Me: “Wow, did you see that Tom…bloody brilliant”!
Tom: “See what..?
“Me: “Your son’s goal..easily a 10 metre strike…”
“Tom: “Oh yeah, um just out of the corner of my eye..yeah it was a cracker.”
Tom is full of shit. He didn’t see jack.
It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m on the sideline watching my 14 yr old son playing in his weekly soccer fixture.
Our team just scored and I’m sharing my enthusiasm with the goal-scorer’s father.
As his response fades, Tom goes back to the issue at hand.
Head down, eyes fixed.
The forever glow from the little glass rectangle.
Images, quotes, emojis and the occasional ad to meet ‘single’ women parade the phone screen as he swipes south to north.
Tom might as well not be here. His mind certainly isn’t.
But a quick glance around me reveals he’s not alone – easily another 10 parents doing cheeky sneakies at their phones while the soccer game powers on.
But I’m no saint.
That was me a few months ago. Same situation.
My son had curled the ball into the top left hand corner of the goal at the exact time a notification told me a friend of a friend liked the quote of a friend’s friend.
Faking a smile, I gave the thumbs-up to my son as he jogged back to his half to restart.
I didn’t see jack.
What I responded to on my phone was just noise.
What I missed was the here and now…soon to be a memory.
It was a lost opportunity to connect with my son at an age when he needs it most.
As parents we need to display the skill of attunement, that is, being emotionally and physically ‘there’ for them.
Being distracted by my phone at the soccer game was a form of proximal separation – physically present but emotionally detached.
Research suggests that the level of physiological stress experienced by the child during proximate separation approach the levels experienced during physical separation.
These physiological dysfunctions can have children believe they’re simply not seen, heard, understood or emphasised with.
As parents, we make the natural mistake that the intense love we feel for our children means that they actually receive that love in pure form.
Sadly, misattuned parent-child interactions are increasingly the norm in our hyper-connected, miscommunicated world.
Now that I’m conscious of this, my son’s weekly soccer matches are watched from the sideline with my phone locked in the car.
I see every pass, every side-step and every goal – as he sees it.
My connectivity gives reassurance to his developing brain that he is safe and emotionally sure-footed.
And that’s something he’ll never get from the swipe of a phone.