I’m living in the 21st century. But, it is my 21st century where I control my technology; where technology does not control me.
In my 21st century, my connections may be via LinkedIn and other social media, but I am connected to the people I can talk with, not text with.
I share emotions, not emoticons.
I crease my eyebrows, not cap my letters.
I ask my questions in real time, rather than listening to the silence of an unanswered text and panic – did I misunderstand or utterly ruin our “relationship” with a misstated text or misread tone? Or, did my recipient just get called to dinner? or, get involved in a more important text discussion with a more important friend?, or get hit by a bus while texting and crossing the street? Who knows?
Without body language, these “conversations” may be fun; they may be quick-witted; they may be tantalizing (even titillating); they may be full of promises; but they may also be full of – forgive me – bullshit, with misrepresented truths (also known as lies and damn lies); and they may contain offhand remarks that are void of empathy, even if they appear to be full of sympathy.
In short, they’re missing a lot of human qualities.
Texts without contexts.
The groundwork is wrong. There is nothing to touch, to see, to intuit in the body language, the cadence and the intonation that separates meaningful communication from superficial chatter or just plain data. There is only text in mid-air. Hazy. Cloudy. What we want to see. What we want to know. What we want to believe.
My 21st century sees the need for technology but it sees a bigger need for meaningful relationships, with one-on-one, face-to-face conversations.
Because today, following decades of what I have always just done, and then years of teaming with my business partner to recreate what I have always done … well, today is the day.
But, indulge me. Let me tell you a short story first … (I’ll skip the “once upon a time” because this is no fairy tale.)
Not long ago (yesterday actually - where “yesterday” equals 14 years ago), my older daughter started kindergarten. We stood outside our home on that first day of school. I think I was trying to play up the day ahead while she squiggled and wiggled with equal amounts of fear and excitement. This day was years in the making. Hugely important. A make-her or break-her moment. (You weren’t actually there in my moment, but I will guess you were there for your own – or you will be some time in the future. It is a HUGE leap in the parenting book under “Section II: Your Children Grow Up and Up and Away”.)
And then the strange driver of a strange bus arrived and it strangely swallowed her up and … drove away. He just drove off, doing what he was supposed to be doing – taking my daughter to kindergarten on her way to middle school, high school, college and the rest of her life.
Instead of relief for the freedom of the hours ahead, I panicked: My daughter and I had so much to talk about still. So many giggles to share. So many “serious discussions” to be had that only a young child can surprise you with as they impart wisdom you never considered. And what would become of her next year when she started high school and days after that when she began college? (Clearly, I sped time along a bit quicker than normal and yet, oddly … here she is a college sophomore.)
So when the same bus spit her out 6 hours later, I asked, as all parents do: “How was your day?” She replied, “Fine.”
And I knew immediately that I was going to lose too many moments, too many conversations, too many chances. (2 years later, her younger sister would answer that same question with exactly the opposite, but still non-informational, reply as she literally recounted every minute she was gone – moment-by-painstaking-moment.)
I foresaw a future of “Fine”’s and 6-hour summaries. I foresaw disconnecting a little more in increments impossible to measure, too busy to know what to ask, too busy to listen with intent.
I didn’t actually resolve to do anything more than make sure that my daughters never, ever doubted how much I respected our time together, our talks, their ideas, their stories – how much I respected them.
Thus, began the notes. The cheat sheet to talking.
Over time, my daily notes tucked into their lunch boxes developed weekly themes. Plain cards became colored cards decorated with whatever levels of artistry I could muster. Each had a question or a thought, but always included a more personal note of reminder or encouragement so that they’d know that I knew what was going on in their lives, that I was listening. Every day, I set aside an uninterrupted 5 minutes (truth: sometimes, I forced myself to set aside time and sometimes I ‘forced’ my girls to each set aside time, time we never ever regretted 5 or 25 minutes later – and you can ask them...) to sit and talk about their cards.
More often than not, because the time was spent one-on-one, each child answered completely differently, not influenced by her sister’s answer. They talked. I listened. I asked. They talked some more. We laughed. Sometimes we cringed. Sometimes we each thought deeply and wondered aloud. Almost always we hugged. And I was never the first to let go.
And that was the beginning, the story that brings us to today.
... Fast Forward …
Because my business partner insisted that creating 4000 Parent – Child and Teen cards (to cover conversations from preschool through high school) would be soooooo much easier to get off the ground than my first book (Letters to My Daughter: Yes, Talia, There is Love… What to Tell Your Daughter After You Divorce), we created TiffinTalk (a “tiffin” is an Indian lunch pail…), a company based initially on those handwritten cards with stick figures drawn (lovingly, if not accurately) on the fronts of folded pieces of construction paper. (I've replaced the stick figures – trust me, you'll thank me for that much and hopefully more.)
It was started on the basis of my firm belief to “Tech Off. Talk On.” And now, hundreds of research studies and numerous experts speaking to increasingly attentive audiences, countless connection-starved people know the impact of being connected to technology as if technology was our human counterpart or some suitable substitute. We are learning about the pain of missing the connections to people; of losing the art of conversations; of feeling the void in not holding a hand, not stroking a tear stained cheek, not touching a heart.
We are missing the moments.
So, today is the day that we officially and proudly launch tiffintalk.com with an online store.
And we invite the thousands of you attending the PsychNetworker Conference in Washington DC March 17-19 to come find us at Booth 202 to explore TiffinTalk’s cards firsthand.
You will find the first three of our product lines:
- Parent – Child and Teen cards: for parents and children from preschool through high school, these cards strengthen communication skills as well as creative and critical thinking skills;
- FindingYourVoice cards: for mental health professionals to give to clients, these themed cards extend their therapeutic work beyond the therapeutic session; and
- Talking Across Generations cards: for senior parents and adult children, these paired cards build (and rebuild) relationships beyond the role of parent and child.
And because every launch deserves to sail in style, we offer a sale with style: All of our card sets are 25% off through June 1 if you use the store coupon code: launch)
Each of our over 8000 cards includes original content, is beautifully and carefully designed in-house, is printed in the USA by a family-owned multi-generational printing company dedicated to detail, and each includes enough white space to handwrite – yes, handwrite! – a short note, a loving message, or a long missive with room still for your signature and a few x's and o's. Has anybody, anywhere, ever truly wished for an ecard instead of a real card with a handwritten message and signature? The card content with the additional handwritten is note is so often the beginning of conversations and deeper connections that texting just can’t cover.
TiffinTalk cards aim to strengthen our relationships. To get us talking to the people we care about. To bring us back to the real connections in real time.
Technology has its place in OUR 21st century
the people WE care about should always have first place.
Text me or call me. I invite you to connect. I welcome you to tiffintalk.com and I hope too meet some of you at the conference.
I look forward to coming to know you.
Thank you for helping me celebrate my successes. Count on me to celebrate yours!