Calling all dads (and moms), unplug and be present this Father’s Day (opinion)
If you’re a father raising kids in today’s world, you know it’s not easy. Being a dad is tough work — not nearly as tough as being a mom, but still tough. We have to walk the line of what’s the appropriate amount of exposure to the digital universe for our kids and try to instill morals and values when they can access arguments against it every day.
I am a Generation X parent with four kids. Yes, four. I had the luxury of growing up in a small community without exposure to the information highway that is the Internet. This is to say I grew up at a time when summertime meant you got to play outside the entire day and not come home until the street lights came on.
As kids, we didn’t want to do anything else. We also didn’t know what we didn’t know. What we learned with every scratch and scuffle over something that was essentially irrelevant was how (and how not) to deal with situations that ultimately better prepared us for life — and it was glorious.
However, the latter part of my youth saw the ushering in of what could be the single most life-changing item the world has ever seen — the Internet. You could look things up way faster than going to the library, find new music at the click of a mouse, or send letters to people with a few flicks of the keyboard — and it was glorious.
Fast-forward to present day where all parents are raising kids who know nothing else but the digital age. We are, to a degree, pioneers. We were the last generation to grow up without the Internet and the first to grow up with it. We are the hokey-pokey parents — one foot in and one foot out.
This is where it gets tough. It is so easy to let technology run our daily lives and let it occupy our children’s. Who hasn’t let their kids spend too much time on the computer or mobile device or sit in front of the TV? As long as they’re occupied, we can get things done, right? I’m guilty of this, as are many parents I know.
I’m also guilty of the inverse of this. I’ve spent too much time on my digital devices and not enough time with my kids. Nowadays if you have a job where you need to be constantly wired, you are always working. While many times you need to attend to these things, we probably don’t need to attend to them all right away. We can (and should) unplug for the sake of being present in our children’s lives.
I don’t want to completely tear myself down here. I do make it a point to attend as many extracurricular activities as I possibly can — and with four kids, it’s a lot. I try to make time for each of my children, whether it’s practicing sports in the backyard, playing board games or just spending time with them in their element. It’s so important to be present as a parent. We have to make time to better prepare them for what’s to come, and we can’t do this by leaving it to the Internet.
It is scary what kids have access to. They are so much more informed than I was growing up. Having access to all this information also means having access to bad habits and violence and many things that they may not fully understand at their age. This, fellow parents, is where I challenge you.
If you are a father (or mother), or a child celebrating with your father this weekend, unplug. Go out and make time for your family. Go to the beach. Go hiking. Go for a bike ride. We have the privilege of being in one of the most beautiful places in the world — experience it. Take advantage of everything Tahoe has to offer. It’s the experiences in life that we take with us. My kids cannot tell you what they got for Christmas two years ago, but they can sure remember the memories they made when they experience something that they’re involved in.
Whether you remember your dad picking you up when you fell down, or teaching you how to throw, or yelling at you for rolling a tire into a neighbor’s car and denting their door (yes, this happened), it all shaped the person you are today. Good, bad or indifferent, you can’t go back and change how you were raised. You can, however, look at your life now and see if you are missing opportunities for you to enhance your children’s lives by living in the moment with them.
Four kids have definitely taught me that the most enjoyment I get out of being a father is being present. You learn so much about them and, if they are young enough, you have the ability to mold them into the type of person you can trust to lead communities. If you wait until they are teenagers to do this, they already know how to do it — or at least they think they do.
This Father’s Day will mark the 12th one I have been through without my dad. He passed away shortly after the birth of my first child. While I would love to be able to celebrate with him, I believe that being present with my kids and taking advantage of time with them is a good alternative and really what Father’s Day should be all about. Celebrate the individual journey each of our fathers had to endure and the person they helped shape in you.
Unplug. Be present. It will be glorious.
Happy Father’s Day.
Tribune publisher Rob Galloway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-542-8046.