(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

A long, long time ago in a country pretty similar to ours, I was a young adult. Our technology, such that it was, used to give some structure to our time. Before we had cable TV, our stations went off the air at midnight. We could only watch TV shows when they were on and had to wait between commercial breaks. Long distance rates didn’t drop to barely reasonable until 11:00 p.m. Of course, for decades electricity had allowed people to work or play the whole night through, but our world’s transformation to a sense of timelessness hadn’t quite been so complete when I went away to college—1000 miles away from home—knowing I would see my family only every three to six months.

Such transitions in life were different when everything wasn’t available 24/7.

Every Sunday night, whether convenient or not, I called my parents at 11:00 p.m. EST and my brother called them at 11:00 p.m. CST. Long distance was expensive, so we tried hard to discuss anything necessary, money-wise and/or decision-wise at that time, as well as fit in talk about what was happening with me at college and with them back home.

Yes, we had no e-mail, IM, Facebook, Skype, or any of that. Gone was gone. We did not see each other, period. And it was a rare (and spoiled) person in my dorms who talked to her parents frequently on the telephone, even though many of my dorm-mates came from families with money.

When we communicated, we had to make it count.

Now I can see pictures of my kids in real time, thanks to mobile uploading on Facebook and can talk to their images thanks to Skype. They can text me with “send money” requests and call me when there is trouble or decisions to be made.

What we don’t seem to do is connect. I can only surmise how they are doing from Facebook pictures and status updates.

Look, I’m fine with this empty nest thing from a day-to-day living standpoint. I like having a neater house and getting more sleep and not having to decline activities because they conflict with the kids’ events. I am enjoying developing a life after the constant focus on our kids.

But I’m not fine with being disconnected from them while they live 6 ½ hours and several mountain passes away. In the chaos of a 24/7 world, they can’t find any regular time to talk with us on their phones? Really.

In their defense, I think it takes a lot of discipline to fight against letting technology control our lives. We can spend our days and nights responding to instant attempts to connect with us while not initiating those that require us to act rather than react. We can confuse the supposed urgent contact with being the important contact.

And, it’s even harder for people who have ADD, now that the world has gone hyper-ADD itself.

Yes, both my kids have ADD and struggle with time now that they don’t have me to point out the chronos from the kairos. Apparently I wore my chronos role too strongly in our household and they are ill-prepared for a world that, though it may run 24/7, does indeed have time limitations.

However, technology or not, at some point a person has to realize that making real time for people is the only way to maintain connections.

I can’t make my kids contact me and I refuse to sit around waiting for calls that aren’t going to come.

For myself, I’m going to add a little low-tech structure to my life—even if it will cause me to be more reactive than proactive for several months—by getting a puppy and maybe even rescuing or fostering a young adult dog. Short of acquiring opposable thumbs, the dogs will just have to communicate with me face to face.