Whatever is on your phone is not more important than your kids

Posted by art@cushingcitizen.com art@cushingcitizen.com
It’s time for a new school year with first-ever days of school for new kindergartners and even a few first graders. That first day of school will also be a first-ever for a select number of parents who will be sending their oldest, or only, children off to school for the very first time.
It’s tough.  It’s a milestone in your kids’ lives as well as yours.  Even if you are thinking internally about all the “free” time you are going to have for the next 12-plus years while your kid is at school, you will probably cry when the time comes to let go of their little hands hand and watch them walk into the building to start the next chapter of their lives.
But here’s the thing… if you do this right, you’re not going to have much free time, because you are going to be an active parent who participates in everything you possibly can to help your child be the best student he or she can be.
In a perfect world, this would be true of every parent, but we don’t live in a perfect world and there will be parents who will leave every aspect of their child’s education up to the schools.
Granted, most districts are fully capable of this and some school districts even excel at it — Cushing’s schools are no exception.
Yet as a parent, you should take it upon yourself to be there for your kid when he or she needs you.
I’m no expert on parenting, but I did successfully raise three kids — that’s not entirely true… My wife raised three kids and I offered assistance when needed. We made mistakes  — a lot of them — I mean there were plenty of opportunities for error and we took full advantage of them. But as our kids progressed through their school years, we got better at it and even though one kid was different from the next, there was one common denominator… having a kid in school means embracing what is important to them and encouraging them with an investment of your own time.
For a few months now, Amazon has been running a television ad for Alexa smart home devices that portrays a teenaged girl coming home from a soccer game; she’s angry, she slams the front door, stomps up the stairs, then slams the door to her room.  Mom, who is sitting on the couch doing God knows what, asks Alexa to pause the audio book she is listening to, so she can go to her daughter to see what is the matter… The ad closes outside the house, with the daughter practicing shots on goal in the dark. Mom, looking through the window at her daughter, says, “Alexa turn on the backyard lights.” And the lights come on, but mom’s still clueless.
Maybe the writers thought this would be a moving story. All it moves me to do is rant.
There is something wrong with the dynamic of this fictitious household.
First, why is mom at home chilling on the couch with her feet under her butt, listening to her audiobook instead in the bleachers at her daughter’s soccer game?
Second, when the daughter is outside, in the dark, working on her shooting skills, why isn’t mom out there with her… shagging balls at the very least? Show a little support, mom — parenting is more than turning on the lights with your smartphone device.
There is, without question, a fundamental breakdown in how many kids are parented today. This breakdown can be summed in one word: smartphone addiction… Okay, two words.
Mom… put down your smartphone and parent!  
Taking the kids to the park used to mean catching them as they came off the slide, pushing them in the swing, or at the very least, watching them when they say, “Watch this, mom!”
Today, most kids lucky enough to be taken to the park find the same level of neglect there as they do at home, just in a different setting.  Mom and/or dad sit on the bench while the kids do everything they can think of to get their attention.
Go to a restaurant today. Look at the family sitting at the table across the dining room and take note of who is on the phone.  If it’s not mom, its the kids, or it’s dad, or it’s all of them, on their phones, instead of interacting with each other.
Last spring, I was trying to reach a coach for a story. She was either in class, or at practice and deadline was rapidly approaching. She said call me at 1:30, I missed the window by 10 minutes and called the coach to apologize… she was at her daughter’s school assembly. Needless to say, she couldn’t talk then either.  She wins at parenting and her kids will win at life.  With everything this coach has happening in her life, teaching, coaching, etc… she still has time to be there for her kids.
If I learned one thing raising my own kids, it’s this… they only have one childhood and it will be over before you know it.
As a parent, you either win or you lose by mere seconds.  Will your legacy be that parent whose kids are always scanning the stands looking for you, but never find you there?  Or will your legacy be that parent whose kids know you are there, because you are always there.
Will your kid be that kid who never has what they need for the school fundraiser or school party because you couldn’t be bothered to bake (or simply buy) cookies for them to take to school?  
And don’t use that excuse that your kids waited until the day before to tell you they needed cookies… that’s what kids do!  Get off your phone, and your backside, and drive to the store and pick up some cookies, or better yet, get in the kitchen with your kid and bake some brownies together.  That’s a win, win, win, and you will be a hero instead of a zero in your kid’s eyes.
School is just getting started and you are going to be busy shuttling kids to and from school, cheer practice, band rehearsal and marching contests, football and softball practice… it’s going to be hectic — embrace the hectic.
I promise, you will never regret participating in your kid’s education, but you will regret not being there when you could have and it will all be over before you have a chance to make amends.
Work that PTO fundraiser. Volunteer for that field trip to the science museum. Help the marching band kids get into uniform at the marching contest. Cheer with wild abandon for your kids in the stands. Be there for them… they will never forget it.
Or, don’t be there for them… they will never forget that either.
It’s a hectic life we live and if you have school-aged kids, its even more chaotic, but prioritize your kids… that is the one thing you will never regret.

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