Trust me, despite the title, this article has a point. I grew up in the 1970s. As a child, it was fantastic. The TV shows were classic – Bugs Bunny gave such joy on Saturday mornings; and the movies were filled with tough guys who chased people in fast and epic cars. We spent all day outside playing war, tag, street hockey, football, riding our bikes and otherwise staying out until curfew “when the streetlights came on.”
We also had a lot of family time. We all ate dinner together, played board games, slept on the floor on Friday nights and watched movies. One memory is that of my dad making popcorn on many of those occasions. Looking back, we ate A LOT of popcorn. It just seemed to go with whatever we were doing.
I have specific memories of my dad lugging out the Wagner Ware sauce pot that was solid metal and seemed to weigh 30 pounds. He would set it on the stove, throw in a ton of real butter, and then add popcorn kernels that, from what I could tell, were measured exactly with his skilled eye. Failing to add the last three kernels would ruin the batch so they always got added.
The pot would heat up, and I would stand right next to my dad and wait with such anticipation for the sound of the first one to pop. This came only after several proprietary “slide stirs” and the infamous “thumbs over the lid with a lift-and-toss.” What a chef! After the first bang, the rapid succession was like machine-gun fire in an alley, and we had to defend the city. Soon enough, the top of the lid would rise just enough for us to see the blossomed popcorn inside. Those three extra kernels were crucial after all.
When that was done, out came the popcorn bowl. This bowl had no purpose in its life other than to hold exact proportions of my dad’s popped popcorn: classic ’70s yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Oh, man, we were getting close. A little salt, maybe more butter and we were off. We scarfed that stuff down like birds at a worm party. All the while we looked for those elusive short comers that never quite fully popped but were awesome toasted crunchers.
My point in this is that those days seem to be gone. Not the ’70s, of course – we’re all glad they’re gone. I’m talking about the quality time. I often hear about work-life balance and the insatiable quest for it. I always assumed the concern was more about quantity than quality of time at home. Just so long as we are home, it doesn’t matter what we are doing. But we have our faces in something electronic so much more than we think. It’s a quick check of emails here, a text there, a fast Facebook update here, and a short YouTube video there. It adds up more than you might think.
The other day, I watched a couple eat lunch “together.” During the entire meal they did nothing but text someone else. I wanted to suggest they switch and invite the person on the other end of the phone next time. Then there is the commercial where a child’s electronic device is touted for its ability to shut off after a designated length of time. That’s a nice feature, but the time used in the illustration was six straight hours! I cringed. By way of another example, we had dinner the other day with friends and their son. That child played non-stop on some game. After dinner the mom praised the child for being so well behaved. Really? What discipline or training did he actually demonstrate?
Even in my own home, our kids have labeled me a fascist dictator when I declare “electronics-free Sunday” so we can watch a movie, play a game, walk the dog or get outside. That is apparently cruel and unusual punishment. Someone call Department of Child Services.
So, I suppose that this is the part where you ask me for the solution I found that allows me to experience the bliss of family interactions as depicted in that awful show “Full House.” Well, it’s simple: I have no clue. And the reason I have no clue is because it’s such a pervasive problem and everyone both inside and outside our family wants their devices. I need email to make sure the business is fine. My wife needs Facebook because her friend who lives in another state just had a baby and that is the only way she will get an update. Our kids need to text because that’s what the other kids do and none live in our neighborhood. Moreover, despite our offers to drive them, no one wants to go outside. If they do go, then it’s inside that other kid’s house and right to “Grand Theft Auto.”
I think most of us realize that a problem exists. I think, however, we miss the gravity of the problem. Think hard: What will your kids remember about their childhood – high scores on “Call of Duty” or “iFunny,” or you and time with popcorn?•
Mr. Massaro is the owner of The Massaro Law Group in Fishers and is a member of the DTCI board of directors. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.