In previous jobs I traveled quite a bit and although it felt good to make the phone call back home, I always wished I could do more to connect with my family and be with my family even though I was away. Through a healthy number of emails, SMS/IM messages, and webcam sessions, I could float into what they were doing, remind them that I was thinking of them and feel, in some way, that much closer and that much more a part of the numerous small, precious moments which make up the memories of one’s life. At times the content of those touch points could seem trivial (“miss u talk 2 u l8tr”) and other times monumental (“really miss u and the kids”) but they were enough to make me feel that my presence, my silliness, my daddiness/parentness was still close at hand adding to the family activities and discourse.
Another way to connect…
So while I was between jobs, this thought of “connecting” interestingly bubbled up while I was playing around with a web bookmarking service (Delicious) and the result was something which gave me one more way to be at home even though I wasn’t physically home. The idea was simple, create an account on Delicious (pretty easy) and create a “Tag” (which is simply just a word/phrase which you want to categorize things under, like “news” or “family” or “sports”. I chose “Hometone”). Then whenever or wherever I was, if I came across something on the net which I thought was interesting (and appropriate) for the kids, I would Tag it. Back home, on their play room computer (they only have one which they share in the play room and which has a nice sized screen so that they can see it from anywhere in the room), I created a shortcut that when they clicked on it, it would bring up the list of things I Tagged.
Parent / teacher…
Pretty simple and straightforward, but the result has been much more. While traveling to far off (and even not so far off) places, I would come across an interesting online gallery of Lego creations and think “if I were home, I would love to show the kids this and see if we could create one of them” and then tag it. Elsewhere I would come across a great audio clip (Baseball Driveway Moments for instance) on NPR and think “this would be something fun for us to listen to together” and then tag it. On another day and in another place, I would come across a great “learning Japanese” video and tag it knowing that at some point, far away from me, my wife and/or kids would click on the HomeTone link and be presented with a list of things daddy was sending them, a stream of thoughts and impressions daddy was thinking which brought daddy that much closer. This HomeTone is one of the things we’ve tried to set up in our home (our Learning Home) and it’s been a fun and rewarding endeavor for the whole family.
Staying connected, deeply connected can still be difficult even in this over-connected world we are in, but it’s worth continually working toward creating and maintaining. All the noise and all the candy that is out there can pose a constant attack on what’s important and can cause you to take your eye off the ball so here is another simple and easy way to keep some of that in check and stay connected with your family in a value adding way.
G. Manto snowboards a little, runs a little and writes a little. When he’s not thinking about how to help seniors and kids, he puts his energies into helping communities use technology to do small great things. Some of these can be found at futurespot.net.
Lego creations: http://club.lego.com/en-us/Gallery/default.aspx
Baseball Driveway Moments: http://shop.npr.org/products/Driveway_Moments_Baseball-623-0.html
Learning Japanese: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1koRXpYlHg0
The Learning Home: http://thelearninghome-futurespot.blogspot.com/