When my daughters aren't listening to me, I usually take the low road.
I slowly raised my head up from behind the side of the couch, stopping precisely between my daughter's gaze and the TV. I mashed up my face in the most grotesque way possible until she noticed and jumped; and laughed. When my daughters aren't listening to me, I usually take the low road.
Another day, when I couldn't get an answer, I repeated myself, louder. When that didn't work, I tried being annoying.
"I'm working on something here," my 3-year-old said as I batted lightly at her ponytail.
"I understand, but why didn't you answer me?" I responded.
"Well, I heard you," she said. This was an excuse.
"Would you please answer me when I talk to you?" I replied.
"But I'm working on something here," she said again before telling me, "OK, I will."
Sometimes when my daughters aren't listening, I do something silly. Sometimes I talk louder. Sometimes, if the TV is on, I turn it off. Usually, I tell myself they do this because they are kids, and kids ignore their parents from time to time.
Certainly, I didn't think I could be a part of the problem. Then one night, my 6-year-old slowly put her head between my face and my phone. She promised to stay there and "breathe hot breath in your face until you answer me." I apologized. She accepted my apology, while also pointing out my hypocrisy. I was so proud.
She suggested that I shouldn't look at my phone as often. And she's right. I spend too much time on it. But to be fair, I need to make sure the 12 people who always "like" my photos "liked" my photos. If not, I have to wonder what their deal is. Are they OK? And how else would I know every score from every sports event played on the planet?
I resigned to be better.
Cellphones and the internet are a lot like a car crash; it's hard to look away. But when a 6-year-old notices, it's time to change. So, a few weeks ago, I turned off all of the notifications on my phone. No more sports updates, no more Facebook "likes" buzzing in my pocket 12 times a day.
The first thing I learned is that when you turn off all the notifications, you might miss simple things, like a text message from your wife reminding you to pick up milk. So, I turned those notifications back on. But everything else was turned off. And the result? I didn't miss anything. In two weeks, not once have I felt like I missed out. In fact, after a few days, I kind of relished in the idea of being ignorant of the rest of the world.
Instead, I started to take notice of the other things around me, like a deep blue sky, or the elderly man walking by our house with a big, old dog leading the way and the skinny, old Greyhound trailing behind. Normally, I would have missed that.
"You know, I am trying to be better about my phone," I told my daughter one night. "Thanks for that."
Then I waited. Then I snapped my fingers.
"Oh, what?" she replied. "Were you talking to me?"
Reach Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @DaveManley