Checked in for the Holidays

By Crystal Tingle

Just when I thought I wasn’t one of “those” people who always has their nose in cyber world, checked out of reality, I realized rather abruptly that I was deceiving myself. It happened one evening as I was winding down and my sweet little eight-year-old chatterbox was not.  As I scrolled through social media, he was telling me one of his precious “endless” stories from his overactive imagination. “What would you do if I had hair so long it could wrap around a human and it could grow? It would wrap around them like Spider-Man’s web…kind of like a sneak attack. You know how he grabs them up and wraps his web around them, but it would be hair.”  I robotically replied, “Oh wow, that’s great my love…that would be something!” With one raised eyebrow that has become his signature look in our family and his little half-cocked droopy lip that he does, he said with a sigh, ”You aren’t listening to me. You are always on your phone!” 

Is this true? Could this be me? I know better. I mean, I can justify my behavior, for Pete’s sake! I have to use social media because of my business. It is how you drive traffic to your website, right? It is an integral, indispensable part of the cyber business world! Or is it? Yes, it is true it is important when you are striving for top rankings and driving traffic, but there is also this other “cyber social world” phenomenon called “checking in” that we might want to redefine. 

You have seen it…so-and-so just checked in to ABC Restaurant, or so-and-so just checked in to XYZ Gym.  I personally don’t do this, with the exception of a few favorite stores that offer me a discount if I do. But still, it got me thinking…how can we be so checked in when it comes to the wood, hay and straw of this world that will burn away, but be so checked out from the treasure that will last forever, our family? I stepped back to take an honest look at myself to evaluate how  “checked in” I really am with my family.

I am not writing this as one who is fully checked in. Trust me; I am walking through this myself but I want to do better. I want to use this holiday season to be not only “plugged in” but also truly “checked in” with my loved ones. I am hoping that if I can be somewhat successful with this through the business of the holidays, then I will be able to carry this over into those just ordinary days year round.  I want them to know in those moments of time that matter to them, whether it’ s a school performance, a conversation about a new crush, a fictional story about “what if” from an 8-year-old or a great day at work for my husband, I want them to know that in that moment of time, they have my undivided attention!  

The hardest part of this all was the self discovery that what I truly believed I was already doing I, in fact, fell short by miles! How many times have I said to one of my boys as they were trying to tell me something, “Keep talking but walk with me over here” as I tried to maximize these moments by tackling a load of clothes or emptying the dishwasher while I listened, or worse…checked email or social media?  Does this sound familiar? I challenge you to become keenly aware when you are in those moments to take note. 

Try sitting with one of your children who really DOES want to talk to you (mothers of teens know what I mean) and try to stay focused on them and them alone.  Watch where your mind wonders while they are talking. Watch where your eyes roam. Watch your body posture if you can even sit still long enough to not grab your phone or tackle that pile of clothes that you see as an opportunity while you are listening.   You will be shocked! When we really become self aware of what we do, we realize how short we actually fall in giving our spouse and children the honor, respect and value they deserve.

I don’t have a five-point how-to list to help with being better at “checking in” with your loved ones, but I do have homework for you. The next moment the opportunity presents itself and one of your children want to chat, say this to them before allowing them to continue: “You are so incredibly important and special to me and you deserve my undivided attention in this moment.”  Why? Because what this does, secondly, after you have first officially freaked them out, is hold you accountable for following through with the value you have just placed on them.  Consider your public admission of intent to them the same as your social media check-in button. Once it’s clicked, you have officially entered the building!  And more importantly, everyone knows where to FIND you, especially your family…checked in to hear their heart and treat them like the valuable treasure they are!

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