The art of attunement
Wipe the swipe before it’s too late
Me: "Wow, did you see that Tom. Brilliant!”
Tom: "See what?"
Me: "Your son's goal. It was easily a 30-metre strike..."
Tom: "Oh yeah, yeah, um, just out of the corner of my eye... Yeah, it was a cracker..."
Tom is fooling himself. He didn’t see jack.
It's Saturday afternoon and I'm on the sideline watching my 14-year-old son play his weekly soccer fixture.
Our team just scored and I'm sharing my enthusiasm with the goal-scorer's father.
As his response fades, Tom goes back to the issue at hand.
Head down, eyes fixed.
The forever glow from the little glass rectangle.
Images, quotes, emojis and the occasional ad to meet 'single' women parade the phone screen as he swipes south to north.
Tom might as well not be here -his mind certainly isn't.
A quick glance around me reveals he's not alone. Another 10 parents doing cheeky-sneakies at their phones while the soccer game powers on.
But I'm no saint. I was in the situation a few months ago.
My son had curled the ball into the top left-hand corner of the goal at the exact time a notification told me a friend of a friend liked the quote of a friend's friend.
Faking a smile, I gave the thumbs-up to my son as he jogged back to his half to restart.
I didn't see jack.
What I responded to on my phone was just noise.
What I missed was the here and now.
It was a lost opportunity to connect with my son at an age when he needs it most.
As parents we need to display the skill of attunement, that is, being emotionally and physically ‘there’ for them.
Being distracted by my phone at the soccer game was a form of proximal separation - physically present but emotional detached.
Research suggests that the level of physiological stress experienced by the child during proximal separation approach the levels experienced during physical separation.
This can lead children to believe they are simply not seen, heard, understood or empathised with.
Misattuned parent-child interactions are increasingly common and, as parents, we need to ensure our children actually receive the intense love we feel for them.
Now that I’m conscious of this, my son’s weekly soccer matches are watched from the sideline with my phone locked in the car.
I see every pass, every side-step and every goal just as he sees it.
Being present and connected with my son gives reassurance to his developing brain that he is safe and emotionally surefooted.
That’s something he’ll never get from the swipe of a phone.