I have thought about posting about this for quite a while. Then we went out to dinner on the weekend and I saw something in the restaurant that helped me make up my mind. There was a family with two daughters, teenagers. The grandparents came along too. As soon as they sat down the girls took out their cell phones and started texting, facebooking, instagramming or something of that nature. The grandparents were obviously taken aback by this but didn’t say anything, probably because they had before and it was ignored. The parents however didn’t care at all. They addressed the girls here and there, got a short answer, without any eye contact and were satisfied with that. Within 10 minutes the girls got up twice and went to the bathroom together. With their phones and lots of giggles. I watched this family for a good 20 minutes until I had to force myself not to anymore. Then I took a look around. There was a young couple eating together, except he was talking on the phone and she was mesmerized by something on her phone. And they were no exception. Everywhere I looked there were people staring at their phones instead of the people they were sitting at the table with. When did this become normal? When did people start being ok with not having eye contact while talking to each other?
I remember growing up it was considered rude when somebody called your house phone (!) around dinner time. I was raised to ignore the ringing phone and stay seated. There was no TV in the background, there was no getting up until everybody had finished and obviously, there were no cell phones. What was happening were conversations about how our day went, what we wanted to do the next day, when the next test in school would be, how my dad’s day at work went, what was new with the neighbors, who had a game or a tournament on the weekend. What was happening was family time. And dinner time. Every day. We took our time, nothing was wolfed down in 10 minutes so we don’t miss that TV show we wanted to watch. That wasn’t even up for discussion. What was up for discussion was our lives, being a family. Knowing how to carry a conversation over hours (!) without staring at a phone screen or talking calls because it’s so important to be available at all times.
I enforce these rules in my house. Every day. It’s important. You can’t let your children forget who their family is and what’s really important in life. And you teenagers, let me tell you, the latest status update or newest photo of somebody in front of a bathroom mirror is absolutely not important. It can wait. Make the time and get to know your family. Really get to know them. Talk. Look into their eyes. Put the phones away and turn off the TV. Refuse to be available at all times. It will make you and your family more balanced and connected. It will teach everybody some almost forgotten social skills. It will make your children a respectful adult. Can we try to get back to that? Promise?
Now let’s have some dinner!