“When I was your age… (fill in the blank).” We’ve all said it. It usually involves some reference to hardship.

I said it on a recent drive to my brother’s lake house. Mine went a little something like this: “When I was your age, my brothers and sister and I endured looong car trips every summer. And the air-conditioning was a bit lacking – no vents in the back seats of our blue station wagon. We would fight for a spot in hopes of just a few wisps of coolness to come our way.”

I think my comment was spurred by someone being hot. Or could have been the motel we passed that reminded me of our family’s August car-trip-vacations. It was a scary motel, covered in dark wood siding. Each of It’s 10 rooms had tiny little window units and metal doors that led to the smoldering parking lot. Still, that dinky parking lot did have a pool. Which reminded me of how excited we would get to be able to stay at a motel with a parking-lot pool – especially if it had a slide.

“Yeah, we didn’t stay at swanky resorts when were your age. AND we didn’t have phones or iPads to entertain us on our summer trips. No. … we looked out the window. Or read comic books until we were carsick.”

By this time I’m sure everyone had tuned me out – but I kept going. “Or we made up games. We mostly bothered each other. And listened to music – whatever my mom chose to play on the 8-track tape player.” By this point I definitely sounded Dark Ages. I kept going, “I think I know every John Denver, Barry Manilow and England Dan & John Ford Coley song.”

No one is listening. They’re lost in their screens.

“I think you guys are missing out. At least look out the window.”

At this point, I took every thing away and made them look out the window. Seriously, there is a lot of entertaining stuff on Texas Highways.

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Apparently, kids really aren’t looking out the window – or at anything without a screen. When we got back from the lake, I saw this slightly depressing ad by Nature Valley that is making the rounds. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a quick view.

But, here’s the deal. Don’t let that ad get you down. We aren’t victims. And we don’t have to discipline those devices out of everyone’s hands (including mine! … just sayin’.)

There are some fun ways to tame technology. Nature is one, relationship is another.

Thanks to our oldest child (18!), board games have re-entered our life. This kid is a gamer, but not all games are on-line. And, one thing about kids (actually all of us), even though they might act like everything techno is great – real life is better. Always.

This summer, in our home, I’ve been watching the beauty of human interaction play out – live & in person. And I didn’t do promote it. Our “gaming” kid did. He enjoys games – but has moved beyond the screen and taken over our dining room table. It’s not internet gaming. But, live, in-person gaming.

I’m embarrassed to admit that when asked by my son to come play a game – I had to force myself. I didn’t want to. I had stuff I needed to do. But, I quickly berated myself, reminding me that when they were little, I would stop everything for a mind-numbing game of Go Fish. What was I thinking saying no?! Seriously, whose young adult kid asks their mother to play a game with them?!

I replied YES and quickly pulled up a seat to our dining room table before he changed his mind. We played a new board game that he had recently purchased.

Splendor

Don’t let the creepy guy on the box fool you, Splendor is fun for the entire family.

News Flash: It was a blast.

We’ve since played every night. Now everyone (ages 8 to, well we don’t need to go there!) has joined in.

Board games are SO great. They’re gaming, but in person. Strategy is involved. Conversation occurs. Laughter floats. People connect. Sure it can bring with it the good, the bad & the ugly of family dynamics. But they keep coming back for more – because it’s fun and relationship.

So rather than be discouraged by technology – let’s tame it a bit. If the kids are stuck on a keyboard or selfie-mode, if they can’t dial down the demand for likes/shares/re-tweets/re-pins … gently guide their attention elsewhere. Let them keep their devices close by, but introduce real-live human interaction that’s engaging and fun rather than a dreaded act of endurance.

Technology/social media isn’t going anywhere. The platforms aren’t so much the problem as our relationship with them is. So why not throw a little live/up-close-and-personal relationship to counter on-line versions. Don’t give up. Then, see what happens. And ask the question (in a nonchalant, genuine sort of way, after the fact): “Which makes you feel better? on-line relationship, where you watch every like and share and try to say or post just the right thing? OR interacting in person?”

The answer has been fairly consistent around our house. From the kids … and from me. Human interaction wins almost every time. (Almost :)

Anyway, thanks for walking the road with me. Here’s hoping we can do it over coffee, in-person some day soon – maybe over a fun game of Splendor or Rummikub.

-Kay

Here’s what we’re playing at our house. PLEASE share what your family loves. (I’ve included links to Amazon for you convenience, but fun games are available everywhere.)

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Splendor, Rummikube, Mexican Train Dominoes, Mille Bornes Card Game, Hedbanz, (there are 2 versions: kids or adult – ages 14+), Sequence, & Chess. The last game – I can’t seem to master. Jack (8) consistently beats me. (I’m not sure what that says about me. Probably that I donated my best brain cells to all these kids, leaving the tired ones for me!) – so, I’ve included puzzles in the picture above. Because I love puzzles for many of the same reasons we’re loving board games.

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