I think it’s plain lazy when people fall back on proverbs to make their point: “A leopard can’t change it’s spots” – Yes it can. It’s called a dye-job, and I’m sure that all of the celebrity leopards in L.A are very aware that tartan is in this season. “A good man is hard to find” – Untrue. I’m right here. “Kids grow up so quickly. You blink and they’re adults“. Well, this one was thrown at me today by my neighbour. Her intention was to share hard-earned parental wisdom with me. But an over-chewed and under-examined cliche tends to rough against me; like that horrible feeling you get when, mid-chew, you hit some dirt and your teeth grate over the gravelly granules. Goose-bumps and body shudders.
A couple of hours later I was watching Little E on the plasticy play area at our local shopping centre. He was dashing back and forth between me and the playground, trying to avoid the older child who had decided that he was a dinosaur today. One who roared loudly in the face of anyone smaller. I will admit that whenever another child does anything untoward to my son I get an instinctual urge to pummel them. But instead I stuffed my caveman reaction into a tidy suburban box and looked around for the parent of Terror-o-saurus in hopes that they might do some parenting.
And that’s when I saw it.
Almost every parent around me, female and male, was staring at their mobile phone. One guy must have been playing a fishing game because he kept rearing his phone back and casting it out again (or he had a form of tourettes and I now feel kind of bad for typing about it here). I’m not bagging their parenting skills. They were all glancing up briefly to make sure that their baby hadn’t done a runner.
But they were missing it. The big it. Capital I. Capital T. IT! They were missing their kids laughing, jumping, sliding, poking with extreme interest. They were missing the fleeting moments of awesome that will soon be replaced with hormones and attitude. There were literally only two of us watching our offspring and you could tell instantly; we were wearing enormous smiles. So I delivered a chiding look to all of the other parents and basked in my Better Dad glow.
Until I realised that I did the same thing. Not at the playground because I’m paranoid that something might happen to Little E if I turn away. But at home there are many times when I utter a distracted ‘Good job buddy” whilst flicking across the ipad or playing some utterly pointless game that I am completely addicted to (Completely!).
Right now he isn’t speaking English but jabbers away in his own magical dialect that seems to make perfect sense to him. He discovers something new every hour, even at his familiar home. And I miss it. For something pointless that will be forgotten the next day.
So I am going to take the first step to being a Better Dad. I am going to put away the ipad when my little man is awake. I am going to pay attention to him. I am going to soak in every beautiful thing he does and immortalise it in my memory, because these moments will never happen again. And I want to remember them.
I dare you to do the same. Turn off the tablet, close the laptop and put down the phone. See your amazing child or children and enjoy the way that they see the world. Live through them and with them.
It’s important because kids grow up so quickly. You blink and they’re adults.
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