Sunday, November 25, 2012

Priority Time

I have just returned from a thousand mile journey over the river, through North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and through the woods to grandmothers house with my two sons ages 22 and 19. We traveled the distance in a small Toyota to celebrate Thanksgiving and grandma’s 80th birthday.  While trapped in the back seat I had time to reflect on my mother’s 80 years and on research articles I’ve been reading about the amount of time families spend together.  Family time spent together has been declining steadily since the 70’s. We are consumed by our electronic distractions. TV’s in every room and car, smart phones in every pocket, video games and the internet keep us entertained and connected to the world yet often disconnect us from the family members we live with.

My parents believed that family needed priority time. In fact, it was my mother’s life work in ministry to get that message out to families across the country.
My mother believed so strongly that family needed priority time that she and my dad planned summer vacations that would ensure that for six to eight weeks our family would be trapped together in small spaces free from the distractions of work, friends, TV and all modern conveniences.

Some of you may have read previous stories about our cabin in the woods of Nova Scotia (August stories). But the year before we headed to Canada my parents locked us in a station wagon for 8 weeks and drove us from Massachusetts to California and back visiting National Parks along the way.
My father packed his camera and my mother packed her tiny bladder. The combination ensured that we would stop every 30 miles along the way. My dad would stop by the side of the road for beautiful photo opportunities and my mother would stop at yucky gas stations on the side of the road to pee.  Or at least this is what I thought. But now after many road trips with my two sons I now know that my parents really just wanted to get out of the car and away from their children, even if only for a few minutes!
I have a new appreciation for the sacrifices my mother made to ensure our family spent priority time together. Eight weeks in a station wagon listening to your children argue for 6000 miles without the distraction and entertainment of a DVD player, satellite radio, video game, or smart phone is a feat worth honoring with some type of medal of valor.

It is truly amazing that after all the mishaps, mayhem and madness of our family summers (which you can read about in future posts) my siblings and I are still very close. We have escaped from the station wagon and are spread out over a thousand miles but we are tightly bound by the experiences provided by parents who believed that family takes priority time.
So my friends, although I recommend long road trips with your children only to the very brave, I do recommend we all back away from our screens and spend some time with family. Enjoy the mayhem and create the stories that will last for generations.