Family Vacation Time: Put Down the Damn Smartphone

Larry Bernstein daddy-o

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I was a late adopter to smartphones. I’d see people perpetually staring at their smartphone and wonder, “What are they doing?” I once noticed a woman on the bus who fell asleep holding her smartphone on her lap as if it were a child. She might as well have caressed it and begun cooing, “what a sweet baby.”

Yet adopt I did. I got a smartphone after tiring of hearing my students teasing me about my residence in the Stone Age. Besides, I wanted another option for those long tedious bus rides.

However, I promised myself I would not be one of those people who are constantly checking their smartphone. Communication and information does not have to be instant. In other words, the smartphone would not be my third child. The two children I have keep me plenty busy.

Our recent family vacation to Disney World was the most significant trip we ever took. We were all excited to go. While flipping through the radio stations on the way to LaGuardia airport, we heard a song by American Authors. The chorus came on:

Oo-o-o-o-o-o This is gonna be the best day of my (Oo-o-o-o-o-o)life My li-i-i-i-i-ii-ife Oo-o-o-o-o-oooooo This is gonna be the best day of my (Oo-o-o-o-o-o)life My li-i-i-i-i-ii-ife

At that point, my 7-year old said, “It’s true. Actually, it’s going to be the best week.” Yes, we were excited and the bar was set high.

By that evening—after a safe flight—and a visit to downtown Disney, each of us had experienced a meltdown. What happened to Disney World being the happiest place on Earth? I chalked it up to us being over tired and over excited.

Yet, I was determined to have no more meltdowns. Well, at least none would be because of me. I would be calm. I would be easy going. I would enjoy myself and encourage the rest of my family to do the same.

Things got better. Much better. Sure there were bumps along the way. Don’t even ask about Animal Kingdom (though we did enjoy the Kilimanjaro Safari). In fact, despite the rain, heat, and long lines, we saw and did a ton of things at Disney World.

While waiting in those long lines, I often pulled out my smartphone. I looked at messages, checked out some websites—all of this activity was important, but nothing was urgent.

On Monday, we were in the Magic Kingdom waiting to go on Peter Pan’s Flight. I pulled out my smartphone. My 10-year old said:

What are you looking at?
Some messages.
Can I see?
Nah. You wouldn’t be interested.
Are you?
Yeah, some what. I’d like to see it.
Well, can you put it away then?

I looked at him. His request caught me by surprise. Was it bothering him that I was looking at my smartphone? Did he feel neglected? Did he want more attention?

I didn’t ask these questions. I simply put my phone away. My 10-year-old was on the biggest vacation of his life. He wanted to be in the moment with his father. The heck with my smartphone. I went on vacation to enjoy time with my family. Not with my smartphone.

I know that in just a few years my boys will be teens and spending time with Dad won’t rank up there as their favorite thing to do. I’m not looking forward to that time. At all. Anyway, if my sons want attention and I can give it to them, then I will. Besides this was a vacation. Nothing was so urgent.

I’d like to tell you that I gave my boys all my attention for the rest of our vacation. Unfortunately, I’d be lying. I still checked messages, though primarily at night. More importantly, I strove to be in the moment and cognizant of their needs. I encouraged everyone to try rides and have fun.

We went to Disney World for vacation and to have fun as a family. And we had a great time!

I don’t need a smartphone to tell me that.


About the Author

Larry Bernstein

Larry and his family live in North Jersey. Larry is a blogger, freelance writer, and educator. You can find his blog at .

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