The hardest thing about going away for work is leaving Mazzy. Phone calls home are rarely satisfying because two-year-olds are severely lacking in the art of conversation. Fortunately, through the wonders of modern technology, we now have more toddler-friendly modes of communication like Skype and Facetime.
But that doesn't mean the conversations go smoothly. In fact, "conversation" still remains a very generous term.
Here are "The Seven Stages of Skyping with a Toddler". They all go down in about five minutes.
The second Mike yells, "Mazzy! Mommy's on the phone!" I can hear the squeals accompanying the pitter patter of little feet fast approaching the computer. This is one of the best feelings on earth, second only to the body-slam-hug I get when I come home. The squeals end with a big, "HI, MOMMY!!!" and my heart practically swells right out of my chest.
Cherish this stage for everything it's worth because it all goes down hill from here.
2. ENTERTAINMENT (aka The One Woman Show)
Since most toddlers have not yet mastered 'banter', you must now do everything in your power to hold your child's attention on your own. Asking questions isn't going to get you anywhere, kind of like an interview with Katie Holmes. You must sing, read a book, pretend to eat your own arm, etc. If you're lucky, your child will take a cue and help you out. Mazzy is a big fan of introducing me to each of her stuffed animals.
But be careful— this might be a ruse. I once found myself talking to Elmo for a good fifteen minutes before realizing Mazzy wasn't even in the room.
Your face can only entertain for so long. At some point, playing with 'the space bar' is going to seem like a lot more fun than listening to you sing the fifth verse of BINGO. Plus, Mike and I don't normally let Mazzy touch our computers, so being invited to get up close and personal with all the buttons she's been eyeing from afar is a hard thing to overshadow.
To make this phase even worse, Mazzy thinks every screen is a touch screen (Thanks, iPAD!) and every icon is a video or a game. Therefore, she is constantly touching files on the computer and getting upset when they won't open. Frustration leads to blind stabs at the keyboard which inevitably leads to…
4A. THE ACCIDENTAL HANG-UP
At least one hang-up is inevitable when you are Skyping on the computer, even more likely when you are doing Facetime on the iPhone. The iPhone is maddeningly easy to hang-up since the "END" option is a temptingly touchable red rectangle right there on the screen. Even adults have to actively avoid touching it. (Apple— invent a toddler lock please!!!!)
4B. THE RECONNECTION
After a few failed attempts, finally, all systems are a go once again. Stage 5 is met with some excitement but not nearly as much as the initial connection. You try to pick up from where you left off but your toddler is now confused, tired and bored. You should have cut your losses back at Stage 2.
In this stage, your toddler becomes completely disengaged. There is no eye contact or communication. She might be playing with something off to one side of the computer or something in another room has caught her eye. You wonder where your spouse has wandered off to because you need him to lead your child back on track but he is no where to be found. This stage usually ends with your child running away entirely (possibly leaving Elmo as a stand-in as mentioned above).
At this point, your toddler is no longer visible on the screen and your spouse is god knows where. You are staring at a visual of your refrigerator or an empty couch. "Mazzy? Mike? Mazzy! MIKE!!!!!" The end is nigh.
7. THE APOLOGETIC GOODBYE
Mike will eventually herd Mazzy back towards the computer, repeating "Say goodbye to Mommy" over and over again. Maybe Mazzy listens, most probably not. Then Mike will apologize for her lack of interest, say not to worry because they were having a perfectly good time before I called and that we'll try again tomorrow.
Which we do.
Every day of the trip (whether I am away, Mike is away or both of us together) no matter how many minutes we have to talk to Elmo.
Anyone have any tips for Skyping with a toddler?