Sunday, March 20, 2016

Be present and our children

I am about to sound old. I have spoken about being present before and here I am going to do it again.

This week I went to my daughter's band concert. This particular one showcases each of the 7 bands across the district. It is a fantastic opportunity to see the progress students make as they advance to high school. The kids all did a great job playing and should be proud of how their hard work paid off.

In the row in front of me was a young family with a boy about five years old. For the duration of the concert, he played on his iPad. He was not asked to sit and listen at any point throughout the hour and fifteen minute concert. (I am pretty sure this young one had sat through a Disney flick or two so the idea that he cannot pay attention for this long is invalid.) He was never asked to be present. If we take our children out and do not teach them to listen when it is appropriate, how do we expect them to learn? If we are not expected to pay more attention to the people we are with than to the devices and people who might be associated with them, how are we going to learn to interact with humanity? I know that bringing a five year old to a concert can be a challenge. I can see allowing him to have something to entertain himself before the concert and during the breaks when the various groups changed their positions.(Personally I would love to see parents talking with their children, reading stories, singing songs and doing finger rhymes and such, but that is more than many parents can work up to at the end of a long day.) During the concert, devices should have been turned off.

If we want our kids to learn to be present, we have to model it ourselves. We need to put away our devices, look at our children and become fascinated with the toddler's barely comprehendible tales about his day. We need to cajole our silent one whose day was fine into revealing what happened, and attend to the one who can talk forever about anything. We need to find our teenagers and engage them in conversation about whatever floats their boat. This is how we share our values, learn about our most precious commodity and teach our next generation how to be parents themselves. We need to be present when we are exhausted. We need to be present when we have a million things to do. We need to be present when we would rather be on our iPads playing games. We can do this.

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