Children deserve our undivided attention

  • Published
  • By Paula Spooner
  • 81st Medical Operations Squadron

Last weekend my husband and I went out to dinner. As we waited for our meal to arrive, a young family was seated in a booth directly across the aisle; a mom and dad, with a young boy and girl. After the waitress departed to assemble their beverages, both parents, as if on cue, pulled out their cell phones.

It wasn’t long before the boy began telling his parents an elaborate joke, complete with facial expressions, sound effects and arm gestures. He was really hamming it up, much to the delight of his younger sister. I was thoroughly impressed with his thespian skills; unfortunately, his intended audience was unfazed. In fact, I‘m pretty sure they weren’t even listening. Their eyes were glued to their screens and heads were bent, thumbs dancing. As the comedy show progressed he became increasingly louder and more intense, most likely hoping to finally attract their interest. He did, but not in the way he had desired. His mother glanced up and loudly hissed, “Keep your voice down! We‘re in public!” His eyes flashed hurt, then anger. Not surprisingly, he swiftly transferred his attention to his sister, whom he began teasing unmercifully. Sadly, everyone lost in this situation.     

Don’t get me wrong, parental inattention doesn’t necessarily connote poor parenting. It may be due to distractions, work demands, or simple lack of awareness. I recently observed this late one afternoon as parents arrived at the Keesler Child Development Center to pick up their children. Several parents emerged from their child’s assigned room, talking or texting on phones, as their little ones trailed behind. Parents . . . listen up: for that toddler, Mommy and Daddy are their entire world.  When you, the parent, finally arrive, they are ecstatic. So please don’t dilute the enormous significance (for them) of this small moment of time (with you) by pulling out your phone. Keep that daily moment precious and sacred for the two of you.

Finally, one more thing. Time has a sneaky way of flying by and suddenly, that tiny colicky preemie that you worried would simply never gain weight is now playing high school football. That pink-tutu’d and tiara’d princess is planning her wedding and you just cannot begin to fathom where all those years have gone. The more fully present you are with your kids today, the less likely you will experience regret for lost opportunities when they strike out on their own paths (and they will, I promise you). So please, put down your phone. Then take a good look at your child and ask them about their day.