In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m fairly old school. Sometimes. In the ways that count, anyway.
Case in point: the picture above is from Father’s Day, 1980, at my aunt & uncle’s house. And yes, that’s me in the middle, with my parents on either side, my grandma in the bottom right corner, and my aunt next to my mom. I was the only young kiddo in the family at that point, with my sister arriving a year later almost to the day.
I grew up in a family where we ate dinner together almost every night of the week, and had big family dinners every holiday. My sister & I helped our mom make dinner, we set the table, and we all sat around the dining room table together and ate dinner. It was awesome.
Oh, and I’m old enough that we didn’t have cellphones. Okay, that’s a lie. I had one but it was one of those old school Motorola bag phones that just sat in my car. We lived out in the country and I had the phone for emergencies, like if I had car trouble on the way home at night.
But we didn’t have cellphones inside the house. We sat down and ate leisurely, talking about our day. We talked about things that were coming up for us at school, events and whatever, or we’d talk about plans for the weekend, or the upcoming ballgames for our favorite sports teams, etc.
The point is that we sat together. As a family. And TALKED.
No distractions, no cellphones, nada. Sure, the landline would occasionally ring (how old do I SOUND right now, ha ha?) and we’d usually answer the phone, but we would make the call quick and let them know that we would call them back later. There weren’t spam calls to worry about back then. We almost always knew who was calling and (usually) didn’t mind answering the phone.
Sometimes we’d have friends and family over to eat dinner with us. I loved sitting around the table and just talking. It was truly magical. Sure, a little chaotic at times, but I wouldn’t trade those dinners for the world.
We still do this now. I’m lucky enough to live near my family and we get together for dinner with my cousins once or twice a week. Now at the dinner table are my little cousins, the kiddos. It is SO much fun watching them grow up, and how they interact with us, and the joy they bring to the meal.
These days I don’t think enough families are doing this, meeting together to share a meal during the week. There are so many activities now, so many directions to be pulled in.
Or even worse — they’re all technically at the table, but they’re all on their phones.
An idea I posted on Facebook yesterday was very well-received. It was the suggestion that, if a group is out at dinner, the best way to discourage phone use (or even just phones being out on the table) is for the group to agree that the first person to pick up their phone buys dinner for the whole table.
A friend of mine added to that suggestion, recommending that at home, the first person to pick up their phone does the dishes. Genius. Frickin’ genius.
The sheer amount of disconnection felt when you’re around someone who’s picked up their phone at the dinner table is unreal. Studies have shown that the mere act of having the phone out on the table, even if it’s not being looked at (and yes, even if it’s face down), gives off that same level & feeling of disconnection.
The other person or people are made to feel less than. Less important than those on Facebook. Less important than those in their work email. Less important than whoever’s on Instagram. Less important than the texts.
I could rant about the topic of disconnection through technology forEVER but I’ll stop for now and bring it back around to my point.
These days, in this fast-paced world, we MUST remember to stop and be present in the moment. To make time for our loved ones, for our friends & family, to let them know how important they are to us.
Because one day, and take it from me because I unfortunately have too much experience in this area (she writes, tearing up), the opportunities to spend time with those people will be gone. And you can’t get them back — neither the opportunities, nor the people.
What might now seem like a slight inconvenience — so much cooking! so many dishes! (who cares?!?) — will one day mean so, so much to everyone sitting at that table.
(that picture I posted above — out of the 10 people who were at that table only 3 are left: me, my mom, and my dad)
So today, please do me a favor:
Pick up the phone and schedule a family dinner this week (hint: CALL them!). If you can include close friends, or neighbors, or both, invite them as well. And if they offer to bring a side dish or dessert, welcome it with open arms. And then add a couple more leaves to that dining room table.
Please report back & let me know how it went. And repeat. Make it a habit. It’s one you won’t regret.