COMMENTARY | Your family comes trooping in the door and before anyone even acknowledges you with a nod hello, they are all scrambling for electric outlets. Come on, this scenario has happened at your house more then once, hasn’t it? The thought that their cell phone, laptop or iPod is flashing low battery, is horrifying to them. You stand back and watch the mad scramble to see who reaches the power supply first. Finally, everyone is plugged in, your power meter is spinning like a top, and they finally say hello.
From Imagination to Plugged In
I remember holiday visits where families actually visited. We talked, we sipped coffee and we munched goodies. The little boys sat in the floor and made “vroom vroom” sounds with large plastic cars, while the girls rocked baby dolls that did absolutely nothing. The child had to use their imagination to have races, or to pretend the doll was crying.
Fast forward to today, and the children are lined up on the sofa, their fingers furiously working tiny buttons to text a friend or play a game that’s hooked to the television. Everyone shushes everyone else because they are concentrating so hard on the game or text message in their hands. Twenty different musical notes go off all over the house as cell phone after cell phone keeps ringing.
Even adults will excuse their self from a conversation and grab that cell phone, because they can’t stand to miss any mishaps their friend just had, or some funny joke a goofy friend just sent them. Asking them to ignore a call or text is like asking them to ignore a life saving shot. It really will be all right if your friend Sally doesn’t get to tell you about the strange shopper in Wal-Mart right this minute!
Get Unplugged for the Holidays
I do not allow cell phones at the dinner table. Dinner is family time, and since none of my family are on-call workers, nothing can be more important then a nice family meal. Of course, you can see them squirm when they recognize their particular ring coming from a coat pocket or counter top. The adults tell me if they are expecting an important call and are gracious enough to check their phone and ignore the call if it isn’t the one they were waiting on.
I also now insist the television remain off during holiday gatherings. I have an open concept living room, dining room and kitchen, so a blaring TV is very distracting. The children know that Grandma doesn’t allow the television on until after dinner on normal visits. During the holidays, it must be turned off before any presents are opened.
I watched a television show where the woman was trying to have a family night and she met everyone at the door with a bowl and confiscated all of their cell phones. They all acted like the world was coming to an end, but in the end, they agreed that they had a good time without all the distractions. I am not sure I have a big enough bowl to hold all of my family’s gadgets, but it is worth a try. Unplug your family and enjoy some real family time, just like we used to!