The Way I See it: The ‘smart’ move is to enjoy family time

Put those smart phones and other electronic devices away and enjoy the Family Day long weekend in B.C.

We can all appreciate a long weekend in February and I hope that those who work weekends are able to get some extra time off to spend with their families. Families come in many forms and no matter what our age we can celebrate that connection we feel to those important to us.

Some may feel every day is family day and it really is, and having a day to have the focus on togetherness just celebrates that. I hope that family members are able to spend the time together enjoying some favourite activities. That may be tobogganing, skating on the outdoor rink, swimming at the pool, hiking in Kal Park, venturing up to Silver Star to enjoy skiing, tubing or snow-shoeing. Or it may be time playing games together, cooking a special meal and enjoying it. For those past the age where those activities are important to them, reach out to a friend or to a stranger and enjoy some time together.

I have been on holidays recently and dining out more often and was somewhat dumbfounded when I would see smart phones present at dining tables. I really chuckled in one situation when we were in this lovely lounge area overlooking the ocean and beautiful grounds. At several tables there were families with kids and everyone, including the little ones, were on smart phones, eating and texting or reading emails, occasionally smiling at each other. Mom and dad would look up and check to see all were accounted for — no fighting, no discussion at all. They were together, sharing a meal on a family holiday. I laughed but I was left wondering about what I perceived as a disconnect due to technology.

As a child I loved family meals and would come running into dinner to see what was being served, but also to be together. As one of six kids it was a time to laugh, learn and connect with my family members. We shared stories of our day and heard about our parents’ days as well.  It was where we learned about manners, sharing, peaceful conflict resolution, food, and many family matters were discussed at the dinner table. We enjoyed conversations about our activities, hopes, politics, our communities, school, friends and futures.

My father’s first language was French and we were growing up in Ontario in a community with few French people and no French immersion programs. My mom would have one night a week where Dad would speak French to us and we would try to learn some basic words.  Perhaps she orchestrated these evenings after a tough day at the hospital and she needed calm because it made for some quiet and funny dinner conversations.

With my own kids I felt the same about the time together, only I have regrets that busy after-school schedules seemed to provide for many family meals shared in the car. I always kept the radio off so we could talk, or I could easily listen to their conversations. Unless of course I wanted to embarrass them and chair dance while driving to work off my meal.

Sometimes we go through periods where the family meals can be times of serious discussion and this can strain the time together. As parents we need to manage this so we are not alienating our kids, and managing the discussions so that meal times are not stressful. Finding other times to have important discussions can take away that stress and also make for more productive discussions. For awhile my son associated us going out to breakfast at a certain restaurant as a time to argue, I laugh now but I didn’t at the time he raised it. He was right and it was easy to change to a more positive experience.

I love family meals, whether with my family or someone else’s. I like the banter, the comfort of familiarity, the conversations, the celebration and recognition of triumphs and challenges. Our families may be related to us through blood, marriage or proximity and all of these are important.

Enjoy this family weekend, and leave the smart phones and tablets off and just enjoy the magic of conversation.

Michele Blais has worked with family and children in the North Okanagan for 29 years. She is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, writing on a variety of issues and appearing every other Sunday.