A couple of months ago while home from college, my daughter and I spent a lunch together on one of our periodic dates. It was a great time to catch up with her and live in her world for a few hours. I have missed hearing the regular details of her life during her freshman year. You know, the personal details that spill out over dinner or in car rides to church. Our conversation ebbed and flowed. Then, during one of those pregnant pauses that mark every good conversation, I snatched the opportunity to buzz-kill a light discussion. I thought all dads did that ;). I never miss the opportunity to “teach” a life lesson, much to the chagrin of my children. “So, honey, as you look back on our days together as a family, are there things that I’ve done as a dad that you wish I hadn’t done or would have done differently or would change now?” Door opened. And she entered.
“Well, dad, actually there isn’t too much I would change. You’re a good dad.” People sitting around us had difficulty breathing as my head consumed all of the nearby air. She began, “But…” Ahhh…the proverbial “but”. Psssssst–that was the sound of the air quickly leaving my once inflated noggin. She continued, “But, I wish you would put down your computer and look at me when we talk so that I know you’re listening to me”. Ouch. All I could think was, “well, you asked for it.” It reminded me of a saying a friend of mine used to make, “be careful what you ask for, because you may not like the response.” Fact is, I knew she was right.
Maybe this particular issue isn’t one you’re child would raise as a barrier in your relationship. Computers have become an extension of my hands. Being connected has almost become an obsession (sounds like a potential blog post). The “point” of her comment was this, “Dad, when we’re together I want (and I’ll add NEED) you to pay attention to me?” Face-to-face, eye-to-eye. Relationships need both!
Online communicating is here to stay. This isn’t some ideological rant. However, I am as guilty as anyone in letting the inevitable become the impenetrable. I promised her that when we are together in a room I will make a concerted effort to pay attention to her when we are talking. Active listening is becoming a lost skill (if you can say that a skill you barely possess in the first place can ever be lost :-)).
I, Jeff Abramovitz, vow that I will be a better dad (and husband) and spend more time looking into my children’s (and wife’s) eyes when we are engaged in conversation. How about you, dad?
SOUND OFF: Is the monitor becoming a wall between you and your family? If not computers, what other things might be inhibiting the deepening of your communication with members of your family?