How I ripped off my kids AND reduced their self-worth in one foul swoop. BUT also, how I saw what I was doing and changed my behaviour.
Here are my thoughts on why just ‘being there’ isn’t enough…
I’m the kind of dad that makes sure I tell the kids I love them often and at nauseam, I’m also a hugger and show an awful lot of PDA (Parental Displays of Affection), much to their dismay and embarrassment.
BUT I would fall trap to zoning out at home at times, either focusing on emails, preparing presentations, working on projects, jumping on work phone calls, or just mindlessly scrolling through socials.
I had normalised that sort of behaviour after work as they were vying for my attention, interaction and affirmation.
I would look up absent minded not quite hearing what they were saying at times and ask them to be patient while I finished.
But it felt like I was ripping them off. And from their perspective; I was ‘there’ - but was I actually?
While outwardly disappointed the internal dialogue they were developing was:
“I’m not good enough”
“Why else would Dad check his phone while I was in the middle of telling him about my day?”
So Instead I made a conscious decision to:
-Be Present — Physically and emotionally. Genuinely listen. Look them in the eye and live that moment with them. Because they can always spot when I’m faking it!
-Be Mindful — If I really need to take a call or answer a message in the middle of play I let them know and give them a reason.
-Turn off all my screens — Make them feel like the centre of the universe (well at least for a little while, between 6-8pm).
-Play with them — This also had the unexpected side effect of my own personal enjoyment.
.… I am now actively working on not ripping off my wife and reducing her self worth, while I do my work through the night.