We are spread across the room. My husband and 14-year-old are at opposite sides of the couch, my 12-year-old is perched on a chair, and I’m taking up the entire loveseat. We are watching The Voice. And checking our phones. And then watching The Voice again.
A contestant shares his story about his father’s suicide….his own guilt associated with it. “Oh, please. Someone choose him,” I say. “That story broke my heart.”
My 14-year-old moves her phone aside. “Mine too,” she says. “He’d better get picked.”
We watch, absorbed in the drama, hanging on each note the contestant sings. But no one presses their button, no chair spins around. No one chooses him.
“That was so sad,” my 14-year-old says before glancing down at her phone, realizing she’s just received another text, and hurriedly typing back to her friend.
From across the room, my 12-year-old giggles.
“What’s so funny?” I ask.
“Mariam sent me this picture,” she holds up her phone for me to see, but it’s too far.
“Bring it over here,” I tell her. I watch as she weighs whether or not showing it to me is worth the effort of crossing the room.
“I’ll just text it to you,” she says, her decision made.
A moment later, a picture of Paige, Mariam, and another friend shows up on my phone. They are climbing between two pillars outside of their middle school. The picture has been given a title: Spider Squad.
“Nice,” I say, looking up and catching her smile.
“This is ridiculous,” my husband says. “Everyone is on their phone. It’s like we’re not even together.”
I visually survey the room. I think of the the many nights at least one of us is somewhere else–the nights when the girls are at rehearsals or out with friends or he is kept late at work. I remember the times I’ve sat here alone while both girls are up in their rooms, wanting their privacy, not wanting to share some elements of their lives with the rest of us. I think about how we are all four together less and less often now.
“No,” I tell him. “This is okay.” And it is.
It’s not a perfect family evening, but it’s good enough.