After a challenging week of midterms my daughter, Elizabeth(16) and I celebrated with lunch at our favorite restaurant, Din Tai Fung. As we were being seated, we noticed a mother and daughter sitting near us. The daughter looked to be eight years old. Both the mother and daughter were looking down at their smartphones. Elizabeth was disturbed by this as she was facing in the direction of that view. After I poured our cups of Oolong tea, she said, "Mom, say something, anything to distract me from noticing them." I was happy to break the delicious silence of the spell the steamy tea had cast.
We stayed fixed on each other's faces in an agreed, knowing moment. And so it went. I always ask, "Are we going to be adventurous this time?" I knew the answer ahead of time. She, of course, said, "Nope." And so we ordered the pork dumplings, green beans, and shrimp fried rice, as we always do. And it was perfection, as it always is.
We escaped the world around us as we waxed nostalgic about the magic of her childhood and our obsession with the animated movies we shared and all of the time she spent off-screen in our backyard with her imagination. As we do. Neither of us had our phones out on the table. Her next request was to not talk about midterms or school. Done. We were enjoying our chat so much we ran out of tea. This was a "two pots of tea" lunch filled with stories, inside jokes and laughter. This was the stuff of life.
While leaving the restaurant, we walked by a sea of tables with families. Almost every single child was on their smart device. We squeezed each other's hands as we made our way to the street. It was the perfect Southern California day for walking and chatting. We both took a deep breath.
My daughter and I are empaths. We are sensitive to the energy of people and places, and while we both have smart devices that keep us connected with the world at large, we are ever mindful of the soul-sucking devices they can be. We have both been down that "rabbit hole."
And so, we keep each other in check about screen time. She speaks to me often of her peers at school who are obsessed with Snapchat and staring at their phones all day and being in constant group chat mode. She prefers one on one talks with friends about things that matter. She tells me she feels lonely at times, but she has found a few great friends who connect with her on that deeper level.
That day I came across a blog post by Hands-Free Mama, Heather Macy Stafford entitled: Tether Yourself: The Enlightening Talk Parents Aren't Having Can Keep Teens from a Damaging Drift. I love the tagline of her blog Letting Go To Grasp What Really Matters. It gave me great hope and reminded me to pay attention more to how I spend my time with my family and myself. Please do check out her website and her programs.
I hope that you are inspired to pay attention too. Please share your stories in the comment section. We are here to support each other on the path.
As for me, I love the feeling of being firmly tethered to what matters. And that second pot of tea is best enjoyed with two free hands getting warmed by a steamy cup while gazing into my daughter's beautiful green eyes.