An Open Letter to the Man Having Dinner With His Daughter

The Phone Call That Can Wait

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.


A Mom

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.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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5 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Man Having Dinner With His Daughter

  1. Anna, your excellent article was difficult to read because some of the right side of the article was cut off. That might be a margin problem on my computer but it might not. Nevertheless, the topic of your brilliant article will resonate with many parents of teenagers. Much love. Oops! I got on another place where your Friday article appeared and it was 100% readable. Much love again.

  2. Great reminder for all of us “busy parents!” Thanks you! The legacy we’re leaving of ‘You are worth time and energy’ is so important for our teens.

  3. I will be the first to say I also need to work on this. But I agree with you, it can wait. I was at the park with some much younger moms last week – their oldest and only kids are both two. My youngest (#4) is also two, so they invited me to go with them. They were talking about how when they go to dinner they hand their child their phone so they can eat in peace. I feel teaching kids that young to check out of family time by staring at a screen sets them up to make it a habit. I do try to tell my kids why if I have to use my phone during specific, blocked out family time. “Let me check the weather to see if we can do that tomorrow,” if they’re asking to go on an outing, or whatever. Then they know it’s part of the conversation, not me suddenly ignoring them.

    I had a friend visit last weekend from out of town and she stayed with us for two nights. I noticed on the first day that she did not use her phone at all unless she was checking the time or was alone downstairs while I was getting my kids dressed, etc. As soon as I got down there, she put it away. I took one phone call and felt so bad that I had to answer it because she tried so hard to make sure I had her full attention. Her example of being present for the people you’re with was such a great reminder to me.

    • Amber, what great points. The message we send to our kids by our example and what we allow them to do will have lasting effects on their behavior that we may not realize or want to acknowledge now. I agree that it is a bad idea to condition small kids to “check out” with screen time.
      Also, your friend is to be commended for her effort to be considerate of others with her phone usage. I want to follow her example, and I hope others do, as well. I wish that father could actually read my letter. Thanks for your comments!

  4. My how the years have flown and my two oldest have left the nest! Still I have one remaining home – 14 years old. Before I blink, I know my time with him will be gone, too. But I refuse to let it slip through my fingers! Thanks, Anna, for the reminder.