My 4-year old son looks up at me with a look of wonder in his eyes. “Daddy, what’s this?” he asks, pulling open a display drawer in a giant pretend tree. The pretend tree, and all kinds of other neat stuff, is in our town’s Nature Center awaiting to stir a child’s imagination.
He looks up at me and then his words trail off. Even though I reply excitedly, “That’s awesome buddy,” he already knows. At 4 years old he’s smarter than I give him credit for. My haphazard response doesn’t fool him. He knows I’m not paying attention. He’s seen this play out hundreds of times- At a park. At the mall. In our home. At his school. He’s doing something that I’m supposed to be participating in but instead, I’m distracted by my iPhone.
I’m distracted because someone across the Continental US is saying something way more interesting on Twitter. There’s an hysterical quote or picture that someone just posted to Facebook and it’s extremely important that I look at that instead of pay attention to his world. This email just can’t wait 30 or 40 minutes or someone, other than my kid, might suffer or feel less important. If I wait for a few hours to read that blog post it might not be relevant anymore. So, you see, I must make him wait!
On this day, however, I feel the weight of this decision. I stop and consider the cost more than I ever have before. How long will I allow my consumption of electronics and social media go before it’s too late? Before he stops wanting to show me something cool that he’s just discovered? Before he no longer screams “DADDY!” when his imagination is awakened? Before I wake up one day and he’s a disinterested teenager and I’m still convincing myself that he’s fooled by my distraction?
The truth is- he knows I’m not paying attention to him. He knows others seem to be more important by the way I dial myself into their world over his. If I want the relationship with him that I desire and I claim to have, then this behavior must stop at all costs. He needs to know every single day that I AM paying attention and he IS important!
Question- Is this a struggle for you as well? How do you attempt to overcome it and dial yourself in to your child’s world? I ask because I need help just like you!