Fins on, snorkel tight, the water is as turquoise blue as I have ever seen. I’m and holding tight to Bruce’s hand and we see her. She’s on the bottom, nibbling on sea grass. She is about 300lbs, a Green Sea Turtle, we think; she has a Remora, attached to her back, hanging on for dear life and clearing her shell of ectoparasites in the most lovely of symbiotic relationships. Then he swims by us, Go-Pro mounted to a band around his head. He’s noticed her too and he dives and swims nearby. She surfaces. We are there, treading water in total and complete amazement. He says to us, “Wow, I can’t wait to get home and see this footage” (referring, obviously, to the Go-Pro shots he has just taken). Say what? Really?? You are here… in this moment… revel in that… but he does not and he swims off. We keep watching her, in awe. We are both grateful to be in this moment and we are both a little stunned that this man was not. Technology has made so many of these moments, like beautiful, un-interrupted conversations, a thing of the past. It’s so sad and I think it really impacts our relationships with one another. I don’t think it has to be this way, though. So here are a few of my thoughts about bringing back that glue of human kind – good, old-fashioned conversation.
1. Put Down The Phone
One of the rules of my house has always been NO CELL PHONES AT THE TABLE. There’s no exception to this rule. I read somewhere that what kids remember most about their childhood are dinners at home and vacations. So dinner at home became a sacred time for me – for conversation, catching up and chilling out. Even now that they are grown and come home less frequently, the rule still stands (and it stands for Bruce too) – dinner is not the time for electronics. No one wants to feel like some idiotic machine is more important than they are. Let them know they have (and deserve) your full attention – put down your phone and make them do the same.
2. Turn Off The TV
As I have previously confessed, I watch very little TV (the occasional movie or a Patriot’s Game notwithstanding), so this one is, admittedly, is a little easier for me. But for all of you news and sports junkies out there though, this is good advice. Try shutting the tube off and listening to music together, sharing your individual “headlines of the day,” reveling in each other’s company. Actively watching TV together can be a bonding experience, but mindlessly watching TV when you could engage with someone you care about – I don’t think that’s a hard one.
3. Take A Drive
For those of you have have done the drives to college visits, you already get what I’m talking about, for the rest of you, think about adding the drive as a way get your kids or your significant other to talk, talk, talk… Maybe a drive to a special takeout place that’s not too close by (for us it might be something like Patti’s Perogies in Fall River – a 47 minute drive from our house, and oh, my goodness is it worth it). You can also try a special location for a walk or a sunset. A drive gives you uninterrupted time for whatever comes up. It’s conversational heaven.
4. Have Snacks Before Dinner
My parents were married for 54 years and I think that most of them were pretty happy. This is a feat, in-and-of-itself. I think that one of their secrets was that they prioritized each other (yes, even over us sometimes, but that a topic for the therapist). They took time, almost every night, to have snacks and a cocktail together (without kids) before dinner. It was THEIR time to catch up with each other (there were 5 of us, after all, pulling at them in all sorts of directions, so I’m sure they desperately needed it). I know that in today’s world, this is probably not humanly possible to do every night, but what about a couple of times a week? Without the cocktails, this can work with kids, as well. It can provide a time to discuss long-term school projects, that boy in their math class, or the disappearance of the polar ice caps. It doesn’t matter what you talk about, it just matters that you talk. The skills that you develop in these low-stress conversations can be a godsend when stuff really hits the fan and you truly need to communicate. Nothing fancy needed here either – a few nuts in a little dish, some grapes, maybe some popcorn. It’s time you will treasure later – I promise you.
5. Wake Up a Little Earlier For Coffee – Together!
My Keurig has a timer. This is a gift from God. Coffee, literally 45 seconds after I enter the kitchen, is my idea of heaven. This technological convenience makes this suggestion easier – no need to brew – no need to run to Dunkin’. Taking a hot cup of coffee into the family room with “your person” before you start your day, or better yet, back up into to bed, is never something you’re going to regret. It gives you just a few moments to ask, “what’s on your agenda today?” Or “how was that meeting last night?” It’s just a few minutes. Make it a routine. It’s a habit worth cultivating.