Like a good chunk of the rest of the world, I’m working from home, trying to limit my potential contact with Covid-19. In the middle of a video conference the other day, I reached into a drawer to grab a piece of paper to take down a few meeting notes. When I pulled out a notepad, I came across an old journal.
When the meeting was over, I started browsing through the journal. The book had no date listed, but had to be at least ten years old. In one post in the book, in my careless illegible handwriting, I had written down my hopes, dreams and fears for my kids. It took work reading my own writing—I say that with no pride, it’s actually, really rather pathetic—but I could make out that I was worried how all three of my kids had their noses stuck in a phone or tablet instead of being stuck in a book. I wrote that I wished for another J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, to come along to get them back into a good book. The fear that I must have been feeling at the time dripped off the page. I feared that our conversations had become one- or two-word answers instead of deep heart-felt conversations.
The power of technology
I wrote that I never wanted to be their best friend—that wasn’t my job, they needed me to be a father—but I still worried that we weren’t connecting and I couldn’t break through the connection, an electronic forcefield for the lack of a better word, that their phones, tablets, gaming systems had on them.
In the weeks since Covid-19 has sent the World into hiding, technology has been a big help in bringing education home to our kids. However, I still hear from some of my coworkers how they worry about their kids spending too much of their time focused on TV and electronics.
Worry no more
Amazingly enough I stopped worrying years ago about our kids being on the phone. Yes, my two oldest kids are grown adults now, but we still have our teenaged son home with us. And you know what, I don’t worry about him being on his phone.
Yes, teenagers today communicate differently than I ever did in my teen years. If I wanted to talk to a friend after school, I’d have to catch up with them at Track Practice or on the rare occurrence, I’d have to call them on our family phone.
In comparison, I grew up in the dark ages. Still, I don’t worry about my son. In part because we’ve made it a habit to eat together as a family. My wife and I will never be perfect parents, but one of the smartest things we ever did was have family meals where everyone generally puts aside our electronics and tries to have conversations.
Tell me what you really think
We made the rule, because I sure as heck preferred hearing about Minecraft or the game they were playing or if we were really lucky, getting some dirt on their day, to talking about how the founder of the company where I worked was in a tiff with the current CEO or how some senior executive had blown up my latest marketing promo because he or she decided they wanted to add a bigger sales pitch and hadn’t gotten back to me in time to make our deadline.
I wanted to talk to them. I wanted to hear what my kids thought.
Yes, as soon as we were done with dinner, they were off back to their games or phones or whatever electronic device was their favorite of the moment, but you know what, that was okay.
So that’s exactly what I’m telling my friends now: “let kids be kids.”