Opportunity is Calling: Hang Up - Why I Put My Phone Down to Raise My Kid
I’m a fairly new dad. At the time of this blog, my daughter is a year and a half. And I’m learning every day what “family-first” means and how to better embody that statement. The more I interact with my baby girl, the more I see behaviors in my own life that affect her. Things I once thought to be completely inert were, in fact, affecting her and myself by tiny degrees. It was time to right the ship before we got too far off course. One of the things I had to address was my relationship with the tiny super computer that I carry in my pocket.
My phone is a miracle. I’ve used it to make emergency phone calls and find the nearest grocery store in a city I’ve never been in. I can keep up with all my “friends” and order food without even leaving the house. It’s also a fantastic time-suck in my life.
I got the first iPhone around Christmas 2008. I became a dad 11 years later. So between December 25, 2008 and January 6, 2019, I had 11 years of constant hits of dopamine digging a trench in my brain. A decade-long habit of staring and scrolling.
So naturally, I became guilty of staring at a screen anytime I had a free moment. God forbid a free thought actually pass through my brain. Very quickly, I developed the ticks that we all did: texting in class, checking Facebook every 5 minutes hoping somebody had commented on a status, constantly seeking this weird form of validation from a piece of glass and metal.
So fast forward to bringing our baby girl home. Those first few frantic weeks of never-ending movement interrupted the habit a little, but then you start picking up the phone to google why your kid is sniffling. And later, because they're just so dang cute, you start taking constant pictures. And eventually, they're a touch more self-sufficient and you have that first utterly GLORIOUS moment where you actually have some free time! Your brain has been on high alert for weeks on end and all you want to do is veg out for 6 measly minutes and...say it with me now...look at your phone. Just like that, the habit is back in full effect.
One day, I was feeding her while my line of sight vacillated between watching her eating to whatever was emanating out of my phone. Somehow, when I rotated my head back towards her eating a bean or some-such, it hit me. She has my eyes, my wife's smile. She's a product of my very decision to marry my wife. I helped MAKE her. WHY THE HECK WASN'T I LOOKING AT HER?! Good Lord, man, drink it in!
I realized that I had this beautiful baby girl; this chunky, cheery, cherub, in front of me and here I was ignoring her for a device that didn’t give me any gratification. But I was constantly burrowing into it because I HOPED it would. I don't even remember what I was looking at that day, but I remember how SHE looked! The soft heaviness of her cheeks, the bright blue eyes and the crazy curls!
From that point on, I decided I’d rather be bored with her than excited by a lifeless piece of tech. I would never see her like this again. This is the youngest she’ll ever be. The most innocent. Eventually, she’ll be talking and able to voice those opinions I know she already has. One day, she’ll have her own phone and I’ll be trying to get her to pay me a little attention.
So when I’m around my kid, now and forevermore, the phone goes away. Not even for photos. Sure we’ll pose for one here and there, but the constant snapping of pics in the name of “capturing the moment” is over. That’s for me and just me. It’s a precious moment that’s unique to me and my family that makes it infinitely more valuable that it can’t be re-lived.
And now, I’ve got a free hand to hold my kid. She fits nicely there.
What are your thoughts? Hit me up in the comments to discuss.