By Steve Wickham
In not being present, in pretending I can hold two or more attentions simultaneously, I betray eternity’s moment for the temporary release I feel I could have by looking at a little machine at the end of my arm.
Whether it is an important e-mail I’ve been waiting for, or some form of message from a friend, or an acquaintance, or even a prospect, I really do need to admit that there is always a buzz to receiving mail.
I think the earliest I can recall feeling excited about mail was when I received a postcard or a letter or even a package in brown paper wrapped with string through the mail as a pre-schooler. (There is something about a package wrapped in brown paper and string that takes me all the way back into the 70s.)
The issue is partly about accessibility, about us being too accessible, but it is also partly about craving information. We are all vulnerable to this new addiction – the fear of missing out, or FOMO.
The timing of this article is poignant given that it is Father’s Day in Australia. The Fathering Project have elevated the role of Dad significantly over recent years. And it is normal for dads to expect to be celebrated on this one special day of the year.
But what if as fathers we took some time to reflect on the interruptions our devices create?
Let’s just be honest.
Could we be as bold to think about some structure of discipline that would restore our control over the machine rather than relinquish our control to it?
I have done like many people have over the years and deleted apps on my phone. But there are still the text messages and e-mails that I like to answer in a timely fashion.
I have needed to be reminded occasionally to stop looking at my phone during family times, and I guess for me I have come to accept how quickly I replace my precious family time with superfluities. It’s fortunate that my wife can be direct with me. But it saddens me just how many precious family moments I’ve missed with my children. I doubt whether they would have even noticed, because it’s not that big a problem, but that’s just the problem; we continue to allow the technology to interfere with and at times ambush our lives. And some of the time it can be completely necessary.
So here is a message to dads: are you able to be fully present with your children for the precious moments you have them?
It seems that childhood never ends for parents, but like anyone with adult children would tell us, once that time has gone it is gone. I think I still grieve my three adult daughters having grown up. I’m so glad they’re adults now, but as parents, if we’re truthful, we always miss them. Yet I’m so proud they have their own lives. And I still have a five-year-old who is such a gift to us.
I think for me being a good dad is about refocusing daily and finding ways of just being present.
Fatherhood is for today. We cannot afford not to make the most of every moment, but inevitably we will waste many of them. Let’s make the most of as many of those moments we might otherwise waste.
Note: being a Dad I won’t speak for Mums.