I have the privilege of taking my son to his Taekwondo class every week. It happens to be during the normal work day, so I build my work schedule around it.
But when I go, and he’s out there practicing, it’s always tempting to pull out my phone and “be productive.” Especially when he’s waiting in line for his turn to do something, listening to the instructor, etc.
But how does my son see it all? For the most part, he’s too caught up in the moment out on the floor to notice me. He’s usually focused on kicking a target, learning a new block or watching a more advanced student.
But every once in awhile he looks up for me, over to my spot on the sideline. And not just to make sure I’m still there, but to make sure I’m watching. He’s excited about something he’s doing and he instinctively wants me to share in that moment with him. He’ll have this look on his face that says, “See what I just did, Dad!? Are you proud of me? Do you care? Are you with me!?”
These are important moments, and I’m convinced that the summation of these seemingly trivial moments will contribute more to my relationship with my son and who he becomes than almost anything else. They help determine whether *he* cares about what he’s doing, how much he values himself and how proud he feels.
And the thing is, these moments are unpredictable. They can happen at any moment. And if every time he looks over to connect with me I’m looking at my phone or my work or somebody else instead, I’ve missed that important moment. And I’ve given the impression to him – rightly or wrongly – that I’m not watching him at all.
It’s simply not worth missing those moments. Whatever extra work I would have gotten done. Whatever entertainment I could have engaged on my phone or in conversation with another parent won’t have been worth it.
I even used to spend time during his class typing reminders on my phone of things to work with him on after class — advice on a particular technique or how he needs to bow more deeply or say “yes sir” more loudly. But even that, if all he sees when he looks over is me on my phone, I won’t be giving him what he needs most in that moment.
Now, instead, I watch the whole time as best I can. I try not to take my eyes off him, just at the small chance I’ll get to give him another smile that says, “I’m with you, son!”
I watch him run. I watch him listen. I watch him help others. I watch others help him. I watch his eyes light up when he breaks a board with a single kick, as he realizes just how powerful he is. In that moment, how could there possibly be a more “productive” way to spend my time?
Sure, when he’s older he’ll appreciate a dad who loved him by putting a roof over his head, worked hard all his life, carted him around to his various activities, celebrated with him and encouraged him to be his best. But I think what he needs even more than that is a dad who’s willing to watch.