Tuned Out: Confessions of a Distracted Dad

Breaking news… Talk-show host Wendy Williams has made some compromising comments about reality star Bruce Jenner. I know. Shocking. Mind-blow. Until of course I realize that this news is integral to no one, and yet I turned away from my own child to steal a glance and see just what she said. This of course is a trivial example, yet my attention does get tugged away worrying if you emailed me back or if the Buckeyes are ranked higher than they were last week. Who hasn’t taken an extra minute or two to figure out they can play ‘zesty’ over a triple-word score in Words with Friends?  I am distracted. I have failed because my mind is elsewhere. And it will be so no more. At least not in this way; I will strive to be, as a wise brother-in-law once remarked, “authentically present.”

Paul Rudd’s character in “Knocked Up” delivers a poignant line in the movie when he says, “The biggest problem in our marriage is that she (his wife) wants me around.” Imagine this: your family loves you, loves you, and wants your undivided time, not all day, but for a little while. And I have such a hard time really being present for them. I seek distraction. I hold a screen in front of me or let it rest near as if it were a limb I discovered a few years ago. But it’s an artificial limb that wants to steal time from those gorgeous bouncy-haired limbs given to me by God, the ones who think I can do no wrong and who eat all the Cheez-Its. Because we’re made for relationships, and the ones I have tremendous joy potential (they are quite fun), why have I sacrificed them for such chalky drivel or the satisfaction of having all my logistical ducks in a row for the next day?  We are a restless bunch, we humans. And it is true what Augustine said, “that we will be restless until we find our rest in thee.” But our God loves to give us good things (Mt. 7:11; Rom. 8:32) why can we not rest content and enjoy what he has given? This is my renewed focus: enjoy my family, be ever-present for them.  Jesus gave up everything for me, shouldn’t I then give my all in every opportunity I have to teach them, guide them, love them, and enjoy them?

Much of our email and social network dependence seems to be on the need to be heard, to be valued by others. This is the genius of the movie “The Social Network” as the story of the founding of the world’s most powerful social platform is really the story of a man who wants people to like him. I will not digress here into a flowery exposition about your beauty and unique snowflake-ness, but I can say that you are valued by someone, by the one who made you, surely, or perhaps even by the little people who live in your house. I will be a better listener (and learn from our God who loves to be present with us), an active participant in the Casa de Robertson, and one who is thankful for what he has been given.