A dinner date with the child

Nishrith Echo
Sunday, 24 June 2018

In a world engulfed in technology, we are increasingly losing out on interpersonal communication with family and friends. We can probably take small significant steps towards bringing that back

It was one of those interesting conversations that my wife and I decided to have with our six-year-old son during meals. We ensure that our meals are always on a dining table without any interfering devices, so that we can have more conversation and interaction with each other. 

Life has become busier in the cities these days with both parents working to make a decent living for themselves and their children. Early mornings, long days and late nights have left us with only those hopeful Sundays for spending time with our children. And that is also the day when servicing of car, grocery buying, inviting colleagues for dinner, visiting/hosting relatives and many other activities are awaiting our attention. The lazy Sunday that we always dream of, actually becomes a much more hectic day, thus validating our weekly ‘Monday morning blues’.

This kind of lifestyle also seems to lead us more towards Westernisation — interaction with children becoming more formalised, personal space taking over mutual comfort and cautious and cordial approach being the way, even among the closest siblings. “It’s been really long that I have seen a beautiful sunrise sipping a hot cup of tea on a cold cosy morning,” was a sentiment often heard during a lunch break in office. 

It struck a chord. Something needed to be done about it and immediately. It was then that we decided to have these interactive meals with our son — at least once a day (usually dinner, that being the time when we could all sit together after our day at office/school). Initially it appeared to be a compulsion to my son, but a little bit of creativity and pestering helped us overcome it.

One day I asked my son, “Would you stay alone with your grandparents without us?”. He instantly replied, “Yes I will, just allow me to keep that good mobile phone of yours.”

I looked at my wife, and she looked at me. Coming from modest backgrounds and brought up with strong cultural bonding, we both were thinking of the same thing — has the mobile taken over our child? 

So I decided to raise the difficulty level with him and asked him, “Is it fine if we send you to a boarding school?

Without blinking an eyelid, he replied, “Yes sure, they would be allowing a mobile phone there too, right?”

And that is what got us looking into so many aspects of the way we are leading our lives. What a vicious circle we are in! We work long hours giving our best to have a decent living for our families, buy branded things to match our status, get work at home to meet deadlines, probably get more work for doing good work and end up spinning the same wheel over and over again. But is the materialistic progression happening at the cost of own values, closeness and love?

Today, acquisitive possessions are leading the world. An iphone owner may have a superiority complex over other brands. The restaurants we eat at, the cars we drive, the watches we wear and the mobiles on which we thrive, matter more. The people we go out with aren’t our closest of friends, family members or the ones who would really stand by us in times of need. A place with no wi-fi doesn’t find many takers. The world is shrinking with our fast travel options, but many children barely meet their grandparents for years.

It is more incumbent on us as parents to introspect. A small step back is probably the need of the hour. It will not prevent us from achieving our best, owning the brand of our choice or striving for the moon; it will just keep us grounded at all times. Maybe ‘one dinner date’ with your child is that small step.

We must all get some time for ourselves, time to rest, time to read or even watch a soccer game. Some things that were developed to make us independent have actually taken away our freedom and even gone a step forward and become a status symbol. The time that parents could use to ask their child on his/her school and activity classes is now preferred by them and their children to be spent on looking at a glowing screen. The relationship of my son with the mobile phone is just an example of the technology which is binding us into a web. But it got me thinking on many far-reaching effects of it. 

‘One dinner date’ is my small way of trying want to enrich interaction with my son and keep him grounded on the values and morals that we grew up with, even while he takes his own leap to fly high.

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