… because we’re actually together, not just sitting at the same table.

Ryan was home for Thanksgiving, and as part of Operation Make The Most Out of Having My Entire Family Together for a Few Days, the four of us went out to dinner early Saturday evening.

After we put in our drink orders, I got up to wash my hands. On my way to the washroom, I passed a mom and two kids at a table near the back of the restaurant. The kids were a boy and a girl, probably about 8 and 12. The mom appeared to be in her late 30s. I noticed that she wasn't wearing a wedding ring. I wondered if she was divorced, and this was part of her weekend with the kids.

The boy was holding a Nintendo DS up, furiously smashing the buttons. The girl was wearing headphones, and watching something on a device that was either an iPod or iPhone. The woman, who I assumed was their mother, looked sad and resigned. My heart ached for them all, as I passed them.

When I got back to our table, I put my arm around Nolan and hugged him.

"What was that for?" He said.

"For coming out to dinner with us, and actually being here. It really means a lot to me that we're actually together, and not just sitting at the same table."

"Uhhh, okay," he said.

I kissed the top of his head. "I love you."

"Okay, Wil," he said, not unkindly, "I love you too."

He and Ryan shared one of those "Wil's being sentimental again" looks that I've seen so often over the last decade or so.

Nolan stage whispered to Ryan, "He is so weird."

I looked over at Ryan. "I'm so glad you're home."

"Me too."

Anne and I shared one of those "we sure do have an awesome family" looks that we've shared so often over the last decade or so.

37 thoughts on “… because we’re actually together, not just sitting at the same table.”

  1. I love that you love being an awesome parent, no matter how cheesy it may seem to your kids. My mom is the same way, and I love it. I hope one day, I can be the same awesome kind of mom she is <3

  2. I’ll be flying home to Germany to be with my parents around Christmas again, not because any of us are Christians (my parents are still members of the local church and will go on Xmas because that’s the done thing but it’s more lip service than anything else) but because it’s nice to sit around one table, sharing stories, going through their and my photos on their new laptop and so forth.
    There’s traditional food (carp, venison, poultry) I often help cook, my mum’s awesome Xmas cookies and Stollen (a particular kind of fruitcake).
    I’m actually glad my parents aren’t internet savvy enough to communicate more regularly or in a more sophisticated way than phone and email because it means we actually have something to talk about.
    When I meet up with friends around here, everybody knows what everybody else has been up to due to livejournal, facebook and/or twitter. It’s indeed a bit sad.

  3. I love the story and it’s so true. That’s why every time my daughter gets in arm reach she gets a hug and on the top of the head. Though she is convince now that she is almost 10 she is too big for it.

  4. I love that story. As “plugged in” as my husband and I are (even our two year old for that matter), meal time is for our family and no devices allowed. Not even when we go out to eat, that is our time to reconnect with each other.

  5. I think that is why I love gaming so much. Nothing like bad mouthing with my older brother and teaching my nieces bad habits. I only get once every couple of years with them so they get hugs and loves even if they squirm.

  6. I worked in a group home for behavioral kids for almost 3 years, and the most heard comment was parents saying, “They can’t hide behind the TV, or their iPods” because they were not allowed in the facility. No TV, no iPods, no music that we couldn’t hear also. Kids simply cannot communicate with their parents. We play cards with them, etc, but technology is, well, almost forbidden. When they transition back home we encourage a ”back to basics” say where no tech is allowed. Its a sad state of the world when kids can’t talk to their parents or even have a meal with them while looking them in the eye

  7. I’m 24…definitely not too old for the hug and the kiss on the top of the head. I am also not too old to snuggle with Mom on the couch while watching BBT (that is, when I get to see her). She’s cozy!

  8. Some of us spent the holidays mashing buttons on video games out of sheer self-defense. It would have been a big improvement if my parents had embarrassed me by being sane-but-mushy in public. Happy holidays to y’all!

  9. I love reading your stories about your children. I’m a stepparent myself, and it feels like it has learning curve, and you’re a wonderful example of how to do parenting right, so thank you

  10. Gotta admit, I’m happy for ya. I’ve seen the opposite side of that happiness you had tonight and it wasn’t pretty. I can only hope I can have such a good family when I get one going. Good post, for sure.

  11. I’m 50 years old, and I lost my mom quite suddenly last month. I’d give anything to be able to have her walk up and give me a squeeze and a peck on the top of the head.
    But…I know what it was like when she did, and I’ll always have that.
    I’m really happy for you and your family.

  12. Our favorite phrase is,
    “Love you. Don’t ever forget!”
    They like to act as if it’s embarrassing them, but we can tell they secretly like it. My two older kids tolerate my hugs (with a goofy grin), and my 7yo son greets me at the door each night with a bear hug and a – “I missed you so much today, mommy!”
    Besides, aren’t they our retirement plan? ;-)

  13. Great stuff Wil. I feel the same way everytime I get a chance to see my nephew. He is 2 now and he will always get a hug from his geek uncle. Keep up the great work and thanks for inspiring me to pick up the pen again and start writing

  14. I do feel sorry for that family you saw in the restaurant. I confess at dinner today I was on the computer, but it was a last minute sort of thing before my mum and I went to buy groceries.
    I’m twenty and definitely not too old for hugs and kisses from my parents!

