Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Really Matters

I am sure life has always been a steady stream of challenges. Youth striving to find their place in the scheme of things; young parents struggling to make a better life for their offspring; everyone trying to make some type of mark on their own personal world or even more, a mark on the world as they know it, all the while doing what it took to survive day to day.   

Throughout the ages of time the one group that appeared to have left the challenges behind were the matriarchs and patriarchs of the families. These elderly ones appeared to have left the challenges and worries of youth behind them. Instead they became the holders of wisdom and the jewels of each family because they alone seemed to completely understand what really matters, Family! 

Unfortunately the drastic change in the makeup of the family nucleus that began in the early to mid 1900's have thrown these jewels back into the steady stream of challenges once more. Few children today understand what it is like to spend time with extended family let alone with a great grandparent. 

While the rapid growth of technology seems to pull families apart with each generation becoming immersed in their own challenges, technology can play a part in bringing generations back together.  With the ready availability of phone calls, text messaging, emails and the internet we can now quickly and easily keep in touch with family all around the world. My favorite though is the availability of video calls, while I do have to admit that for this to work one does need to have a quick internet connection. 

Yet even with all the advancements of technology making it easier to stay connected to extended family many are still strangers. Personally I think two factors play a major part in diminishing the use of technology in drawing families together. The biggest is personal interpretation of the term family in regards to 'what really matters', and the second is in teaching the older generations how to access and use this new technology. 

Family has always been very important to me and yet I have come to realize that my emphasis was always on the immediate family and thus I allowed a drifting away from the larger extended family. With the exception of trying to make sure my children spent time with their grandparents, keeping in touch with the extended family was not as important. Sure I can defend my actions or lack there of by stating that our work took us many hundreds of miles from our extended family, yet that is a feeble excuse. In truth we were just too wrapped up in navigating the steady stream of challenges life sent our way to realize what really mattered. 

I must be nearing the matriarchal stage of life for in recent years I have more actively tried to re-unite myself and my children with our extended family. It is slow going but the use of Facebook has made it possible for me to reconnect with some of my siblings that I had lost touch with and has made it possible for my children to become acquainted with aunts, uncles and cousins that they have only seen once or twice or have never had the opportunity to meet in person.

While of course it is not the same as spending time together in person they are making connections that without technology would be difficult to make. Where once they were complete strangers now they are getting to know each other and even build bonds of friendship. 

Although my children are all grown and all live miles apart I am happy to see that we all keep in touch through the use of technology. Even with the many miles between my grandchildren they are able to see and talk with their extended family thanks to the availability of video chat. Now if we can just teach my children's grandparents how to use this tool, they too can spend time together via video chat. 

Do you find technology a help when it comes to staying connected with family? 

The memory photo above that inspired this post is of a wonderful couple that I had the honor of meeting and photographing while visiting the Grand Canyon with my Mother and Father-in-law.

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