Have you ever felt cheated after a get-together with a friend, random family member, or child? Not that he/she lied to you or snagged your wallet, but rather, did you feel that there wasn’t enough human “substance” to your visit? You wanted more time, more intimacy, a greater camaraderie-esque fulfillment. This sensation of relationship experiential-void is not uncommon.
“There’s simply no real substitute for physical presence,” Frank Bruni wrote in his op-ed column in the New York Times in the fall of 2015. Those words are an absolute truth. Phone, face time, and other ways of distance-communication are just not the same; however, just because you’re there doesn’t mean you’re there. Being physically present doesn’t naturally assert that all parties are mentally and spiritually present.
Mr. Bruni makes terrific note in regards to the necessity of physical attendance (and even time-extended visits) in order to achieve a rich experience amongst loved ones. For those, however, who are confined to short-term visitation (let’s say, anywhere from an hour up to 72 hours), there are ways to achieve a greater sense of closeness within the limits of your time constraints.
When we think of memorable “bonding” moments in our lives, we generally refer to experiences that lasted over an extended period of time with the same individual(s). Think: reunions, destination weddings, vacations, even business trips. Movies like “The Big Chill”, ‘August Osage County”, “Little Miss Sunshine”, and “The Hangover” celebrate the coming-together of friends and family on a deep, intense level—albeit sometimes hellish or horrific.
Nonetheless, these tales transport our attention to a place in which we long to join emotionally. But what if we can’t afford a two-week-long road trip? What if our job/extended family/home circumstances don’t allow us to leave for more than two or three days?
Here are ways to make each experience—no matter how limited in time—worthwhile for all involved:

  1. Don’t Give in to Distractions: If you have one hour with a friend or your kids, don’t answer your phone, texts, or messages. Don’t even look. Don’t even think about it. Release yourself into the world of humanity and discard technology for the person you’re physically with.It’s unbelievable how rich your moments together can be when you are 100% (Okay, 82-96%) present—these are the times you will remember most vividly and satisfyingly.
  2. Savor the Experience: Some of the most amazing times I’ve come to cherish are the ones where the kids and I were driving somewhere, anywhere—to school, soccer practice, to drop them at dad’s.We listened to music they loved (and I tolerated), and old rock n’ roll (I loved) that they already knew because of new exposure in today’s TV commercials or films. Listening, laughing, and singing together easily etches in memory.
  3. Listen No Matter How Inane: In the dopiest of discussions, you may want to check out. Don’t. Your friend or family member may drop hints about how he/she is feeling through a chat that seems dull, distant, or inconsequential. On the contraire—people clunk clues through the most benignly seeming topics, which may describe larger states: ones desirous of intimacy, cries for help, or exclamations of love. Listen and ye shall hear.
  4. Beware Disneyland: Sure, amusement parks are fun, but can you recall making a true, meaningful connection with a loved one while on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride? Crowds, extreme external stimuli, and tossing out big bucks for a trendy adventure may not suffice in the internal, emotional, satisfaction department. Tossing a Frisbee or shooting hoops at the local park may satisfy that relationship sweet-tooth in an hour’s worth of one-on-one play. Free of charge, to boot.

Here’s the deal. We all long to connect on a satisfyingly, rich, deep level with others, especially if they are our relatives. Spending extended time together can certainly enhance memories in equally positive and negative ways.
Short-term visitation can be unfulfilling if either party is unable or uninterested in being fully present. The key is being motivated to arrive wholly. That means, no distractions, no pre-conceived notions, just 100% (or close) physical and mental participation during the meet up. Even if it’s a half-hour, you can do that! Happy bonding!