I thought I was being slick. I didn’t think I was checking my phone that often. I’d only pull it out when other stuff was happening—when the girls were doing something else. I wasn’t ignoring them. I wasn’t replying to a note when I should have been doing something with the girls, at least I told myself.
It didn’t matter.
Daddy, you love your phone too much.
I’d ignored my wife’s pestering about reducing phone time since, well, she is a bit of a Luddite, but when O, with all of her four-year-old logic and sense (and love for the iPad), comes to the same conclusion, I can’t afford to ignore it.
The problem with constantly having your face glued to a screen—even when you’re not supposed to be doing something else—is that you’re attaching a big “screw you” sign on your forehead. Your kids will see that you’re too busy replying to some pointless tweet whenever they want to tell you something about their day.
You weren’t ignoring them when you picked up your phone, but by using it, you’re telling them that you are ignoring them.
For O, I wanted to give her a tangible way to see that something is different. When heading upstairs after dinner, at the beginning of our bedtime routine. Her first job is to take my phone and place it on the nightstand in the master bedroom. She knows that she (and her sisters) are the important ones during that time and that, no matter what, I’m not going to get sucked into the phone. And for me, it is impossible to check a phone that is a hallway away without purpose.
Not only that, but phones aren’t foreign to kids. They play with phones (not mine, mind you, but Grandma and Grandpa’s) all the time. They use the phone to look at pictures of themselves, watch Sesame Street clips, and play games. They use it for entertainment.
It doesn’t matter if you’re saving the world, responding to your biggest client, launching countermeasures to an incoming nuclear attack, or anything else. You’re doing it on the same thing they see as a playful toy, which means they could easily make the association that playing a stupid game is more important than spending time with them.
They might understand, on some level, that Mommy and Daddy do adult things on the phone, or they might not. In either case, unless it was truly and actually important, why possibly introduce that?
All that said, I’m breaking the phone addiction for the girls.