Many of the parenting lessons I have to share come not from me knowing the right answers, but rather, by me falling down on the job. One of these issues while learning to be a Dad to my kids, was escaping the world of my iPhone.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was single a LONG time. I got married at 38 – that’s a long time of being on my own. A lot of sticking to my own schedule and coming and going as I saw fit (I didn’t really go out very often – watched a lot of TV though – thus becoming a critic…).
The advent of the cellphone and text messaging was awesome for the single guy. Bored? Send a message and blammo – plans.
Then – we get married. Many believe that means we’re instantly turned into Captain Responsible. (I’ll pause here while the females reading this stop laughing.)
However, part of us clings to the old days. Still trying to hang on to those times of a truly instant message – send and go. It’s like we’re checking in with our ‘old life’ as much as possible – usually to a fault.
If you’re any kind of gentleman, when you’re on a date – you leave your phone in your pocket. If you’re a good friend and you’re out to dinner with the boys – you leave your phone in your pocket (unless it’s needed to complete a fantasy baseball trade, of course). If you’re a good employee and at your desk or in a meeting, you leave your phone in your pocket (or away in a drawer).
So, why do we, as Dads, find it’s ok to be checking our phones so often when we’re spending “quality” time with our kids? Eating dinner – quick check if any work emails have come in since you left the office 30 minutes ago. Kids are coloring – what pics have been added to Instagram since you checked this morning, while on the can? Bedtime story – Hey Siri, who’s pitching for the Yankees tonight?
The pull of that damn phone is like the Dark Side. Calling to you. Promising you power and knowledge.
You’re afraid to miss out on what others are saying. You want to know if your angry tweets about the President have any re-tweets. Remember what Yoda said: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” And who is suffering? Our kids.
Kids pick up on EVERYTHING we do. When H was just learning to talk in sentences, he would observe me checking my phone (way too often) and studying that screen. My eyes would narrow, my brow would furl, my mouth would smirk. He took to referring to me as “Sad Dad” – he even made a little song about it. Yeah, talk about an eye-opener.
It starts off innocently enough – you like to have your cell phone nearby to catch pics of the kids at any given moment. But then the force of the phone is too luring. It makes that siren call of the text noise or vibrates on the table. Who is it? Who can it be? What do they want? Is it important?????
It took me WAY too long to figure out – it didn’t matter. What was important was sitting around that table with me – looking for me to be present in the moment – to share in that time – to be “Happy Dad”.
So, what do I do? My phone is on silent (no vibrate) and stays in my pocket – no temptation. Problem solved – right?
For a little bit – then I received an amazing Christmas present – an Apple Watch. I LOVE it! But when it came to getting in the way of Daddy time… it was Apple’s Revenge of the Sith.
Once again, the Dark Side was calling, well, more like tapping my wrist. Someone was reaching out to me… who was it?
Time for step 2 of disconnecting when I get home. Part of my routine, when I get home, involves my daughter, CJ, greeting me at the door and accompanying me into my room where I take off my watch and put it on its charger. With the help of my little Princess, Vader has been tamed.
Am I perfect with this now? Hell no. But I keep trying – and that’s making a big difference for Happy Dad.
“Hi, you’ve reached KP, I’m here, but I’m not going to take your call, text, like, email, snap, or gram right now. I’m with my kids. Please, leave a message. BEEEEEEP”
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