I was sitting at the table, hurriedly eating breakfast while replying to an email. I needed to get out the door in about 5 minutes. My oldest son was waiting for me; we would leave for school together.
Like any good mom, I was multi-tasking: answering emails and eating breakfast. I was working, and he was whining. I was ignoring what he was saying.
Finally, in his little still, small, crying voice he said. “Mom, please don’t be distracted by your phone.”
I looked up. His words sliced through me like a white-hot knife.
My first reaction was defensive anger: How dare he speak to me that way? I’m working! But then I stopped and let those little words sink into my brain and my heart.
I have read so many articles about the “distracted parents” who are too busy on their phones to give their kids the attention they need. I limit TV time for the entire family. We have very few screens in the house: one main TV (and one small one for our home gym that isn’t often used), two laptops for the working adults, and two phones for the adults. We have no additional screens – no ipads or tablets, no computers or laptops for the kids, no “play” screens with games, no TVs in the bedrooms.
Every time I read an article about the huge amount of screen time for children, or the degradation of parenthood because of digital distraction, I have the same smug reaction:
I’m not like that.
We have rules about amount of TV and phones at the table. We have supper together as a family every night. I spend time reading with my kids each night before bed. I don’t let my phone distract me. I would never be that parent!
What I was able to convince my self of, my five-year-old broke down with one true, wise statement: Mom – you are distracted.
It doesn’t matter that I was working, or that I thought what I was doing was important. I was distracted. And with the wisdom that comes from the simplicity of childhood, my son called me out on it.
Is there really anything more important than taking 30 seconds to speak to my son and answer his questions? Did that email NEED to be answered immediately? It wasn’t going anywhere, I could have answered it later that day, and it wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest.
Be we have a habit of making everything equally important. All the emails are just as important as our children. The Instagram posts are just as important as our conversations with our husbands. The Facebook scroll is as important as our sleep. And we think we have to do all the little things because they are all so important.
Let me tell you, they are not.
If everything is equally important, that would mean that nothing is important. And that’s just not true.
The still, small voice of my son, spoke true and cutting words that I needed to hear, reminding me of another still, small voice that called to the prophet Elijah, cried out from the manger, and shouted “It is finished!” from the cross.
That little voice spoke the harsh truths of the law on my heart: you are not immune to sin, Cate. You are not so much better than the “distracted” parents. You ARE the distracted parent. I have given you this wonderful gift, and you are ignoring it. You are allowing the things of the world to crowd your heart.
What a lesson my son was teaching me! And how amazing that God can use even small, little humans to accomplish his will!
While we live in this world, we can remember that we are not of this world. The distractions that pull us away from our children, and spouses, can also pull us away from God. Sure, we might think we’re are better than those other people who are constantly on their phones or engaging in willful sin, but that just makes us an easy target.
Join me in having an honest conversation with yourself. Find your priorities, and make the time for them. Lose all of this other nonsense that truly isn’t as important. Let the emails or the Facebook posts or the Instagram feed wait; it will all still be there. Put your phone down and engaged with the family you have in front of you. Your real, authentic, meaningful life is more important than the highlight real of a stranger anyway.
As my defensive anger at my son’s words ebbed, and I let the truth of it sink it. I looked at him and said, “Sometimes I use my phone for work, but you’re right. I shouldn’t get distracted. I’m sorry.”
I put my phone down, finished my breakfast and we left for school, but the lesson my son taught me stays etched on my heart:
Don’t get distracted, Mom.
Thanks so much for reading! I’d really appreciate it if you would share this post if you found it helpful. Thank you for your support!