The Memorial Day Weekend Experiment

So, you’re out at the playground with your kids, or visiting a museum or even sitting with them at the breakfast table and there’s that urge to check your email, read the latest Twitter, text a friend, etc. You can do it fairly subtly these days. A brief glance at the device in your lap, so that it’s not so readily apparent as putting a phone to your head. It only takes a moment or so of time, so what’s the big deal?

Has this ever happened to you?

Personally, it’s a perpetual temptation. Sometimes I wish I’d never gotten that cellphone that receives email. Boy, do I check it more than I should. I initially programmed the phone to send a signal every time a new email came in and by the end of the day I was worse than a Pavlovian dog.

We live in this crazy world where multitasking is expected, where our food is sugared up, where a million and one things are grabbing at our attention, so that we can’t spend too much time focusing on any one thing. We are now busier than we’ve ever been before. More information. More ways to connect with people. More of everything.

Are we happier?

For me, it’s a deep struggle. I really want to be PRESENT with my kids when I’m with them. Yet, more often than not, the mental stimulation of being around them is so lacking that I find myself craving to read the NYTimes on my phone while simultaneously keeping an eye on my boys as they take a bath or glancing at my email while walking my elder son to preschool. I look around and see that I’m not alone in this. I see moms and dads in restaurants, at the playground, texting, emailing, twittering, while taking care of their kids. Are we really with our kids when our brains are sucked into our iphones or blackberries or even the newspaper? And what’s this teaching them? That it’s okay not to be present in our lives?

Obviously, we can’t disconnect ourselves with the world or be left out – or can we? Is it possible to carve a balance? I’m going to try a simple experiment over this Memorial Day Weekend. No twitter. No texting. No email checking until after the kids have gone to bed. No cell phone usage unless it’s something relating to close friends or family. So, if you need to reach me, don’t be surprised by the delay.

Better yet, if what I’m writing about strikes a chord, I welcome you to try it as well. Let’s make this Memorial Day Weekend into what it should be about: direct contact with those we care about the most.

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