Dear Dad having dinner with your adorable daughter,
I just wanted you to know that my husband and I dined at the table next to you and your lovely teen daughter last evening. At first when we sat down, I did not notice anything in particular about your situation, except that you and your daughter were chit chatting quietly and enjoying your appetizers.
That was good. I love to see parents spending quality time with their children. But then I noticed your cell phone went to your ear.
Obviously, I have no idea what your phone call was about. It is really none of my concern. But I do want you to know what my observations were after you took that phone call.
First, I observed your daughter’s look of disappointment and boredom because now she had no one to talk to.
Second, I noticed that she really did seem to be very patient with your never-ending phone call, even though she might have been justified in being visibly annoyed. She looked to be about 13 or 14, and she demonstrated amazing tolerance at the rudeness you showed her.
Third, I noticed that you were completely absorbed in whatever was being said or done on the phone for the remainder of your mealtime. I saw you both finish your food, get your to-go boxes, pay your bill, and leave the restaurant, all with the cell phone firmly planted in your ear.
It saddened me that, even though you were present with your daughter, you were not really “present.” I wonder what you missed out on that evening. Did she need to tell you about her day? Was she having difficulty with someone, a teacher or a boy, that she needed your advice to help her with? You’ll never know what you missed.
The message you sent to her by being on your phone for most of your meal was loud and clear. This phone call is more important to me than spending time with you during dinner, and I don’t really care how ignored it makes you feel.
Perhaps the call was unavoidable. Perhaps someone needed you more than she did, but somehow I doubt that. You have control over your time and how you spend it. You can always tell people you will call back later. Or better yet, let it go to voice mail.
I would implore you in the future to please throw your full attention to your daughter the next time you are privileged enough to be able to take her to dinner. Turn off your cell phone, or even dare to leave it in the car. Focus on her needs. Engage her in conversation. Block out that short time just for her. I promise you, what she has to say is more interesting and far more important than any phone call.
How many times have we seen this, or worse, done this very thing to our own kids? One of my fondest wishes is that I can help parents of teens to understand how fleeting this time is, and how important it is for them to seize the time and the opportunities they have RIGHT NOW to be with their teens. They are a gift from God, your adventure, the legacy you will leave on this earth.
If you have a similar experience with cell phone usage, or any other distractions that pulled you or someone else away from something important, please share your experience in the comment section below. Perhaps your perspective can help someone else.