Dear Phone, Please give me my Dad back.

“Whoa! Did you see that?” the little one screamed, astonished!


“Dad! Check this out! Quick, its going to disappear, Dad!”

“Oh wow! Yeah, hmmm,” (without looking)

And then there is silence.

Wondering what’s going on? Ok, let me give you the complete picture: This story is about a father and his son. The father is a promising young go getter climbing the corporate ladder; and because he hardly gets any time to spend with his little one through the week, he has brought his son to the park on a weekend. The child, delighted as he is to spend time with Dad, has spotted a squirrel scurrying to a tree to stash the nuts that it is holding in its tiny hands. The squirrel is running away fast and the boy urges his father to look at this amazing sight!

His father though, is busy texting on his smartphone. He answers in monosyllables, and actually fakes it when he says “wow!” without even looking up from his phone. He thinks he has gotten away with it and doesn't give his actions another thought. 

But his disinterest has not gone unnoticed. His son has seen him preoccupied. He has noticed that his father is only pretending to pay attention to him. He has realized, he cannot compete with the smartphone in his Dad’s hands and is beginning to think that there is nothing that he can say or do that will be important to his Dad anyway. And that’s why he has gone silent. 

How does this story make us feel? Is something wrong going on here? Do we feel sorry for the son? Maybe we blame the father for being on the phone when he should be giving time to his son. Yes? But really, aren’t we all doing the same? Aren’t we, all but forcing our children to compete with our smartphones for attention?

Our phones have become our world today. Everywhere we go, we find people from different walks of life concentrating on their smartphones at all times - waiting for the bus, travelling on the train, even in the middle of watching a movie; or all the time at home - there is hardly a moment when our phone is not with us.

I want to share something here. Yesterday, I was waiting outside my little one's school to pick him up, when I noticed a family of three among the many parents waiting at the school gate. There was a boy of about five-six years, his mother and his father. I presumed they had come to pick up someone as they waited, like me, for the school to let out. 

As I watched, the mother and the son started having a conversation and making jokes. Both the mother and the son kept calling to the father occasionally, who was busy on his phone. He nodded his head and generally put in a word or two, but clearly, couldn’t tear himself away from his phone long enough to hear even a single coherent sentence from his wife, or son. 

Something tugged at my heart when I saw this. I would really like to believe he was dealing with some crisis at work or some situation that would make him suffer gravely if he didn't attend to it right away. However, what I am sure is more likely to be the case, is that he was busy on one of the many apps on his smartphone. Most likely, he was scrolling through his Facebook feed as he thought this was the best time – since he was anyway waiting – or maybe he was networking on Linkedin or maybe he was scouring Twitter to know the most trending thing of the day or was engaged in something else entirely. 

But really, for the sake of his family; and himself, I really would like to believe that this man – this father and husband – was really doing some serious work-related fire-fighting. Because nothing short of that, would really justify his ignoring his little child and his wife, when they were trying to have a conversation with him. 

But hey, who am I to judge? It’s his life, his family. God knows he must be slogging at work and definitely deserves a little free time all to himself. There are many men who go clubbing to de-stress, or visit the bars for a calming drink; but this man here chose to be with his family. He chose to spend his valuable time, with his family, waiting outside his little child’s school gate, waiting for the gates to open and his child to come running in his arms! And sure enough, soon the school let out and his wife and son went in and came out with a little girl in pigtails and the family went on its way.

But I kept thinking about them for a long time; and wondered if I was being too harsh on this man obsessed with the phone? Maybe, if he was alone, waiting, and killing time on his phone, I wouldn’t even have given him a second glance. But what really pained me to see, was that he wasn’t alone, he was there with two of the most important people in his life. And yet,he had shut himself into the world contained in his phone where his wife and son were not welcome – a world that was robbing the man, of the precious time that he would’ve enjoyed with his family!

I can't help but think here, of an interesting point that psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair makes in this article, where she says that (when we ignore children for our phones),

"We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don't matter, they're not interesting to us, they're not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them."

Wow! That's scary, don't you think?

Another alarming impact of this overuse of smartphones that we do not consider is that we are setting an example for our children to do just this, once they get a phone for themselves. 

Imagine these same children will grow up tomorrow, believing that their world is only limited to the little device in their hands. Will they then learn to enjoy the beauty of nature, if they never look up from their phones? Or will they only learn to live a life that begins and ends with their smart phones? Will they ignore us, parents, for their phones? 

And will we parents like that? And finally, as parents who have constantly been preoccupied with our phones, can we even imagine the day, when our family will have learnt and accepted that we are absentee parents – who are right there, but are really not there in the here and now?

I don't think I can live with that; and that's why, this situation scares me. If it scares you too, then it is time to make the change. Time to decide to take a break from the smartphones for a definite time every day and give that time, whole-heartedly to our families. It might not be easy, but it will surely be rewarding.

What say, are you ready to make the change? 


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