Just the other day outside of a grocery store I saw what many would describe as a traditional American family: Mom and Dad, teenage boy, and teenage girl. Memories of a not too distant past entered my mind. You know a family running their errands. How many times had we been there and done that? If you’re like me or many of my childhood friends, the answer is too often to recall specifics about individual trips because nothing seemed out of the ordinary. It was a natural occurrence and while not said and really not understood to the same degree as today, we all appreciated the outings together in our own ways.
While nostalgia compromised my vision as memories flooded my brain, my senses did pick up upon something different between yesteryear and today. Yesteryear, my friends and I with our respective families were together on similar outings. We were aware of each individual. We interacted verbally and at times physically with that little push or making a face at a sibling. The adults engaged each other in conversation, albeit at times the oratory tones had the sounds of aggravation or even anger at the other. The children felt that parental eye upon them as an act thought hidden from notice drew a quick retort in some form or another.
Today was different. The family may have been in close physical proximity to one another, but they were not together. One adult had a phone attached to an ear while the other looked down at their phone with their thumbs pulsating at frightening speed as they texted someone else. One child reminded me of a crawfish walking as the teen’s eyes focused entirely on the small screen in their hands which they thrust to and fro with their intense focus on the electronic game. The other child with headphones on fidgeted with a little clip on device with wire protruding attached to their pants pocket nonchalantly.
Some friends contend that the differences are relative to time and place. I’ll stipulate that I accept the contention that the world is a different place today. Honestly I think every generation can make that claim, but here I’ll simply agree with you. We can jaw about all the problems today which did not exist yesterday (even if they did we can forget our ignorance for the time being). We can blame whomever and whatever for any and everything we don’t like. Does it really matter?
Yes I reminisced about the past upon seeing this family. I’ll read multiple articles and hear a number of opinions about the breakup of the traditional family structure and its relation to the ills of society. Heck someone might be reading an article that I wrote on the topic and I know someone is listening or at least pretending to listen to my ramblings today.
You see I believe that children, actually all people, need positive role models and mentors. It’s great when parents are in those roles, but it could be another relative, friend, neighbor, or teacher. One can suffice, but having more than one role model and mentor is really nice. We can emulate. We can communicate. My point is the basic realization that someone cares can be among the greatest of triumphs and the thing which matters the most in handling obstacles one faces on any given day.
Who knows, the adults I saw the other day may be the greatest role models and most loving parents of all time. The fact that it was a man and woman has nothing to do with their qualifications. It could be two men, two women, or a single person. We are too quick to judge family by our own idea of appearance. Perhaps if we thought more of the action and interaction instead of the look we might see the importance of communication and appreciation of being able to spend time together and share experiences.
Technology is fantastic. It opens many doors previously unseen and connects us in ways past generations could barely imagine. Still, a presence far might cause a lack of presence near. Sure we can always associate with like minds regardless of distance, but can we interact and communicate with those who are close irrespective of differences? When being together only refers to physical proximity, but when the reality is that we are alone in that space as our focus is on a distance afar are we actually together?