Ahh the fun of family vacation. As a child, we never took extravagant trips, but we always took some trip. We were a family of modest means and my father worked as a general manager in the city grocery store. This was before the mega-stores made their way in town and the old school mindset that if you didn’t work, you didn’t get paid. My dad only took a few days off and because his work schedule was Tuesday and Friday off, our vacation was usually Tuesday through Friday and always during the first full week in August.
I remember being stretched out in the backseat of the car, putting my feet where they didn’t belong, especially on my sister’s side of the seat and only with my shoes off, to add to the antagonistic effect. This was also before the days of standard air conditioning in the car. We would take road trips, venturing to places within a day drive of our home. We would end up in Canada, Pennsylvania or New York most often; sometimes, Virginia. No matter where however, there was always conversation. And never, never with strangers, are you kidding me? Whether sibling banter, games of “I spy” or tracking license plates, there was something to chat no matter where we were. During our vacation, we’d explore, discover and discuss whatever it was we experienced. Was the Casa Loma a ‘real’ castle and imagining how it was back in its day; would the Welland Canal still be cool to see if it was your workplace? And, was the Eiffel Tower exactly the same as the one we were on at Kings Island? We never were at a lost for topics, as a matter of fact, my mom and dad had to shoosh us at night to “pipe down” and go to sleep. Those were moments I shared with my family.
I attribute much of this to a world that is known as “BED”… before electronic devices.
Sadly, gone are the days. I recently took two trips and began to notice the many families who ventured out for vacation memories. What struck me odd was moments I began I having with complete strangers that will forever become part of their vacation memory, and vice versa. This, because the parent was busy on their phone, talking, texting, mindlessly surfing.
I shared a moment with your child when she did three somersaults in the pool at the hotel. She was ecstatic. You were hunched over your tablet playing a game. You missed it.
I shared a moment with your child when Tennessee Titan’s player David Cobb gave your son a glance, nod, megawatt smile and thumbs up at the meet-n-greet after your child saw him on the podium ‘for real.’ You were busy talking on the phone. You missed it.
I shared a moment with your child when your little girl and I were making silly faces at each other waiting for the plane to board; restless, nervous, antsy. You were checking your phone. You missed it.
I shared a moment with your child when during the community parade, the strolling mascot was tossing candy and your child caught it with one hand. His eyes lit up in wonder. You were reading something on your phone and missed it. I didn’t.
I shared a moment with your child at the nail salon when you finally grew tired of hearing him whine “Mommy, mommy, mommy, how long” and you gave him your phone to play with even though he really wanted to sit on your lap and be with you. He took the phone and “played quietly” as you instructed, but only for a few minutes. The rest of the time, while your pretty little fingers were getting perfectly polished for summer, your little guy and I shared a discussion about the new Dory movie and what color fish was the brightest. Sadly, no fish were the color of your nail polish. But one of mine were, because he wanted to see my nail in “fishy color.”
So you see, while as parents we think we are being attentive because our child is right next to us, they may as well stay home. There is a difference between being together and being present with another. Take a look around next time you are out. Leave the phone in your car when you are shopping, the device at home when you are at the pool and the book by the bed when you are at the park and really take the time to share the moments with your child.