I just about did it again. I mean, how many times do I have to be playing with Ryan or Aiden…and then look at the phone? This time I didn’t, though I do fail often.
It’s pretty crazy that with all the time I spend away from the kids- work, church requirements, house chores, errands- that I find to get distracted so easily by the phone. Tonight, Ryan was playing Lego’s and having fun in the bath and enjoying playing with his puzzles. But a couple of times, I reached for my phone to check on time or an email.
Now, this doesn’t happen so much that Ryan stops waiting for my attention or lost his desire to play with me. On the whole, I do a decent job as a dad and stepdad spending time with my kids. But as Henri Nouwen has talked about with patience, patience is about placing myself firmly in the moment and giving the present the dignity of my focus. It’s behaving like the real thing is not tomorrow or on my phone or somewhere not at the moment in that place.
So, like I said to begin with, I almost did it. I had done it a couple of times while he was playing earlier but this time I did not. As he played on our bed and jumped and hid under blankets, instead of catching a glance at my phone, I was looking up and watching him as he peeked from under a bunch of pillows and comforter and offered an endless smile. It was a marvelous smile, and one that begged for daddy jumping into the pillows too. And after that, we got to have a game of hide and seek, then chase around the bed, then hide some more.
There is almost nothing about this memory that is special or world moving or heart poundingly shocking. But it is pure play, a father and son. You see, as I realize daily, phone distractions are terrible for that relationship. Not bebaise they keep us from having our camera ready for photos, but because we lose the invite. To clarify, to play with a child without distraction is more than just paying attention or being in the present- it is empowering the present to invite me in. Being in that moment is an invitation to drawing closer- and rather than simply being distraction less, I become invited into a world of my son that is fraught with wonder, overflowing with imagination, and brimming with an endless smile. The invitation is a bit more though, to take it one step further.
This one time I managed to keep the phone away. And I received an invitation into the love of my son. I was invited to receive his love, not just to give him love. He gets to show me his love, gets to make me smile, gets to show me that being a Dad is one of the coolest things ever. It’s his way of saying “I love you” in the few ways he actually can. That’s a gift I don’t want to pass up. And while I sometimes, more often than I admit, miss it, I didn’t this time. It was worth it!