36 minutes. That’s about how long our family dinners last. And it’s the most important part of my day.
Our family is at an in-between spot with our kids. Harrison, our son, is 14 and Gianna, our daughter, is 12. When they were preschoolers, in our exhaustion, we wanted the days to go faster. But now we are staring at driver’s licenses and college in a few years, so now we want the days to go slower.
In this in-between spot, I have the wisdom of knowing the years fly by and I’m gaining the realization that the next four years are going to move even faster. And it makes me wonder how much I’ll crave these 36 minutes when they’ve both moved out of the house. I suspect when that day comes that I’ll do just about anything to get that time back.
Unfortunately and regrettably, I think I sped up time in the first few years of their lives. I wasn’t always present. I was engulfed in my phone. I put up a screen between us. And that’s why we started Aro: to make sure other Moms and Dads wouldn’t have to tell the same stories.
Because of that, I also know I can slow down time. And the best time to start is at dinner.
When I put my phone out of sight, time slows down. I’m present. I’m engaged. I’m doing the things that I’ll be proud of when they’re out of the house. Those 36 minutes are the best part of my day because we are all there, growing together, opening up, laughing, sharing highs and lows of the day. It sounds a bit romanticized now, but I know how valuable that time will be when I look back on it.
"When I put my phone out of sight, time slows down. I’m present. I’m engaged. I’m doing the things that I’ll be proud of when they’re out of the house."
For parents of young kids, I’m pleading with you. Even if just for family dinner, put your phone out of sight and really engage. It might feel mundane at times, but your future self will be so grateful. Make screen-free dinners part of your family culture.
For parents of teenagers, I’m right here with you. We can look back with wisdom and at the same time look ahead to a near future when we’ll want these 36 minutes back. It’s not too late to slow down time and make screen-free dinners part of your family culture.
For parents of college-age and adult kids, we need you. We need you to teach us the lessons you’ve learned about savoring time with your kids. We need you to keep repeating it over and over again so that it sinks in.
This might sound oversimplified. But it’s not. Try it tonight. And tomorrow. And the next day. And the ones after that.
It just takes 36 minutes.