I recently found myself at a conference in Seattle for a nationwide nonprofit that I sit on the board for our local affiliate. While Seattle is definitely a bucket-list city for me, the weekend was not one spent sightseeing and playing the tourist. Instead, my time was spent inside our hotel, going from session to session learning about diversified revenue streams and sustainable funding.
Fun stuff 😉.
During one such session on affiliate growth, I found myself seated in a room with a few older gentlemen. I would guess that these men probably each had a few years on my own dad. The session was a discussion format, and the conversation was flowing pretty freely around the room.
During one “ice-breaker” moment, the room was asked what current trend they would like to see go away.
Both of these men jumped on the evils of technology bandwagon. They went on and on about how parents are absent and neglectful, and that cell phones are the ruin of us all.
I sat back in my chair and listened to what they had to say.
When they were done, I took the opportunity to speak up, in a way that I am certain they did not expect.
In order to play “Devil’s advocate” I stated that I, the mother of three teenagers, and one on the verge, would fall directly into the category of parent they are so disgusted with.
Then I went on to explain a few things.
If you see me at a restaurant with one or more of my kids, and we have phones out, it is most likely that I am not ignoring them. Instead, the list of things we are doing on our phones includes, but is not limited to:
- Checking grades and discussing needs for classes.
- Sharing memes, pictures, and videos that made us smile during the day.
- Sharing what made us sad or upset during the day.
- Playing a game together on our separate devices.
- Going over a shopping list, double checking what we need.
- Checking and comparing schedules.
- One of them is sending me a message with information they do not wish to say in front of the others.
This is especially true since my children’s father and I are divorced. Some children spend the majority of their time at their dad’s. Some spend the majority at mom’s house. Some split.
The time that we do spend together is sometimes used to touch base with everyone, and sometimes it is used to get a game plan together for the next stage.
More often than not, I am meeting my kids where they are. I have apps on my phone that I would never use, except that they are the apps that my kids engage with. I take the effort, step into their world, and meet them there.
I am aware that dinner with teenagers looks different in 2018 than it did in previous years. It is not better or worse, it is just different.
These men and the rest of the people in the room stated that they had never even considered these options.
Yes, some parents and families are completely disconnected. Maybe, just maybe, that mom is just trying to figure out when she gets to see her beloved child again.
There is so much mom guilt that floats around us daily, how we use the time we have with our kids to connect with them does not need to be one of them if we can at all help it.