Let's Put It Down and Be Present
One evening not so long ago my youngest son, who was three years old at the time, was taking a bath. Bath time is typically my responsibility so after the obligatory hair and body washing he takes time to play with his toys in the bathtub. While he was playing I picked up my phone, as I often did at that time, to look through social media, review any emails I may have missed and read interesting news articles. After a short period, I realized my son was trying to get my attention, so I acknowledged him verbally while still scrolling through my phone. He called out to me again, and again I acknowledged him verbally and asked him what he needed. At that point, I could hear in his voice that he was becoming frustrated with me. He finally said, “Dad, will you please look at me?” With that plea, I was shaken from my electronic fog and my heart sank a bit. I put down the phone, picked it up again, turned it off, apologized to my son and focused on him.
As I thought about that moment, I realized that his life and so many of his beautiful, special moments would simply pass me by if I continued to allow myself to gaze numbly into the phone. I also realized that if I did not put that phone down he would have fewer of those special moments because so much of what makes a moment special who it is shared with and how they respond. After that moment, I went into my phones settings and turned off virtually every notification function. I also deleted my social media apps. If I “need” to check social media I can do that on a desktop or laptop computer. Now, when I get home from work my practice is to put my phone on silent and place it face down on the counter. I do not carry it around the house with me because I do not need always ready access if I happen to be in the back yard, dining room, media room, or wherever else I happen to be when at home.
To our children, there are few things more important than our attention. These days there are many things competing for our attention and our phones are at the very top of the list. Life does not pause while we gaze into our phones looking for the next exciting thing to happen. It keeps right on going with our children growing, changing, responding to challenges, and doing things that will amaze us if we only pay attention. So, I ask you to join me and put your phone down, put your eyes on your children or the other significant people in your life. They are right in front of you and need you, just like you need them.
If you have any questions about parenting strategies, please reach out to Garrison Psychology and Counseling Services for expert advice and support. www.garrisontherapy.net