I grew up in a big family. Each year we have a reunion that gathers 40 to 60 of us together, usually in Idaho (where my parents grew up).

The leadership for the reunion shifts each year among my siblings. This year it was my turn to be in charge.

Usually, we have a theme for each reunion. It can be fun, serious, provocative – whatever.

I thought about what theme I wanted, and I realized that I wanted our reunion to be a time when we *really* connected with each other. I didn’t want people to zone out on their phones or video games. So that led to the theme idea: “Airplane Mode.”

I worried that people would groan and hate this. But to my surprise, when I announced the reunion and the theme a few months in advance, all the adults were excited. “What a great idea!,” people said.

Fast forward to the reunion:

On the first day I asked people to volunteer to be on the rules committee. And they did. Eight people of all ages joined the group and together they (not me) came up with the “Airplane Mode” rules that everyone would follow.

They announced the rules and explained them at our first breakfast together.

Everyone bought in. (Surprise: Even the teenagers)

We found that first day we needed to adjust the rules. So the committee made amendments to allow use of the phone to take pictures, to call people at the reunion (who may be on the other side of the island), and to play a game together (teens playing together on one device). And with those adjustments, the reunion played out as I’d hoped.

People were more present. No one was scrolling Instagram and ignoring others. We talked more. We played more games. The time together really felt like quality time.

So now the question is this: Will we always have “Airplane Mode” rules at our family reunion?

I hope so.

My brother is in charge for 2020, and we’ll see what he does.