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August 17, 2012

The call you can't answer with an iPhone to your ear

ANDERSON, Ind. — As I write this, I am technically spending time with my daughters. It's the afternoon, they've been liberated from camp, and I should have closed my laptop hours ago.

"Should" tends to be an elusive goal in my parenting world, so instead they are huddled in front of an episode of "Busytown" as I sit a few feet away.

The reason is a good one — well, there's always a good reason. This time my excuse for facing a screen instead of the two of them is that we're about to set off on a two-week family vacation during which I have pledged to myself that I will be "present."

That is, I will not be half-listening to a story about my younger daughter's imaginary friend while scrolling through e-mails on my iPhone or pretending to watch the the older daughter's mangled cartwheel while typing my to-do list. My 14-day mantra will be: Focus.

One evening of family screen time isn't so bad in return for two weeks of presence, right?

"I would definitely say that parents being more able to be fully present with their children without the distractions of domestic duties at home and demands from work is one of the biggest benefit of vacations for kids," said Tina Payne Bryson, co-author of "The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind."

I tracked down Bryson while she was on her own vacation with her three children. She pointed out the irony of talking about her professional expertise while she had intended to avoid work during the trip.

Still, she said it's worth the effort to tuck away the smartphone and tune into the family.

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