Recently I noticed that I was getting annoyed and heated up inside by the amount of screen usage in my home. During mealtime, we do not use screens. That has always been a time of connection, conversation, and sharing. What was really most upsetting to me was that during the hour or thirty minutes that my family would choose to watch a specific show together, everyone, including me, would be using our phones at the same time. I also noticed that if we put our phones down and watched, as soon as a commercial came on, we picked our phones right back up.
What is this need to attach to our devices constantly? Why is it that when it is by our side, we feel compelled to check to see what is happening? Is it FOMO, fear of missing out, the ping, the ding, or something else?
I decided, since I was also a culprit, that I was going to start leaving my phone somewhere else besides next to me within an arms reach. I purposely put my phone in the kitchen, away from me. At the end of that night, when our program was over, I made a statement about myself. This was truly about me but also about modeling and embodying the things that you want to see in your family. My statement was how much different it was to really watch something on TV without my device sitting next to me. When it was not next to me, I did not have the compulsion to check it. I was able to sit and attune to what was in front of me, the program that we decided as a family to watch on TV.
The next night, my husband was not home and my daughter and I were having dinner together, just the two of us. After a nice dinner, we then decided to color. We both love to color and have a number of adult coloring books that we leave sitting out in our dining room for this purpose. We both left our phones in the kitchen, an intentional choice. It was a beautiful night full of coloring and rich conversation. We talked about things that we never had before including passive income, finances, college costs, divorce, her childhood, my parenting, and so on. Would these conversations have occurred if we had a device in our hands or next to us? My answer is 100% NO. When we detach from our screens, we allow the door to open to new opportunities, possibilities, conversations, learning and more. We are not side-tracked or distracted. Therefore we can engage wholeheartedly with another human being. It was a beautiful evening and I know that I deeply appreciated the true connection I felt with my daughter during that time. I did share that with her.
The next evening, both my daughter and husband joined me in setting their phone somewhere else. We were knee deep into the series called Friends, which I have seen before, years ago, but my 18-year-old daughter had not. So we were watching it with her. The intentions that were set by all three of us, again, created a different environment.
When we open space to connect by intentionally leaving our devices and distractions out of our reach, we open the door to true authentic connections. It may surprise us as to what types of conversations that we enter into with our children, our spouses or even our friends. We must first mirror and embody this practice for ourselves and really commit to it in order to see the people we are closest to joining us. Give it a try. I would love to hear how this looks in your family.