Reconnect with Your Family: Have a Hotdog
You may have seen the commercial on TV. A dad comes home, weary after a hard day of work. He goes from room to room to check in on various members of the family. One kid is plugged into his music. A couple more are playing a video game. His wife is on the computer. No one says hello. So he goes into the basement and throws the switch to cut off the power in the house. Black out. Shift scenes. He’s grilling hotdogs and the whole family is having fun around the picnic table in the yard. “How come the neighbors’ lights are still on?” asks one observant kid. Dad just shrugs. A voiceover says, “Our hotdogs: A great way to reconnect with your family.” Cut!
Marketing execs are paid big bucks to figure out how to tap into shared human experience that resonates. The ad is a testament to an increasing sense of general longing for connection in the middle of electronic connectivity. Hotdogs with family around a picnic table, talking and laughing together, speaks to the basic human need to gather those we love around us, to share our stories, to be “us” for awhile. “Yeah,” we think to ourselves. “That’s what’s missing. I think I’ll have another hotdog.”
Those of us who are of grandparenting age remember a time when there was one phone in the house that may even have been on a party line. We had to wait in line, not only behind our siblings and parents but also behind the chatty neighbor who was constantly on the phone. Fast-forward only 50 years and every family member has his or her own phone. Parents remember when TV shows happened at a particular time on a particular day. If you wanted to see the current episode of your favorite sitcom, you had to hope that the rest of the family agreed. Fast-forward only 25 years and each member of the family can access any show at any time on their individual computer.
Grandparents and parents developed skills in negotiation and compromise because they had to share. They have memories of the feelings of warmth and togetherness that come with shared experience because it was a natural part of daily life. Those memories are a touchstone for what “family” means. Will this next generation even get it?
Not if we don’t start cutting off the power.
This is not to malign the use of electronics. Indeed, I’m using a computer now to write this story. It’s to affirm that “everything,” in the words of my wise grandmother, “has its place.” One of the great challenges faced by parents today is figuring out how to balance what the newest and latest technology can do for us as individuals with what is needed by the family. Parents who still have memories of the family intimacy that came naturally with having to manage daily life are now charged with creating opportunities for that same shared experience. It’s not a small thing.
Let’s face it. We’re all too busy. Many of us are tired and stressed. It’s just plain easier to let everyone go off into their own corners after supper. Everyone seems happy enough to be texting, Facebooking, playing video games, or watching on-demand TV. We like to get lost in our email and social media as much as the next guy. Oops! It’s suddenly 8:00 or 9:00 and time to get everyone off to bed. Where did the evening go? The result of this slide into the media zone is that the average American child spends only three to five minutes per day in meaningful conversation with a parent! Surely we can do better than that.
How to reconnect (with or without hotdogs):