Every week, I take my boys to their after-school activities — swimming and karate. While I’m there enjoying my kids, I’ve noticed that a lot of parents are plugged into their mobile devices.
They’re not watching their kids — at all.
Instead, they’re checking e-mail, reading a book or using an app on their iPhone. Sure, from time to time I’ll use my iPhone for a minute during a lesson, but never for more than that.
What it comes down to is where each parent is choosing to be engaged.
Would it be easy to stay plugged in to my iPhone? Sure. I’ve already seen Max swim across the pool dozens, quite possibly hundreds, of times. And I’ve watched Joss do his karate moves so often that I have them memorized myself. But I’ve also checked my e-mail hundreds of times.
Here’s the thing: My e-mail will be there later.
But there are precious moments that will only happen this one time as my kids partake in their respective classes. I don’t always know when they’ll happen, but if I miss them they’re gone. Forever.
So my decision is simple. I’m there to watch my kids.
I work so much (2 jobs, 6 days a week right now), and these half-hour classes are a chance to see my boys growing, learning and having fun. And if I’m paying attention, I can give them honest feedback and encouragement when they’re done.
There’s also another component tethered to this. When my kids look over at me, they see that I’m paying attention to what they’re doing, which makes them feel important (which they are). If they saw dad’s head buried in his iPhone, how would that make them feel? Insignificant and unimportant, that’s how. A definite contributor to poor self esteem and feelings of inadequacy.
It’s a great feeling to see my boys’ eyes light up when they see me watching them, really watching them, as I give them a big thumbs up.
Plugging in is tempting. These devices are addictive, they’re easy to get sucked into. And they can rob us of precious, one of a kind moments.
Just the other day, Max did two different types of backstrokes. Each time, I was awestruck as to how well he did them. My jaw literally dropped. I would have missed it if I were plugged in.
What it comes down to is this … Are you an involved dad or a chauffeur?
Being involved does not mean driving our kids to and from their after-school activities and being plugged in in-between. It means being present throughout. Which can sometimes be hard when we’re exhausted, and don’t have much time for ourselves.
Am I an iDad?
As much as I love my phone — nope. Although I’ll admit that I can sometimes become distracted, I remain firmly plugged into my kids lives.
And remember, you are not alone …
9 Replies to “Are You an iDad?”
One of my biggest pet peeves… and something I struggle with myself SOMEtimes. I recognize those times as being guided by my mood, as it is driven by other forces in my life besides my children.
@ Chris: I understand exactly where you’re coming from. Thanks for your comment!
I enjoyed your post – great food for thought as I head out the door to watch my 9 year old’s soccer game. iDistraction in virtually every circumstance – from business situations to family situations) is certainly a growing trend/issue. It’s so refreshing and affirming to get someone’s undivided attention.
Joey, great article. I really enjoyed it.
@ Rob Bell: Thanks!
I really like this perspective. It’s one of those truths that many feel, but few say anything about. I think common responses are “Oh, I’m just so busy, I need to….” or “Well, I don’t want to distract them….”, but the reality is that you might not be engaged.
As a dad of three daughters, I’m not all that interested in ballet or tap lessons, BUT I still watch when I get the chance to be there. And I do it so I make eye contact. When they look up and see me watching, they know I care. Sure, we can tell our kids we care and that we’re loving what they’re doing, but as always, actions speak louder than words. Thanks for the article.
Thank you for this article, another reminder of the impact we have upon our children in such ‘simple’ ways. I remember growing up and looking up and competing at track events, to look into the stands at all of my friends parents, mine, well, I am not sure where they were. My desire, as you so well articulate, is to be fully engaged when we are at our children’s events watching them do what they do. I too have caught myself reaching for the phone following that ‘chime’ to see what information/text just came in. Letting the phone sit temporarily is a discipline, and well worth developing, for the sake of our children.
As an interesting side note, one I may write about myself. We were in two large stores recently, enjoying the sites and scenery, and our 12 year old pointed out that another child was walking head down playing his DS. Her comments was this, “Look at everything they are missing around them.” We affirmed her observation and had a great opportunity to talk about those things.
Have a great weekend.
@ Greg: You are very welcome! Thank you for sharing your story, as well.
Looking forward to learning more about your parenting site and what you do.
This is so true!
You should always be present when you are with your kids (or with your family for that matter).
As you say – e-mail can always wait, but those precious moments don’t!