As a father of three, I was deeply moved by this mother’s reflection on a note she got from this day care provider…
I can recall a time when you were out with your children you were really with them. You engaged in a back and forth dialog even if they were pre-verbal. You said, ‘Look at the bus, see the doggie, etc.’ Now I see you on the phone, pushing your kids on the swings while distracted by your devices. You think you are spending time with them but you are not present really. When I see you pick up your kids at day care while you’re on the phone, it breaks my heart. They hear your adult conversations. What do they overhear? What is the message they receive? I am not important; I am not important.
I can remember back when I first got a smartphone and my oldest was just a baby. I thought then about how I didn’t want to be one of those parents that was so immersed in my phone that I was not present with my children. We banned phones while eating as a family and I always kept my phone in the other room at night.
However as the years have passed, I can identify with too many of the situations observed by this mother and think I need to take a renewed approach to being present. One exercise that helped was imagining my little kids as teenagers at a time when I very much want to talk and interact with them… yet they were too distracted by their own devices. I would hate to feel that we didn’t set a good example of how to be human and how to be present.