Tuned In Or Out

One of my jobs around the house is to empty the garbage. I also feed the dog and replace burned out lights. Occasionally I’m called on to kill a spider or open a jar of peanut butter.

On the weekends I’ll mow the lawn if the stars align.

But fatherhood has brought with it a number of smaller tasks that one can’t plan for. Some are simple such as replacing batteries in the Nintendo controller. A few are more difficult like trying to retrieve a Matchbox car my son had shoved down his diaper that Luca alerted me to.

It’s easy to miss these opportunities. There are times when I want to be left alone immediately following work. It’s natural to slip on headphones at my computer and tune out the kids. Tune out the world, for that matter.

I found myself in this situation tonight.

Kim was next door helping a neighbor make homemade salsa. I was the adult supervision in the house but in name only. Luca was watching her sister and brothers outside.

I couldn’t hear a thing except the music piping through my headphones. But I began to wonder what I was missing. I was just a fixture in the house at that point. I was there but I wasn’t.

I turned the volume down and flipped off my headphones.

In less than two minutes, Anna needed a sliver removed. Lincoln asked me to retrieve the Nerf ball from the tree. Luca proudly showed me the tree she drew with mom.

As water routes around most barriers put in its path, the kids were routing their evening around me. It wasn’t until I put my headphones down that they decided to involve me.

I wonder what other barriers I put up at home and at work making it less likely I’ll be asked for my help or engagement?

Later tonight I found myself laying next to Luca on the bottom bunk. She had to situate the fan, blankets and pillows just right.

“Are you excited to go back to school in a few weeks?”

“Kind of”

“Could I interest you in barely used Matchbox car?”

We both laughed so hard I fell off the bed.


  1. I think we have to forgive ourselves and accept that we can't be there for them all the time. If my dad were able to take some time to relax and listen to music on his headphones, my childhood would have been much more relaxed.



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