hoarders look like the “after” shot of Makeover Home Edition. I’m doing this so that we can actually take vacations instead of constructing a tent in the living room and calling it our pied a terre. (Well, I call it that. The kids just look at me suspiciously.)
But the truth is, at some point, I have to unplug. We all do. The internet is seductive. It provides all kinds of free entertainment and pseudo connections with people who are strangers and LOL information—some of it true and some of it gloriously fictitious. The internet is an existence in and of itself. It’s an ego boost (“I have two thousand friends”) and a reality check (“I only have three followers”) and the lover we never thought we’d take. But, again, at some point, we have to click the red box with the ‘x’ in it on the top right of our screen. Because real life is waiting, in the form of a nine-year-old boy who wants me to read him another chapter of Droon. And that is more important, more satisfying, and more fulfilling than anything Facebook has to offer. Because, let’s face it. Your Facebook friend can give you a virtual hug. And virtual hugs are nice, they really are. But a Facebook hug just doesn’t feel the same as the real thing. And the real thing is waiting for me right now.