Are you using your portable devices or are they using you?
On Father’s Day weekend Callee and I loaded up the boys to go see my family. It had been several months since our last visit and the first since Wayne had been born. That’s when I accepted there was a problem.
At every conversation there were interruptions, not from one of the six rowdy kids, but from tablets and smartphones. They would come out of nowhere. Not just during lulls, but also when someone was trying to share something clearly important to them.
Watching this unfold made me pause. Is a Facebook notification truly more important than a conversation with family you haven’t seen in five months? No, they’re not – and none of my family would say that they are. I think the truth is less menacing. At best, it’s a habit; at worst, it’s an addiction.
For me, it’s somewhere between the two. After that weekend I decided to see what it’d be like to cut back on my phone time. My first challenge was to avoid my phone in the morning until I parked at work.
I was surprised by how strong the urge was to flick through my phone after I made it a point to not do that in the morning. Does making toast really take so long I need to be entertained during the wait? Cutting my phone out of that hour each day also brought another realization, how often I looked at it the rest of the day.
What was really uncomfortable was the times I caught myself idly gazing at my phone. When Callee was trying to tell me something, or needed my help. When I was “playing” with our toddler, or during our nightly rocking time. Even during some of the precious time when our newborn was sleeping in my arms. What was going on around me was more important to me than anything on my phone, so why was my attention so consistently misplaced?
That brought on more uncomfortable questions. If I keep this up, what will be prominent in my kids childhood memories. The things we did together, or how often I was only present physically? Am I modeling how to be engaged in the world around them and have healthy hobbies, or to be a distraction seeker? What are they learning about being fathers? I promise I don’t over analyze things.
Now I’m not saying that I’m worried about a little too much phone time on my part turning my boys to a life of drugs and crime. But I am concerned about them feeling or thinking that distractions are more important to me than they are because of how often I give my attention to my phone during their time.
What am I going to do now? Swearing off mobile technology would be ridiculous. My iPhone is a great tool that helps me stay in touch, organized, and enhances my productivity, when I keep it in its place. Instead, I’m going to acknowledge this as a respect and priority issue. I’m going to be mindful about giving my family the respect and undivided attention they deserve, because they’re my real priority.