Me: *holding phone* Noah: Daddy! Daddy!! DADDY!! Me: What!? Noah: Look at me, please. Excuse me as I smash my phone now. #daddylessons
— Daddy Lessons (@Daddy_Lessons) November 24, 2015
Why is it so hard for us to detach? To put down our electronic devices? To be “interpersonal?” I’m guilty of this every day. Every. Single. Day. And my sons are the ones who remind me of it the most. For most people it’s because of the work email that is constantly reminding them to neglect their family. Not me. I removed the automatic sync thinking that would help me out. It didn’t. I’m still glued to my phone far too often. Turns out, at the core, it’s about making an intentional decision to keep your priorities straight. Go figure. I can actually control my behavior by thinking and intentionally deciding what to do. Weird concept, I know.
With the holiday season approaching, there is no better time to unplug, detach, look up, or whatever you need to do and engage the real, physical world around you. So, that’s just what I’m going to do. Dads, help me lead the way on this. Let’s show are families how to put our phones down and make eye contact. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll still check my phone from time to time, but I’m letting my family know to call me out if it’s getting in the way (this will also be a test to see if they read this). If all my son wants me to do is look at him, then we will just have a good old-fashioned staring contest.
Here are a few practical things I’m challenging myself to do over the holidays. Take them as a challenge for yourself too.
- If I’m stuck waiting somewhere, don’t get my phone out.
Any time I have to wait, the natural reaction is to reach for my phone and start scrolling. I don’t even think about it. During this holiday season, if I’m waiting for something, I’m going to try my hardest to just…..wait. Whether it’s waiting for a meeting, waiting for a green light, waiting for the turkey to be ready, waiting for the football game to start, waiting in the bathroom to make room for pumpkin pie (know what I mean?!), or waiting to tear into the presents, I’m going to just wait. Who knows, maybe I’ll even try to think a little bit.
- Sit and think.
If I get half-decent at just waiting, then maybe I’ll remember how to sit and think. After all, that’s what we did back in the day when I had a Nokia 5110 and the most fun you could have with your phone was changing the face….and playing snake. Oh how I miss snake. This season, I am going to try to relearn how to just sit and think, and not share everything that goes through my head. Social media has given everyone a voice, which can be great, but that doesn’t mean I need to have social media word vomit every time something comes into my head. And given, it’s the holidays, I may even think about past holidays with family and get a little nostalgic. I won’t tweet about it though.
- Intentionally interact with your family.
If you are fortunate enough to spend time with family during the holidays, don’t take it for granted. Don’t walk in hoping to avoid the awkward interaction with that cousin or dreading the rehashed conversation you have with your uncle every time you see each other. Embrace those things. Look forward to them. Be proactive and intentional about taking ownership of them. Who knows, maybe you’ll push through the awkwardness and frustration to find a real, meaningful relationship. After all, real, meaningful relationships are what we all want, aren’t they?
- Look them in the eye and tell them you love them.
Regardless of the history, the interaction, the relationship or lack thereof, this holiday season, grab your family members, look them in the eye, and tell them that you love them. They need to hear it, and you need to say it. Having a dad battling hepatitis c and a father in law battling cancer has made me keenly aware of the value to place on every interaction, because they are finite. Join me and make sure your family knows you love them by telling them with your words, putting your phone down, and showing them with your actions.
Have a great holiday season. Will catch up with you next year.