Bits of a song from my youth keeps popping into my ear. I’m learning after years of these random sound bytes that when they pop into my brain, it’s because my brain is trying to tell me something.
I made a promise to our kids that, on their last day of school, I would delete Facebook and the dreaded Candy Crush Saga game from my phone. They are to remain off of my phone throughout the summer. As a working artist and an independent rep for Damsel In Defense who relies on Facebook for promoting my shows and sales, I won’t sign off altogether for the summer, but I certainly can stop checking Facebook while away from home simply by deleting the app from my phone. It is a great way to be more present with my kids and anyone else who shows up in person. I told my ‘little’ sister that I’d deleted those apps and she responded: “That sounds a little extreme”. That sentence launched the sound byte.
I have had this theme on my mind a lot lately. My phone was behaving badly a few weeks back as I was heading out to run some errands, so I powered it off and put it in my purse. My errands took me north one city, and I was on the road for about 15 minutes. As I’m hurtling down the freeway, I’m very much aware of what I am NOT hearing. No chime of e-mail. No whistle of a text message. No ringing of a call. Strangely peaceful. I am very much aware that I am NOT worried about who may be trying to reach me. The kids are still in school and there are plenty of grown-ups around to supervise until I power my phone back up. If I miss a call, there’s always voice mail. My husband is at work, and his ‘need’ of me throughout the day is to get things done rather than to be fully available and in constant contact. The Dog is with me, and, without thumbs, he couldn’t text, e-mail or call me even if he wanted to. Everybody else who would be on the contact side of my iPhone can wait.
I have always had a strict policy of not answering the phone while in the restroom. I consider it tacky to do so, and, frankly, if ever there were a place to give oneself permission to NOT answer, it’s there. Once I’d registered that, I began to wonder where else I should opt out of constant contact.
That led to no phone at the dinner table, but I have family history that helped me commit to this one. I believe the reason I’m passionate about the phone at dinner time especially is that, growing up in our family of six, there was always a seventh ‘guest’ at the table. Every time it quacked (or rang, but our phone was a duck shaped phone that quacked instead of ringing…still can’t hear a real duck quack without wondering who is calling), we were expected to answer. Usually when answered, our Dad would stand near the dining table cursing like a trucker (usually with an actual trucker on the other end of the line) and we as a family would, per specific direction, be quiet while the barrage of turrets-syndrome-like foul terse were lobbied into the phone. My dad is a hay broker, and we understood that he believed in order to remain successful, he needed to be available 24/7 when business needed him. What was sadly lacking was the concept that his kids needed him too. Dad is a good guy and was a FANTASTIC provider. He is a kind person who would literally give you the shirt off is back if he thought you needed it. My only continued frustration with him is that he has never understood the concept of being present. We were blessed to have a ‘stay-at-home-mom’. We had great childhood memories with her, and we had lots of THINGS including a summer home on a lake. I am grateful for all the things we had, but I could have happily done with less stuff and more time with the whole family. I have learned over the years that I’m much more of a make-time sort of person. My friend Angi pointed that out a few years back when reading a book about ‘love languages’. Spending time with people I love helps me to feel centered. I know I always feel more frantic when I don’t get family time.
Whether you are in a restaurant or at home, if you are with people, live and in person, I believe you should BE WITH THEM. Why is it that the phone ringing should take precedence over those who show up to spend time with you. I’ve heard the excuse “They’re my kids so they don’t have any choice”. LAME! They’re your kids, so show them they are more important than the telemarketer, buddy or work issue that always seems to know when you’ve sat down to dinner. Dinner time is 10-20 minutes out of your day to be present (obviously longer if you’re eating out). Can’t you eek out that small amount of time to show the people who show up in person that they matter to you?