Last night, I came to the sudden realization that I was an absent father . . . and it broke my heart. I did not just come home from work. Neither did I just complete a work week only to realize that I hadn’t spent time with my children for quite some time. It hit me last night as I laid in bed thinking about going to work the following day.

The previous evening, our family returned home from a conference that we attended the previous three days. I took those days off from work to spend time with my family. Yet as I laid in bed, I realized that although I was physically with my wife and children, I was mentally absent. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I couldn’t remember a time when I was, mentally, fully with them.

My son has actually told me on many occasions that I was on my phone all the time. Of course, he usually tells me this while I am on my phone. Last night, he told me again. Since, of course, I was on my phone at the time, I wasn’t fully hearing him. I was physically there, but mentally absent. He could see that. So, he said it several times in a row to make me here it.

How did I respond? I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I essentially told him to stop. I was annoyed by the repetition, so I missed what he was really trying to say. He wanted to play with me . . . Daddy rarely has time for that. So, most of the time, I put him on the tv or tell him to play in his room or to find something else to do. Evidently, I would rather he occupy himself.

He often asks me to play with him when he gets tired of watching tv. I sometimes do, but not nearly often enough and only for a few minutes; only to get back on my phone to watch Netflix or to play a mobile game.

Lately, CJ has been in a phase where he constantly wants to play on my phone. Sometimes I allow him to do so while I read a book. Seemingly, he has become obsessed with a game that has become an obsession of mine. When my wife and I noticed that it had become a problem, we decided to limit his activity with electronics.

The sad, very sad, thing about this entire ordeal is that it has taken me so very long to realize that I have a problem with my phone and that it has simply bled over into our children’s lives.

Perhaps his fascination with my phone stems from him attempting to connect with his disconnected father. He wants to be like his daddy, whether it be for good or bad. I have only now come to realize that if something needs to be fixed when it comes to our children, the problem likely needs to be fixed in me beforehand.

Our children know that I love them. I show them that everyday. Yet, they miss far too much of me when I am home and that is unacceptable. And if my phone disconnects me from our children, how much more does it disconnect me from my wife?

At the moment, it saddens me greatly to see how horribly I have failed our family. Yet I see it and refuse to allow it to continue. Family is everything and time is fleeting. Therefore, from this moment on, I refuse to squander another second of it. I don’t know exactly how I can make the most of my time with my wife and children, but I do know that it begins with putting my phone away while I am physically with them.

I grew up with a physically absent father. I refuse to allow my children to grow up with a mentally absent one. So from this moment on, I will strive to be present in my family’s lives. What about you? #MentallyPresent