It’s not too surprising when a college friend tells you they don’t like reading. When you’re being assigned hundreds of pages for classes, few like it. But many years ago a friend gave me her reason and I’ve never forgotten it. She hated reading because her dad was an avid reader. I thought that was a weird reason. Isn’t a parent who loves books supposed to inspire their child to read? But her dad was obsessive about it. He read on the couch all evening long. Sometimes he would have his nose in a book throughout dinner. She said it was rare that her father didn’t have a book in his hand. And, though this is unlikely to be true, it made her feel as though he loved books more than her. He spent way more time reading than engaging her. What else was a kid to think? This led her to hate books because they reminded her of a remote father.
I’ve noticed something on our local playground when Anna and I are there with the kids. I call them “The Cell Phone Parents.” There are moms and dads who bring their kids to the park and then ignore them while checking Facebook, Twitter, or returning texts. They are looking at their smart phones the whole time, disengaging from their children. In fact, the only time they engage their children is when they look up from the screen to announce it’s time to head home.
I’m one of these parents. I confess. I won’t act as though I perfectly do this or anything. Seeing other parents totally check out has been convicting. I wish there was a group where I could just admit, “My name is Cisco and I’m a smart phone addict.” Even when hanging out with my family in the park that phone is screaming from my pocket, “Someone may have sent you a text!” “Maybe someone posted a funny picture on Instagram!” “You could be missing a hilarious hashtag party on Twitter!!!” The possibilities are almost overwhelming!
But I don’t want my kids to hate technology because their dad used it to escape them. In fact, I don’t want my children to think anything came between us. Of course, they know Jesus and Anna come before them. This isn’t about worshiping your child by making them think they’re the center of the universe. Instead, it’s about your boy or girl knowing you love them and value the time you have together. I want them to have memories of their dad getting home from work, throwing his bag down, and spending the next several hours enjoying them.
Overcoming smart phone addiction is a marathon not a sprint. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but this is hard. I’ve started taking some tangible steps to move the process along. When I get home from work, I put the phone in our bedroom and leave it there for several hours. If I’m tempted to see if anyone has sent me a Facebook Friend request I have to walk to the other side of the house in order to check. And I have to explain to the family where I’m going. “Um, I have to make sure my socks are properly folded in my dresser.” Yeah, that doesn’t work.
I’ve also started taking a one-day fast from the internet (smart phone included) each week. Man, is that hard! But I’ve found that I don’t really miss much. Email responses can be sent the next day. And, frankly, I’m not missing out on a lot if I ignore a day of social media chatter.
There are so many distractions around us, but if we blink our kids are grown up and out of the house. Let’s work hard, with God’s help, to cherish every moment we have with them.