STAFF: This winter, let’s value family time — iPad-obsessed cousins and all

A typical holiday dinner overrun by devices is becoming the alarming reality of our digitally-focused world. Photo courtesy of Sam Spratt & Gizmodo, adapted from a painting by Norman Rockwell.

March 13th, 2020, was perhaps the most textbook example of a Friday the 13th: schools shut down, businesses closed their doors, and people around the world were thrown into isolation.

Three weeks quickly turned into three months and once that initial thrill and eeriness of quarantine faded, only familiar faces remained. Over the course of the lockdown, people not only learned more about their families — an inevitable byproduct of endless game nights or forced conversations — but also came to appreciate them as individuals. 

They became more tolerant to the quirks, triggers, and interests in their families that they might have never recognized before. Talking out issues and offering each other support in light of a time so unprecedented and trying were hallmarks of the intimacy that the pandemic inspired — or forced, depending on who you ask. 

As restrictions began to loosen, so did that connection people had worked so hard to forge. People made an effort to visit friends, dine at restaurants, plan parties. Everything but continue to value their family. 

As the holiday season approaches, it’s important to not lose sight of that sense of appreciation and intimacy found during the lockdown. Though restrictions won’t force people to spend time together, it needs to be a conscious effort that everyone partakes in: valuing the people closest to us who often become invisible amidst the blindfolds of life.

And it’s moments like a holiday dinner with the entire family that truly can capture that novel feeling. Gathered around the table — like clockwork — it’s as if nothing has changed since last time:

Dad hurries back and forth from the table to the kitchen, mumbling to himself about how dry the ham will be sitting out uncovered. 

Your younger brothers wrestle each other for the TV remote, prompting a flurry of snatching and punching.

Your little cousin buries his nose into an iPad, sticky fingers violently tapping at the screen as Baby Shark plays for the hundredth time on repeat.  

Mom greets another aunt at the door who mentions how cold it is, to which she begins her routine speech on climate change: “polar bears dying … ice caps melting …” We’ve heard it all before.

Your older cousin introduces his new girlfriend like he does every year — this one is a vegan nurse he met at a bar last month. (Maybe it’ll last this time?) 

Your aunt announces loudly that she couldn’t afford any gifts this year, citing the pandemic but forgetting to mention the new BMW parked in her garage. 

Your uncle gestures to different members of the family, bombarding them with the dreaded “You’ve gotten so thin!” and “Got a girlfriend yet?”

Your older liberal cousin awakens from her phone after hearing grandpa go on about “making America great again.”

Grandma pushes tousled blonde hair from her eyes as she gives her sporadic, random nuggets of wisdom to you — who knew phones cause diabetes?

From the chaos to the chatter, spending time with family during the holidays might be humorous, headache-inducing, or — on occasion — heartwarming. Regardless, we should make a conscious effort to reinvent that intimacy and connection we found over the course of the pandemic.  

This holiday season, let’s remember what this time of year would truly be incomplete without: candlelit dinners with Baby Shark playing gently in the background. 

While Aryav Bothra wrote this staff editorial, its contents represent the opinions & viewpoints of the staff as a whole.

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