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Parenting as Presence Part 2: of Shiny Things and Disconnection

jill and jackphoto by Matt Clingan

It was my first ever touch screen cell phone, and it had all the bells and whistles.  It took 8 mega pixel photos, connected me to Facebook and Twitter, and I could check my email, download games, and navigate the app store to quench my seemingly consumeristic indulgences by finding free apps like a good ol’ Mennonite.  It was captivating.  My whole being was seemingly funneled into this little marvel of technology.

I would get home from my new job, sit down, play the ‘long day’ card and practically jump with all five senses into my wonderful screen while carrying a sense of confidence that I indeed was aware of my surroundings.  This literally happened for a week.

One day after work I crashed on the couch, took out my little marvel of technology and starting doing my thing… playing games, checking Facebook and looking at sports scores.  But a voice that seemed as if it was merely an echo of a dream I once had spoke softly in the distance ; ‘dada, dada, hey dada.’  I barely heard it, and instinctively I jumped, five senses and all, back into my phone.

The next thing I remember is my son sticking his face between mine and the phone SCREAMING, “HEY DADA!!” whilst whacking me in the stomach multiple times as if he was some super toddler ninja kid or something.  It was like he cut the technological umbilical cord.  I was in mild shock.  I was completely disconnected.

Sometimes the things we do, important or addictive or purely recreational, disconnect us from that which needs us the most.

Our children. 

It can be frustrating.  Life can busy with so many important things going on.  Our day-to-day rhythms can be exhausting.

Practicing parents, take hope and create opportunities for intentional presence.

Be incarnational.

Create rituals of presence that are different than the times we find engrained in the rhythms of the day to day.  My wife and I did this by accident.  Our son loves popcorn, so every once and a while we throw popcorn parties where we just sit and hang out together without distraction.  For me, that means I turn my phone off.  I didn’t realize it, but we created a ritual, a place and time of intentional presence with our child set apart from the everyday.  We need to do more.  I know of one family that does taco night once a week where their teenagers need to be present.  This is important to them as a family.  It has become tradition.  It’s just what they do.

Indeed there are times when clothes need to be washed, rest needs to be had, paycheques need to be worked for, sewing needs to be done, but may those times when those things need to be done empower you to fully be present with your children when they need it the most.  Create rituals that require your presence.  Rituals that require your undivided attention.  Rituals that enable you to avoid distraction.   Be intentional about your presence.  It is where ministry happens.  It is where your child, young or old, can see you redeemed in the saving life of Christ.

Below is a poem that was handed out in one of my son’s pre-school newsletters.  It is the inspiration for this post.

A POEM FOR PARENTS

My hands were busy through the day,

I didn’t have much time to play.

The little games you asked me to,

I didn’t have much time for you.

I’d wash your clothes: I’d sew and cook;

But when you’d bring your picture book

And ask me, “Please” to share your fun,

I’d say, “A little later, Son.”

I’d tuck you in all safe at night,

And hear your prayers, turn out the light,

Then tiptoe softly to the door…

I wished I’d stayed a minute more.

For life is short, and years rush past;

A little boy grows up so fast.

No longer is he at your side,

His precious secrets to confide.

The picture books are put away,

There are not children’s games to play.

No good night kiss, no prayers to hear,

That all belongs to yesteryear.

My hands once busy now, lie still,

The days are long and hard to fill.

I wish I might go back and do,

The little things you asked me to.

(Author Unknown)

~ Chris Lenshyn

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