Hey there Incredidads. Maybe you haven’t noticed but I haven’t flipped on the IncrediSignal in a few weeks. I hope you haven’t noticed because that means, like me, you are trying to vanquish one of the vilest super-villains an IncrediDad can face; putting down the phone.
In the Disney/Pixar film “The Incredibles”, the heroes face off against a villain named Screenslaver, who hypnotizes his victims using any and all forms of the idiot box, including t.v. and phones.. I cannot think of a worse foe for a parent in 2019. It’s so easy to get distracted by your phone. I mean, you’re reading this right now, aren’t you? Don’t feel too guilty. For those of you reading this in a public place like the bus, subway, doctor’s office, or the lunchroom at work, I bet if you look up right now there will be at least two other people who have fallen victim to the dreaded Screenslaver.
I’m guilty of it too. So is IncrediMom. As I write this at one end of the couch, she is looking at pictures of cute babies on Instagram, while our own adorable kid is standing two feet in front of us begging for attention. “Daddy look!” And I just wave him away because I am “doing something”.
But then I had a thought. The day will come, sooner than I want it to, when he won’t ask me to play cars anymore. He won’t need me to read him a book. And after all those public toddler meltdowns, he will finally be embarrassed of my behavior in the grocery store. Today, I am Godlike. Oz the Great and Powerful. Boy Wonder loves me and respects me. He wants to be in my arms when he’s scared, says “I love you.” before bed, and lights up up when I walk into a room. Today he wants to be with me. But pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. It’s only a matter of time before he realizes that I am just a giant kid myself.
So I’m trying to be present and enjoy him while he wants me rather than when I’m ready to be wanted. Take today for example; My big weekend project is putting together his brand new toddler bed. To be honest, it’s not brand new, it’s his converted crib. But the last time he saw it was back in California, the day before the movers showed up. So after three months of absence, what’s old is new again.
I walked into his room, armed with the box of hardware, an Allen wrench, and a screwdriver. It was perfect timing because Boy Wonder was on the toilet, being entertained by mommy (yeah, potty training is in full swing here) but I wasn’t fast enough. Within minutes I heard the little pitter patter of feet followed by a cheerful greeting.
“Daddy, I help! I help! I help!”
Boy Wonder’s definition of help and mine vary slightly. To me, helping would be holding a screwdriver or staying out of the way. To the evil genius mind of a two-year-old, “helping” means dumping the box of hardware all over the floor, picking up each screw one at a time and sticking them in any hole he can find on the bed frame.
This is the moment when I might have waved him away and gone back to studying the directions on my phone. Instead, I listened to a chorus of “I help. I help. Daddy, Daddy, I help you build” for the next ten minutes.
Fifty years from now, Alzheimers will have set in and I won’t remember who posted the amazing looking cheeseburger on Instagram or what nonsense the U.S. President tweeted, nor will I care. But I will never forget the ten minutes when my son and I built his bed together. Hopefully he will remember that too. Maybe not that memory specifically but many other memories.
My hope, if I’m doing this parenting thing right, is that Boy Wonder will talk about me as a parent one day and say that I was always there, I listened, paid attention, and was never too busy to share time with him.
So good luck defeating the Screenslaver fellow IncrediParents. It’s a tricky beast that sucks you in and forces you to miss the happiest moments with your loved ones. But the trick, is that it’s not forcing you to miss anything at all. It’s your choice to put the phone down and answer the call to glory when you hear it.
“Daddy, play cars. Daddy sit! Read!”
Whoops! Gotta go. Screen time is over and playtime is about to begin!