There is a lot of buzz (and research) these days about the detrimental effects of Snapchatting, Instagramming, Facebooking, or whatever the newest social media app-ing is. That people and their kids have their heads down in their smartphones so much that it is creating a new syndrome that physicians are starting to see...our necks hurt, imagine that?! And, that's the least of the issues.
I was a "mean mom". I did not allow either of my girls (now 28 and 20, so do the math, they were school-age in the 90's and 2000's) to have a cell phone until she turned 15 and we were looking closely at driving. My reasoning? If you are out, there should be an adult with you and that adult should have a cell phone so if I need you or you need me, we can communicate. Otherwise, you don't need a cell phone. That doesn't mean I didn't allow them to play video games, I did but the closest we came to Black Ops or Grand Theft Auto was The Sims (and that was limited because it truly was a supreme waste of time). I will also admit that I treated my younger daughter a bit differently (with regard to gaming) not because she was younger but because she has Asperger's Syndrome and games filled in some social-emotional gaps for her.
We would often eat together and sometimes, cook together, but that was a rarity. Eating together was just a family activity. We didn't think about it; we just did it. There were no phones or games at the table. We talked and ate. It wasn't necessarily leisurely because we were all busy but it was a time to simply touch human base. The result? I have two smart, successful kids who talk to me (about more than I care to know about sometimes), do not abuse drugs or alcohol, and are happy, decent human beings who are contributing to the world. Is it all because we ate together? Of course not! But our dinners and eating together and sharing time were and still are a metaphor for the value that we place on each other far beyond cell phones and the next text.
Sadly, family mealtime has become the new endangered species. If and when families sit down together, the phones, the calls, the texting, the games are all the priority and the status quo. I'm including moms and dads in this mix as well. Just one more call because I'm trying to close this real estate deal. Just one more minute, I am the manager and I have to make sure the night shift is squared away. Wait, just one more text because I'm trying to make plans for tomorrow night. And, the list goes on and on. And, it's always something. Can't we just be present? In the moment? Is that so hard?
At the kitchen during my classes, I ask people to silence their cell phones because, personally, if I hear texts or phone calls, I get distracted. If I get distracted, God only knows what we'll end up making and it won't be good. Also, they deserve my full attention. And, frankly, I deserve theirs.
It's really not that much different at a family dinner. Everyone really deserves attention. In fact, research (although limited) is starting to show the beneficial effects of family dinners where people actually interact with other people and not their electronic devices. Having dinner together as a family is associated with higher academic performance, less depression, less drug use/abuse and less obesity and fewer eating disorders. WOW! Who knew? There is even a website, click for The Family Dinner Project, where you can access all kinds of information including, recipes, conversation topics and more.
Now, at the kitchen, we have one large communal table.
Communal meaning that everyone sits down together even if you don't really know one another. Because what happens during my classes is that people (if they want to and more often than not, they do) get to know one another. They work together to cook a dish, they have a glass of wine (or whatever) while they're cooking, they talk and laugh and find that they actually have a lot in common with that guy who works on the telephone lines, and the emergency room nurse and the realtor and the banker and the business people and the moms and the dads. Then, if cooking together was not enough, they all sit down together and eat and talk, and people who were once on their own have now reached out and have become a tiny community of people.
Sometimes they go their separate ways at the end of the evening but often, they walk down the streets of the Rose District, talking and laughing and winding their ways to the chocolatier's shop for dessert or head to one of the local bars to have a night cap or play a game of pool. All because they spent a couple of hours together cooking and making contact.
What I see happen, night after night, in my classes, is a metaphor. Why?
Because it is the same thing that can happen around the family dinner table, your family dinner table. You don't have to all cook together but take the time to not just eat but to find out about your kid's or spouse's day and to share what's going on with you. Connecting in ways that apparently don't happen under other circumstances. Connecting that cannot happen if your head is down, buried in the latest text or Snapchat.
So consider cooking and/or having dinner or a weekend lunch together without electronics....that includes you, mom and dad. It doesn't have to be every night; it can be 2 - 3 times per week devoted to spending some time valuing one another.
See what kind of magic can happen when you just put the cell phone down.
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