  15. Nice one again, Wil. Thank you!
    It reminded me; in a couple of weeks, perhaps around Christmas, I’ll go back home (Netherlands) to my mum because my awesome stepdad has to undergo some serious heart surgery. They both are almost 80 years old, it will be a stressful time for both of them. I’ll try to be as good a daughter to them as you are a father to your family.

  16. They are lucky to have you in their lives. The older my parents get, the more I cherish these kinds of moments. My dad is nearly 70, and well, you know… Got to hold on to them while you still have them. Thank you for this sweet story, Wil.

  17. Like, that was so great to read. Ryan and Nolan are so lucky to have you and you are so lucky to have them in your life. Cherish all the precious moments you have with them Wil. You maybe only a stepfather, but you raised them as if they are your own and I think deep down they know that you do what you had to to protect them from danger. At least you didn’t get the roll of the eyes when you kissed him on the head and told him that you loved him. LOL. Right?

  18. If this was a facebook status, I would like this so many times. (Well, I’d like it, then unlike it, then like and unlike it again, over and over until you had about 10 notifications telling you how much I like this).
    I am now all warm and fuzzy inside from reading this :)

  19. I totally get that! I have a 16-yr-old stepdaughter and love her to pieces! I constantly tell her how much I love her and how proud I am of her. She knows how much I cherish the time that her dad and I get with her. And she will check first to see if we mind that she uses her phone or iPod when we’re together. LOL!

  20. I remember some of the first meals out with my dad after my parents divorced… that was just weird.
    Christmas is interesting now, we all try to get home (my parents live in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I’ve lived in Glasgow for about a year and a half, my older sister moved to Oxford recently and my younger brother to London in September. Just my youngest bro left). My dad can come down and see us in the morning of Christmas day, but his wife gets pissy if he stays too long.
    She’s not very nice.

  21. Love it. What a great story.
    I am trying to instill in my family/kids the value of being ‘present’ in the moment with people and not getting caught up in some video game or watching some ipod/iphone. My kids don’t do that at restaurants or events and we enjoy each other’s company. It will mean much more to them when they grow up and start families of their own, but for now it is enough that my wife and I are getting a lot out of it now.
    Thanks for sharing, Wil

  22. When I was young my mother and I would hug each other, and she’d put her chin on my head and kiss the top of my head. I’ve grown a wee bit, and now when we hug I put my chin ontop of her head and kiss the top of her head. It’s wonderful to be able to return a small sliver of the affection I received when I was younger.

  23. I feel that the stage whispered “They’re being weird again,” is the sign of a healthy family. At least that’s what I tell myself because it sure happens in mine.
    I’m giving you one of those “Wil wrote something awesome again” looks over the magic of the interwebs.

  24. Wonderful story! I spent four days with my brother’s family this Thanksgiving and my 7 year old nephew was practically glued to his DS the entire time. Thankfully I was able to get it away from him a few minutes here and there so we could spend time playing with action figures or pull a few pranks on his older sister. But I was pleasantly surprised when he asked me to read a book with him one evening which I think was 100 times more valuable than video games. I’m all for playing games and it is cool to see that he’s following in the footsteps of his former Nintendo geek uncle, but sometimes, you just need to put the electronics away…
    As I feel my middle age approaching I’ve been accepting the fact that for one reason or another, I may never end up settling down and having children myself, so that young lad may be the closest I ever come to being a father. I try my best to be a positive role model in his life, especially after knowing what schmucks most of my uncles are. ;)

  25. Agreed. Very sad day for humanity on the whole when we tune each other out in favor of technology (even more so when the person being tuned out is family).
    I must be old. I just don’t understand kids today. :(

  26. First, let me say I am so very sorry for your loss. It’s always a shock, especially when unexpected.
    I can commiserate with you; a daddy’s girl all my life, I lost him two years ago (I’m 44, he was 62). I too would give anything for him to be here again.
    I just wish kids could understand that how they feel NOW (embarrassed) does not equate to how they may feel later (missing out). If they would just accept it in the manor it is intended when given …

  27. I’m sorry for the way your step-mother handled that situation. It’s never a good way to treat family members. Just because it involves relationships developed before she was on the scene, doesn’t mean she should diminish or ruin it any way.
    Just my two cents with several “steps” in my life.

  28. As my husband was taught by his step-father…”Steps are what you put in front of your house, not in front of your children.”
    All kids that have passed thru our house over the years have been treated as if they were mine…because they were-at least for a time. Biology doesn’t matter-love does. The only reason I ever introduced my 16 year old step-daughter as a step, was because no one ever believed her to be mine-I may be in my 30’s but everyone always says I look in my 20’s-so only looking 6 years older, makes the parental role a bit hard to swallow.
    But then again, I can rock the ‘mom’ tone with the inclusion of her full middle name-so it all works out.
    heck the ‘mom’ tone helps me at work too… ;D
    Keep up the weirdness…that’s how you know you’re doing the parent thing right…

  29. Very sad when people isolate themselves electronically like that. My wife and I both have DS’s and laptops, I have an iPod Touch. We share games when we’re out, for example, playing extreme level Sudoku while waiting for food. But usually we have more than enough things to talk about that it’s not a problem. Of course, if a new Bujold or Weber book comes out, all bets are temporarily off.

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