I’d like to introduce myself. I’m that Dad you are tsk-tsking at the playground as I bury my head in my phone. I see you; and I know what you are thinking:
“He’s missing all the great things his kids are doing.”
“What an uninvolved Dad.”
“What if his kids need him?”
Here is what you don’t know: On any given day, by 9 a.m. I’ve changed each of my triplets and fed them. Over the first two years of their lives I changed close to 7,200 diapers and served 1,500 meals. That is 1,500 meals per kid, or 4,300 meals in addition to those diaper changes.
I spend at least an hour every day, and sometimes two or three hours, parenting my kids solo.
Those things they are doing on the jungle gym? I’ve seen that 100 times. I’ve seen them hit milestones and make discoveries and do things for the first time 1,000,000 times. That new thing they just did that I missed? I’ll see that 100 more times, maybe before the day ends. Maybe if I sat on top of them I’d never miss a first. Maybe. Or maybe, helicopter parenting would make them less skilled at dispute resolution and unable to think for themselves. Brooke Donatone writing at slate.com certainly seems to think it will.
Look, I love my kids. I’m willing to bet I love them as much as you love yours. But there really isn’t – to me – a difference between seeing the first time they figure out the puzzle and the second time. I’m pretty happy having heard that my kids accomplished something. Are we lesser parents simply because we don’t see the first time they climb to the third run of the monkey bars or the first time they use the big slide? As long as I get to see one of those first five times they do that, I think I’m pretty happy. And as I said, I’m going to see that same task accomplished over and over and over.
I’d much rather give my children some space and raise emotionally successful adults who experience moderately successful careers than career success stories who are on their third marriages and haven’t found peace or happiness in any of them.
And there is one more thing. That moment on my phone is my escape. It is my way of relaxing in a world where I’m tied to my kids and the playground with no other means of escape. It is a lifeline that allows me to recharge my batteries and be a better parent when I look up.
My style may be different than yours, but my love is the same.