Some of our recent product posts bear the mottos, “America, take your children back” and “America, take your families back”. While the intent is clear to some, it provokes questions from others.
Just “what” do we take our children “back” from?
The short answer is to take our children and families back to a time when home and family were positive, nurturing atmospheres. Take them back from the realm of negative influences by offering better. Nothing has ever been perfect. People never are. But for those who traversed enough decades to know what has been lost -- what millions have never experienced -- the perspective warrants some dialogue.
I roll back to a time in my early childhood. Family time at my maternal grandmother’s was some of the most memorable in the collective lives of that part of my extended family -- grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins gathered often at grandma’s kitchen for a generous meal. The food was great but the laughter was greater. With a couple of natural comedians in the group, we were always assured of side-splitting outbreaks of laughter. Memories were built. On a smaller scale, the same thing happened at home daily, even without the comedians. We ate together. Most of the time.
It was fun.
It was supposed to be just another one of those great get-togethers. But something new was there. My grandmother, in the intervening week, had obtained her first television set. It was just a black and white screen, and the device sat on a wheeled cart in the adjacent sitting room for her pleasure. BUT. She had already become hooked on some stupid soap opera, and it was “time” for the day’s episode.
Grandma opened the door connecting the large kitchen to the sitting room, wheeled the cart around so the screen faced the kitchen, and informed everyone there must be silence for the next 30 minutes. Silence for the next 30 minutes.
Faces fell. Anguished looks exchanged between kids. No one was sure how serious this was. The sounds of forks and glasses clinking without the veil of talk and laughter was uncomfortable.
But it was serious. Not just because every meal now began, on most occasions, with 30 minutes of silence instead of the profoundly bonding discussion and laughter, but because it killed the tone for the rest of the occasion.
Over time this pattern was repeated in nearly all households, to various extremes. Eventually it got worse. Where there used to be one television in a home, there came to be more in other rooms, so teens, in particular, never came out. Later video games killed eye contact between parents and kids, everyone had different schedules, if any schedule at all, and taking meals together became a thing of the past. Whatever happened to reading books to children at bedtime, or the countless other uses of the waking hours between sleep, school, work, and errands?
Take the nightmare of earbuds which plagues us in all venues. Parents trying to quip a remark or joke to kids in the car are met with stony silence. In an emergency even a warning is lost. Music no longer brings people together, it separates them.
Meanwhile. Mental health issues have escalated. That is heavily documented and there are so many studies on the subject they stumble over each other. The more hours spent on media outlets the less contact there is between family members. The most crucial losses are those between parents and children. The opportunity to pass on values, traditions, history, to keep the doors open for communication in times of crisis -- all those go by the wayside. The tech-oriented schools just made things worse. And “phones” were the coup-de-grace. Parents no longer raise their children, they respond to whatever else is raising them in their place.
Everything separates us, even to the individual screens in front of airline passengers. Fly overseas on a nine-hour flight, or longer, and there is no conversation. We were not better off when they introduced just one screen with one “chosen” movie. At least we had one common movie to talk about, if we watched it at all. We were better off when there were no films being shown; we found other things to do, and so did our kids. Often we read, or colored together. Or talked.
We have lost our connections. We’ve replaced the ones that matter with things that don’t. We’ve given up our children and the only way to take them and our families back is one hour at a time, one decision at a time, and start making a difference. Now. Today.