I admit, I listen to the Christian radio station every once in a while. It's a nice break from the "party with the Oldies" at one end of the dial and the talking heads spewing political opinions at the other. The other morning, I heard that best piece of succinct advice that I've heard in a while. In our efforts to live life to the fullest, one of the announcers challenged that we try to always "Be where we are."
I thought about that statement while I was driving. The common lack of these four words summed up a generation of dysfunction that is actively eroding our relationships with our children. Just that morning, I had spent the morning racing around the house, barking orders at my three children, while I packed lunches, doled out breakfasts, and then tried to respond to email from the laptop in the corner of my room. As Alex, Will, and Kalli came to me while I was getting ready for work, I offered them a kind smile and a soft pat on the cheek, but then I quickly followed with a question such as "did you clean your room?" or "are you ready for school?" My mind was not on their sweet and innocent thoughts, but on how soon we could out the door, and what was going to meet me at the office, and what in the world would I prepare for dinner tonight?!?
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I see the constant pressure to multitask and our lack of ability to "be where we are" while I'm in the office, too. I can't tell you the last time I met a child over the age of 14 who had both hands free for lack of a smart phone. While it's sometimes very difficult for a adolescent to remember their dietary habits when I attempt to take a history, they always respond within nanoseconds when the phone in their baggy pants pocket buzzes, signaling a text from friends. I am constantly in awe of a teen's ability to apparently carry on a conversation with me while typing a message to someone else. These teens no doubt are not practicing the art of "being where they are" but where are they? Can they truly divide their brain in two, or is their attention and focus so divided that there's no hope of turning back?
I think the message we send our children and teenagers needs to start with us. Children learn and eventually live the behavior that's modeled for them. When children live in an environment where the internet and electronics have taken precedence over things like family meals, heartfelt conversations, and parents' genuine efforts to Be Where We Are, they start to believe that that behavior is acceptable. In order to teach our children that their presence and opinions are valuable, we need to stop checking our email while sitting at breakfast and stop cruising the internet while watching a movie together on Friday evening. Perhaps if we set an example and stop the multitasking and if we are a little more present in every moment, the effect will trickle down and show in our children's actions in the years to come.
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