I want you to do an experiment the next time that you are in a restaurant. At some point during your meal, stop and take a look at the other patrons around you. How many of them are eating alone? Probably not many. Now, for the ones who are there with friends, families, business consultants, etc., how many of them are looking at their mobile device and not at the person who is sitting directly across from them? I bet the number is much higher than those patrons who are there and eating by themselves. Chances are many of you had to put down your own mobile device to perform this experiment. If that is the case, make sure to count yourself too.
I’m as guilty as the next guy. My device gives me a notification buzz every time that I get an e-mail. When that happens, my instinct is to grab my phone out of my pocket and check the message, regardless of where I am and what I am doing. 9 times out of 10, it’s a useless e-mail that I either throw away or respond to later. I joke with my wife that I need to program my phone to just inform me of the “important” e-mails but, in honesty, I just need to stop. Many times, I’m sitting across the table from a beautiful woman and there I am looking at a digital screen. The 20 year old version of myself would have died for this opportunity and here the 40 year old version is taking it for granted, opting instead to read about the latest job opportunities posted in my area. The 20 year old version thinks I’m an idiot.
The art of being social has become very skewed in the past 10 years. Knowing how to speak to a person and have a congenial conversation has been replaced by knowing how to find out how the person’s day was from posts on Instagram or Facebook. Technology has been a great asset in connecting us with a far, wider range of people all throughout the world but it has diminished our ability to communicate face to face. Right now (if you’re still reading) you’re all saying to yourself, “OK, TeenDad. We’ve read it before and we get it. What’s this have to do with your kid?”. Well, it has to do with the impact that food has on all of us.
Remember growing up and going out to eat? It was (and still is) a big deal for some. My dad worked a later shift when I was growing up so it was always special when our family went out to eat and had a chance to be together. Memories of shooting straw papers at your siblings, toddlers at other tables making us laugh by asking for beer, and me falling through the front window of a restaurant (yes, this happened) have just produced smiles on the faces of three people that read this blog; my mom, dad and sister. All families have memories like these; heart-warming remembrances from holiday dinners to favorite restaurants to weekly family potlucks where everyone brought a pie. Before the smartphone, our social lives centered around food.
I want Cam to experience what we had. Sure, it will be different because of technology but these opportunities are still going to be there. Social-eating is such an important part of being a teenager and it’s something that I don’t want him to miss out on. Gatherings at family and friends houses are important for him, a chance for him to make his own memories to smile about when he gets older. Thus, we ask questions and we continue to advocate. We want the restaurants to know who we are and to think about their standards every time we walk through their doors. We want to continue to show newly diagnosed people that there are good recipes out there and provide them with homemade food that blows their mind and shatters the misconception that all gluten-free food tastes terrible. We want our family and friends to learn more during this Celiac Awareness Month and to not be afraid to invite us to their homes because of Cam’s condition. He’s a smart kid who knows his own parameters of safety. So, let’s again use food to be social. Learn about his condition. Ask him questions. He’ll be happy to answer them over a meal if you want, as long as you put down the phone.