TOUCHY SUB­JECT

Is it OK to be on the phone dur­ing your child’s ac­tiv­i­ties?

Parents Canada - - Contents -

Should you be on the phone dur­ing your kid’s ac­tiv­i­ties?

KRISTI YORK :: I can hon­estly say that I have never looked at my phone dur­ing my chil­dren’s ac­tiv­i­ties. To be fair, that’s be­cause I don’t own one. If I did, I’m sure I would be tempted to check it on the side­lines, and would give in to that temp­ta­tion re­peat­edly. That’s ex­actly why I’m grate­ful to be smart­phone-free.

I re­al­ize this is likely to be an un­pop­u­lar view­point. I’m not judg­ing those with smart­phones, nor am I try­ing to por­tray my­self as more devoted than any other par­ent. Ob­vi­ously, there are work-re­lated re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and other ur­gent sit­u­a­tions where phone use is nec­es­sary. Ev­ery par­ent has a right to make his or her own choices about how to man­age the never-end­ing de­mands of work and fam­ily in our high-tech so­ci­ety.

I am, how­ever, in a unique po­si­tion to share first-hand the ben­e­fits of be­ing a phone­less spec­ta­tor. I like that I’m see­ing ev­ery de­tail of what my kids are do­ing. Even if the over­all out­come isn’t a suc­cess, I can praise them for the lit­tle things they did well, like run­ning ex­tra hard af­ter a ball that got away from them. I can pick up on their sub­tle be­hav­iour cues and ob­serve how they in­ter­act with coaches and team­mates. If they look over and smile at me, I won’t miss the chance to re­turn the favour with an overzeal­ous mom-wave. I’m glad I can show my kids with my ac­tions, as well as my words, that I value their par­tic­i­pa­tion in some­thing that is healthy and ac­tive. I’m glad that I have this time, in a world full of dis­trac­tions, to be en­tirely present for them.

Mostly, I’m glad that when they come off the field, they never have to ask: “Mom, did you see me?” They know I did.

LIZ HAST­INGS :: Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from par­ent-and-tot and mommy-and-me and kanga-and-roo, I’m no longer re­quired to hold my daugh­ter’s hand dur­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. In­stead, I am sit­ting in the back row of the wait­ing room at my sev­enyear-olds’ gym­nas­tics les­son, vis­it­ing with other par­ents.

The front row spec­ta­tors are prac­ti­cally lev­i­tat­ing off their chairs, faces inches from the glass, kids fall­ing from the bars be­cause they are turned back­wards, never los­ing eye con­tact with their num­ber one fans. It oc­curs to me that our kids are per­form­ing for the ben­e­fit of the par­ents, not their own en­joy­ment – a com­pletely coun­ter­pro­duc­tive ex­er­cise.

I use these 90 min­utes to catch up us­ing the free Wi-Fi. I con­nect with friends, or­ga­nize my week and even play the odd game of Scrab­ble. This is time to get things done while my child ex­plores, swings, waits in lines, fol­lows di­rec­tions, fails and suc­ceeds on her terms, un­der the guid­ance of some­one other than me. It’s a step to­wards in­de­pen­dence I’m thrilled to be a part of – from a dis­tance.

Last year at Chloe’s first Hip-Hop dance ses­sion, I fool­ishly sat be­hind the win­dow that sep­a­rated the wait­ing area from the dancers. I no­ticed Moms try­ing to peek through the wrap­ping-pa­per-cov­ered win­dow, des­per­ately try­ing to catch a glimpse of their tiny dancers. The front desk lady was our only life­line to our chil­dren. She ex­plained, “You will see them af­ter the 10th week and you’ll be amazed at their progress. They will be so ex­cited to show you what they’ve learned.”

Coaches/in­struc­tors/teach­ers are tired of overzeal­ous, hy­per-en­gaged par­ents be­com­ing too in­volved in the cour­ses they’ve de­signed that were meant to meet the needs and wants of our kids – not ours.

My daugh­ter’s swim coach has asked par­ents to stop com­ing to watch prac­tices. The dis­trac­tion is too high and kids per­form bet­ter when they are fo­cused on their own goals, rather than on praise or fear of pun­ish­ment from par­ents.

Use this hour for your­self. Get some work done. Play on your phone. How many of those min­utes do you get in a day?

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