Leeds dad urges parents to put their phones down and spend time with their children

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I’m a fairly judgemental person, writes Dave Kelly.

But I’m trying to mend my ways, like George Banks in Mary Poppins.

I despair when I see kids in buggies, watching tablets, while mums chat idly on mobile phones at bus stops. I cringe when I hear middle class mums talking about screen time and applaud fellow dads’ Facebook posts on spending quality time with their kids - even if it is just for likes. But then I think what am I actually measuring myself against? Because I don’t live with my children, I do want them to have the best of both worlds. It’s okay being the dad that does all the cool stuff but I’ve recently noticed I was missing things that wouldn’t ordinarily slip by me.

The crunch came when I heard “Cats in the Cradle” the other day. The point it makes about kids growing up too fast, and parents being too busy to notice missing it while it happens, sprung me into action into booking a holiday for me and my kids.

Due to the current uncertainty of Brexit, we opted for a British holiday, or stay-cation. We chose to go to Wales - I have pretty good memories of Wales from being a child. As my dad worked on the railways at the time, we could travel anywhere in Britain for free. So we went everywhere.

The holiday started well, despite a very grumpy coach driver, and we got to our destination - an aged but cheery hotel - unpacked and were away. Holidays in Britain are massively underrated. If we look a bit closer to home, there are loads of home grown attractions and deals for the upcoming summer holidays. I’m not the best of flyers and, anyway, you can’t get a flight to Llandudno can you?

I’ve always tried to give my nippers as many opportunities and experience as they grow up and, at the advice of my dad, give them good memories.

Some unexpected things came out of having a week away with my work phone turned off. One was realising how fast my daughter is growing up. Also, how switched-on my son is. I could see how grateful they were to be on this ad hoc holiday that didn’t exactly tick all the cool boxes. A break is a break.

Wales has some breath-taking scenery, incredible castles and towns, with loads to see and do. I tried not to say “no” to too many requests and make the week go by relatively tantrum free. And it did. To my amazement, everything was fine, and we got back with good stories to tell and great memories made.

I’m touching 40 years of age, trying to look back on what made our holidays so special growing up. I think it was the fact we just went as a family, it didn’t really matter where. And that still stands today.

Make time to take time out, even for a few days. Turn the phone off if possible, or at least stick it on silent.

Lots of emphasis is put on mindfulness in men’s health - emotional well-being or touching base with your inner child - so what better way to do this than hanging out with your own?

I’m not ashamed to say I love hanging out with my children. I feel like one of them, handing over the decision making to my daughter, who is blossoming into a young woman with a good moral compass.

Life isn’t by any means a Disney film, but I’m happy to say I’m more Bert the chimney sweep than banker George Banks these days. So, shut the laptop, put the phone down and get yourself away for a few days while they are still interested in hanging out with you. Because that definitely doesn’t last forever.