I have to admit I’m a bit of a of a people watcher – or as I’d rather describe it – a people observer.
I love seeing how people interact with each other, or respond to different things, situations, experiences.
That look of surprise, pleasure, horror, the gasp of indulgence or instantaneous eruption into laughter.
When I was at university my dissertation was on the non-verbal communication of children under the age of five.
I spent several days filming and observing the behaviour of kids at a local kindy – it was indulgent and revealing all at once.
Kids this age are unconditioned – they don’t yet know the social norms of not walking into other people (spatial awareness), or that it’s rude to stare.
They just are, and do.
Such beautiful, naive innocence.
It’s a fascination that’s stuck with me over the years.
Recently, at dinner I was observing a young family. Mun, Dad and a young child.
Mum and Dad were both heads down into their phones… completely absorbed.
The child was also on a device… watching a video, and quite engaged with it, shouting and dancing.
Bits of food came and went – with little engagement between any of them.
The whole meal passed without conversation, engagement or observation.
Maybe it had been a long day of engagement and playing together, who knows?
It reminded me of another time at dinner oberving two completely different families.
One similar to that above with no engagement over the meal or food. Kids on devices.
No communication or interaction.
Another family were so engaged, talking with their kids about the food – what did they want to try?
Not in a pampering, indulgent way – more, have you tried this before? Shall we try that? It might be spicy – could be fun!
When their food came out – they talked about it, swapped, smelled, tasted, laughed, nodded, turned up noses.
Not a device in sight.
Not even to take photos (even I’d struggle with that!)
The kids in both families were about the same age.
But what different experiences.
Again, I know nothing about either family, but it does make you think about how we can engage with each other to make each and every experience so different.
There’s no shortage of research that talks about the benefits of eating together as a family – but that research assumes some sort of engagement too – not just sitting at the same table at the same time.
In reality, the family meal is harder to achieve now with so many demands on everyone’s time.
But when we have that opportunity, maybe it’s worth thinking about how we can make that experience a more mindful one for everyone.