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My Chair Rocks

Why gadgets should be kept during family meals

/ 05:39 AM October 22, 2017

A few days ago someone wrote an ad of sorts asking for the return of decency to our country. I agree 100 percent. But at the same time, I wonder if we know what decency is all about. Do we know what we are looking for?

What is decency?

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The dictionary gives a definition that qualifies it as a rarity—seldom, if ever, found in this day and age.

“Decency” it says, “is behavior that is good, moral and acceptable in society. It is the quality of conforming to standards of propriety and morality.”

Some dictionaries describe it as modesty, honesty, good manners and respect for other people.

The dictionary tells us what it is, but neglects to stress that it must be genuine and unassailable.

I was taught that decency shows in the way we behave, how we move and deal with one another, the way we live our lives, and how we speak.

Good breeding

Many blame irreverent and vulgar (indecent) language on a lack of education, on the absence of good breeding.

And perhaps this leads many to wrongly assume that decency is a virtue of the wealthy. Not true.

Decency has nothing to do with what is in your pocketbook. You can’t buy it. It does not depend on college degrees earned, the homes you own, or the power you wield.

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I know too many who are “mukhang disente,” but it’s all on the surface—for show, that’s all.

I can name several well-heeled individuals, even tycoons and captains of industry, who have zero business ethics, whose word cannot be trusted and whose mouths could stand a good washing with soap. I know well-coiffed and perfumed church-going ladies and gentlemen with impressive backgrounds who don’t even blush in the face of their desperate creditors.

Like it or not, folks, paying debts and honoring obligations are unmistakable marks of decency.

In the frenzy of last week’s hearings on bloggers and other “non journalists,” I came across this little quote from prolific writer Joan D. Chittister. It speaks volumes:

“When I get on the internet and hide behind a false identity, and then allow that hiding to free me from the standards of decency, to begin to use language I would never use in front of my mother, all of a sudden, there’s nothing between me and you, but worse than that, there’s nothing between me and my worst self.”

Baby boom

I was at a baby shower. Yes, another one. My second granddaughter’s baby is due in November. Mariana Sofia will be my ninth great grandchild. It was a happy event. My barangay grows.

Many years ago, our neighbor in Honolulu, after meeting my six children, jokingly blamed me for the population explosion and warned that our zip code would have to change. She has no idea how my tribe has increased over the years. And she has not met my cousin in Vancouver who, after having 11 children, fell in love with and adopted a beautiful little girl, making her brood an even dozen.

Still on kids—my friend called me recently to ask if she was wrong to tell her daughter that it was not wise to allow her children to bring their gadgets when they took them out to dinner.

My immediate reaction was admiration for her courage. I have learned that my “old wisdom” is better kept to myself—unless, of course, it is solicited.  But alas, it hardly ever is. I have become quite an expert at buttoning my lip. Sometimes I actually cover my mouth, lest a word slip out. Seriously.

But I don’t think she was out of line. I believe meals are excellent opportunities to bond and not a time to watch one another click and swipe.

Good reasons

A recent article by Charlie Brooker gives several good reasons for leaving the devices at home. I have edited some.

  1. “Your children want your attention. Picture your child on a playground. How many times does he yell, ‘Mom, look at me?’ Or does she shout, ‘Dad, watch this?’ You are their moon and their stars.”
  1. “You’re going to lose their attention. In just a few short years, they’re going to turn their attention away from you and toward their peer group.”

Oh please listen. This happens so fast.

  1. “You are failing to teach the art of conversation. Conversations with children aren’t necessarily compelling, and sometimes your ‘conversation’ will be yet another round of I Spy or 20 Questions. But the point is to cultivate the give-and-take, to teach listening and sharing.”

It gets better with practice.

  1. “You are setting terrible examples. Here’s the part where the lyrics to Harry Chapin’s old ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ song should start weaving through your thoughts. If you encourage your children to tune you out now, don’t expect them to change that tune through their teen years or even in adulthood.

“Worse, you’re parenting by example. Hard to see yourself as a grandparent, right? Harder still to imagine your taking the next generation out for ice cream and having them pop in their ear buds.”

Just out of curiosity, I looked for Chapin’s 1974 hit song. I listened to the lyrics.

I strongly urge every parent within reading distance to do the same. There is a lot to be learned. It hits home.

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