Missing out on real life

“This? This? This?”

My 22-month-old son kept repeating his mantra as I walked up the stairs checking email on my phone one day. I looked up absentmindedly to discover he held an open, blue permanent marker in one hand, with the cap in the other.

I quickly shoved my phone in my pocket.

“Can you hand that to Daddy?” I said, pointing at the offending marker.

By some miracle, he willingly

placed it in my hand. In that moment, I understood the stress hostage negotiators must feel on a daily basis. After a cursory examination of the main floor, I found no magic marker graffiti art. Victory.

While not all examples are this dramatic, it is clear that my wife and I spend too much time on our smartphones around our son—a behavior he picks up on. Not being one to shy away from attention, my son sometimes angles his head, so it becomes visible either below or to the side of the phone.

“Hi,” he’ll say, with a wide smile across his face.

Technology is convenient, but it can become addictive.

My wife and I are on our phones frequently for work, but we are also caught up in the Facebook newsfeed gaze. If we keep scrolling down, maybe we won’t miss the one potentially life-changing post/message/moment, we rationalize to ourselves.

If a life-changing moment is due to occur, the reality is that it is more likely to occur within the room versus as content fodder on our phones. It is a constant battle.

For the most part, we avoid cellphone usage at dinner, and we try to spend more deliberate time playing and interacting with our son. I absolutely love reading to him every night and sitting down on the floor to play with him.

Such a vivid imagination is beginning to take hold, as he starts learning his ABCs, numbers and a wide range of words. I look forward to playtime with him. That means more time spent together without some type of media device resting between us.

Any strategy that can also help keep blue marker off the walls also has to be a good thing.

Matt Brennan is a Sugar Grove dad, an experienced freelance writer and blogs about all aspects of fatherhood at SpiralingUpwards.com.

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