Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Distracted Parenting

     This year, inspired by the One Word philosophy, I discovered that I needed more focus in my life.  Focus, for me, is about being intentional with my time and my attention.  Regardless of what I am doing- spending time with family, reading a book, watching a movie, attending my son’s athletic events, writing a blog post, talking with a friend or colleague, exercising at the gym- I plan to give my full attention. 

    In the past few years, I have been guilty of trying to “multi-task,” even when spending time with my family.  When I “multi-task,” nothing gets my full attention.  With increasing frequency, I observe parents who are distracted; parents who are attempting to multi-task; parents “playing” with their children, yet still attending more to their phone than their children.

   This is not a post about the evils of cell phones.  And, I’m not suggesting that children need 100% of our time and attention 100% of the time.  However, I believe we need to be more present and less distracted when we are spending time with our children.  I believe we need to be more intentional with our attention.

     As a child, my father would spend an hour or more after work throwing the softball or shooting hoops.  We would talk about school and life.  I cherished those moments from my elementary years through my high school years.  Some of my favorite moments with my mom included playing cards, board games, or reading books.  As the youngest, I was able to benefit from having both of my parents' undivided attention for several years after my siblings left and began their adult lives.  But even when we were all in the house, our parents gave us their time and attention.  Family dinner was usually the most important time of the day- a time not to be disturbed or distracted.  Family dinner was one of our parents’ way of giving all of us their time and attention. 

     When my son was younger, I replicated this devotion of time and attention.  However, I recognize that over time, I allowed my work to begin to consume more and more of my time and attention at home.  As educators, we often bring work into our home or extend our children’s time at school to finish our work before we leave.  To do our jobs well and to give our students a quality education, we must dedicate time to our craft.  However, we must also prioritize and maximize our time and attention with our own children.

   Perhaps it is because my son will be graduating high school this year, but I find myself reflecting more and more about the choices I made in my dual role as a parent and an educator.  My son and I have a great relationship filled with lots of moments that we will never forget and lots of happy memories.  However, I know that there are moments I have missed- moments I won’t get back; memories I didn't get to create.  I believe that is why when I observe parents being distracted and not attending to their children, my heart aches.  It is also the reason I try to remind my staff how important it is that they spend time with their families.  And finally, it is the main reason why “focus” became my One Word this year.  By giving my full attention or giving my full focus will make me a better educator and better parent.