I like to think we are a typical family; equal parts of hugs, cuddles and I-love-yous to screams of stop fighting, pick up your socks and just hurry up and get in the car. We’re rarely in the same room at the same time, thanks to varying work, sporting and running-the-family commitments (and, of course, when I send everyone to separate rooms for my sanity and their safety). When we are in the same room, we like to watch The Voice, The Greatest Showman, Eat-Well-for-Less and Buying Blind. My daughter likes to play pairs and Monopoly, and me and my husband like to come up with excuses to bow out of the games. My son likes to look at his computer screen and listen to someone with a piercing accent tell him how to find alpacas on Fortnite.
And he's not the only one who loves a device.
I’m often at the kitchen bench, hunched over my phone, endlessly (and pointlessly) refreshing my Facebook feed, checking responses to my latest Instagram post, responding to work emails, checking bank balances and depending on the former, online shopping. If I’m not the phone, I’m here on the laptop writing, planning programs for clients or doing much the same as I do on my phone, just on a bigger screen that for some reason feels less icky.
My husband has two computer screens that must do important things because he is often in their company or on his phone, talking to like minded engineer-y people, responding to text messages or emails, or watching clips of fruit grading machines doing stuff that he finds fascinating.
My daughter is the less device-y of the family and usually just reaches for the I-Pad or PC because it’s what everyone else is doing. She will listen to music, watch Fortnite videos, make posters, do make-believe-homework or print off colour-ins that she will rarely actually colour in. If there’s an opportunity for her to ride her bike, run through a few basketball drills or play a board game, she’ll happily leave the I-Pad on the floor for me to remind her (and remind her, and remind her, and remind her) to pick up later.
I get the sense that we are a typical family that needs to disconnect from the virtual world. We don’t know how to be bored any more. We don’t know how to make our own fun. We don’t talk as much as we should and sometimes, it feels like we are strangers who just yell stuff at each other from separate rooms.
Earlier this month, we took a four-day break to the Apple Isle. Thanks to a friend who has a sixth sense for finding unique accommodation places (I think she spends her screen time ogling over possible holiday destinations for herself, or selflessly, for other people), we found ourselves at Chalet Tasmania in the hideaway hills of Judbury, near Huonville. (NB, this is not a sponsored post, but if they were to flick me a few nights free, I’d be on a Jet[star] plane stat.)
On the windy dirt road to The Chalet, I found myself wondering if I would have chosen this place myself. The answer in truth, is probably not. I normally look for shopping centres, restaurant strips and family attractions – things to keep us busy, entertain the kids (AKA give me some space) and make it a memorable trip. But as we curved our way around hills carpeted in blue-green trees and wowed at the streams of water running like ribbons from the peaks above us to the valley below us, my usual holiday-must-haves started to seem boring by comparison.
On entry to The Chalet, we all fell in love. We fell in love with the wood fire (which my husband grumbled about having to bring wood in for, to light and to stoke; but strangely took to it like the farm-boy of old). We fell in love with the delightful country kitchen, the clean lines of the bathrooms, the welcoming feel of the bedrooms and, oh-my, did we fall in love with the freestanding bath on the deck. We fell in love with the backdrop – a huge hill covered in trees, shrubs and ferns. We fell in love with our outlook; foggy mountainous ranges spotted with chimneys puffing smoke out from distantly hidden houses.
And when we realised that there was no phone service, it was as if we collectively let out a sigh of relief.
No need to check for emails, Instagram likes or Facebook posts. No way of telling the world, instantly, how wonderful this place was. No way of sharing pictures and answering curious questions (Where are you? How much is it? How long are you there for? How did you find it?). It was ours to enjoy, exclusively.
Over the next two days, without the distraction of the virtual world, we connected with our son, who I feel is naturally starting to steer his sails away from his family and more towards his friends. We coddled our ever-active daughter with the games and movement she has an innate preference for.
We played Cluedo. We took walks. We watched The Voice (yassss Sam). We made hot chocolates and toasted marshmallows. We looked at maps (like big fold-out-paper-maps that don’t talk). We each took an outdoor bath while the sun set and the rain fell (it was the most surreal, indulgent experience). We breathed. Like really, really breathed.
Almost everything we did felt: in sync. In sync with the strengths, values and penchants of our family unit.
As I sipped on a glass of red wine, while soaking in that tub (apparently, I didn’t need an amusement park to get space to myself), I was brought to tears; tears for the wonderous surroundings, tears of gratitude for being in what felt like the most amazing place and most of all, tears for my typical family, who without the distraction of the virtual world, I fell love with all over again.
And now that I am back on Victorian soil, with a thousand more memories of Tasmania than we had days, I am reminding myself that we may be a typically busy family who are rarely in the same room, but I can put my phone away, shut down my laptop or look away from the television to see the most wonderous, loveable thing(s) any time I choose.