Each night when we tuck our girls into bed, my wife and I make a conscious effort to verbalize the three most important words that a parent can share with a child – I LOVE YOU. Ivy, our youngest, often responds by blowing a kiss or extending a bright, engaging smile. Emerson, our oldest, takes great pride in trying to out-love us by saying, “I love you one trillion million times.” Regardless of their response, we feel that it’s extremely important to re-affirm our love by sharing these three precious words.
The other day; however, I was reminded that it’s not just the act of sharing these words that matters most. More importantly, we must show them that we love them. Perhaps you’ve heard of the phrase – Love to a child is spelled T-I-M-E. This continues to resonate in my mind following a brief, yet powerful interaction with Ivy last week.
It was a Monday morning and my wife had just left for an appointment. Emerson was at school, so Ivy and I were going to take full advantage of this daddy-daughter time. As is often the case, she grabbed her favorite Curious George book and plopped down on my lap, ready to be entertained. Just as I was about to read the first page, I noticed the humming sound of my cell phone, which indicated I had received a new text. I quickly reached for the phone and began to type in my response. As I keyed in the last few words of my message, Ivy forcefully removed the phone from my hands and proceeded to say, “Look at me.” Keep in mind that she is two years old and is just beginning to formulate understandable phrases. At times, her words are choppy and still difficult to decipher. Not in this instance, however. Her words were loud and clear, in more ways than one.
It didn’t matter how many times I had told her the night before that I loved her, I clearly wasn’t showing her that this was the case. In fact, I was demonstrating to her that I loved my phone enough to make it a priority over her book. You see, despite the fact that she couldn’t verbalize her thoughts and feelings about my choice to respond to a text, her words clearly indicated that she wanted my T-I-M-E. Sure I was with her in physical proximity, but I clearly wasn’t with her in mental presence. She wanted me to be present with her, but I chose to be present with my phone. In my mind, I saw this moment as a quick detour from our time together; a chance to respond to a text that in retrospect was completely insignificant. In her mind; however, she perceived it much differently.
In a day and age when smart phones, laptops, or any other digital device continue to compete for our attention, let’s not forget the true meaning of presence with regard to our children. When you are with your son or daughter, be fully with them, not your device. Remember, it’s not enough just to tell them that we love them. We must also show them.
P.S. I am making a commitment to put my phone in the other room when playing with either of my girls. I invite you to do the same.