Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Worry About the Kids. Because I Care! And Because I Hate iPods.

I worry about America’s children. Not because I think they’re headed for moral decay, morbid obesity, or toward developing allergies to every known food group. I worry because I don’t think they know how to be bored. Follow along, please:

Last night, I went out for tasty food in glamorous Loudoun, at a restaurant I now consider the Eavesdropping Center of the Universe. First, there was the woman who ranted about her money problems for twenty minutes (I do not know if she was on the phone, or dining with an especially patient, or perhaps bound and gagged, partner). Oh, honey, if you’re responsible for paying your own bills (like, uh, most people), including the rent, cellphone, and Comcast, and it’s breaking you, then ditch the cable. Do you really, really need Flavor of Love? I know cable really helps pass the time when you’re unemployed, but really.

Anyhow.

She left, and I was left with a few options. I could focus on my food, or my companion, or the music. Instead, the family next to us came in with the save.

Figuring out how they were all related kept me busy for fifteen minutes. My best guess was that it was Grandpa, Mom, Single/Possibly Gay Uncle, and Kid One (late teens) and Kid Two (eightish/nineish). It was also possible, due to group dynamics, that Kid One was actually much older, just a sloppy dresser, and the mother or aunt of Kid Two. Anyhow, they were all out for a nice dinner together, to celebrate the visit of Single/Possibly Gay Uncle. And maybe Grandpa. I don’t know if he was local or not.

Anyone who has ever been a kid knows one thing: family dinners are tedious, creepingly slow death. You have to sit still. You must use utensils. You will not be allowed to punctuate every sentence with armpit farts. Worst of all, you must listen to grownups talk about the sort of things even grownups find skull-crushingly dull.

But the Kids had a solution: technology! Kid One was listening to music on her iPod (yes, at the dinner table). Kid Two was watching a movie on his iPod (yes, again, at the dinner table). Kid One eventually unplugged, however, Kid Two kept his earbuds in while ordering, eating, conversing with the waitress, and mostly…while he sat there, sulked and watched a movie.

Mom, Grandpa, even Kid One tried to get him to actually participate in the dinner. Or, at least, to stop watching his movie and take his sulking acoustic. No dice.

This brings me back to why I'm so worried: if we do not teach the children of America how to sit around a table, in polite silence, but so bored they want to scream or bang their heads into a wall, how are they ever going to get by in the business world? They’ll combust at their very first department meeting, the economy will collapse, and we’ll all be reduced to selling fruit at the intersections of the world.

So, parents, please, teach your children well. Make them unplug, then bore the crap out of them. America is counting on you!


PS – No, I don’t have kids. But I will point out that, long ago, I was a kid, and no, we did NOT wear headphones at the dinner table. Ever. I mean, really.

18 comments:

Lemmonex said...

Yeah, the parents should just force the kid to sit there. My cuz knows there are absolutely NO electronic devices at the dinner table because it is rude. He doesn't even attempt it.

Shannon said...

Lem - If he was younger, maybe he could color or read a book or something. But an 8 or 9 year old should be able to sit down for an hour and eat his dinner without the earbuds.

lacochran said...

I agree completely.

That said, I'd rather have a kid in a restaurant staring at a tiny screen than running around screaming.

And am I the only one who thinks all this I-pod wearing is going to result in a lot of hearing loss? Of course, that's what my dad said when I sat near the stereo speaker.

I'm old and crotchety. Sigh.

lacochran said...

And I love the Ralphie. :)

Shannon said...

Lacochran - The kid was too old to run around and scream...meaning he was plenty old enough to get through the dinner.

Also, is it just me, or is it weird for a child to own something so expensive?

restaurant refugee said...

Manners are becoming the casualty of technological advancement. This disturbs me on so many levels.

Malnurtured Snay said...

I think you're about my age, and, thinking back, I think portable music devices when I was eight or nine were the size of a car's engine ...

bh said...

Asking ANY child to sit still and stare at a metaphorical wall for hours is an exercise in futility. Actually, asking any human to sit still for an hour and be bored out of their mind is equally soul sucking.

You know that feeling you get in a staff meeting when your manager is prattling on about some total bs you couldn't care less about? that's how kids feel during a meal with multiple adults.

When I go out to eat with my kids, I go with just them. Me and my two boys. And we talk about transformers, star wars, dinosaurs, etc. Because otherwise I have to spend the whole time pulling the 5 year old off the divider and the 7 year old up from underneath the table. And LOT's of Crayons.

I agree the ipod thing is obnoxious, and kids need to learn table manners, but there's an over/under on the age at which you can successfully teach a kid how to be bored with grace.

Shannon said...

Refugee - It disturbs me...and makes me wish I'd had an iPod that young.

Snay - I would have taken a boom box into the restaurant, set it upon my shoulder, and played it really softly in lieu of headphones. That makes me 32.

Bh - I have no issue with little kids coloring or reading when they're at the table...I mean, let's be realistic. But this kid was older, and, at the very least, he should know not to converse with earbuds in place (that's a BIG peeve of mine...I've been known to stare down interns who leave their buds in when I'm talking to them).

FoggyDew said...

The last thing my sister said to her almost 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son before they left with me for a day on the town a few weeks ago was "Put your iPod/iPhone away."

The first thing they did when they got in the car? They took them out and began fiddling with them. My solution: they each got to play songs over the car radio in succession. In fact, I was impressed with my nephew's music tastes, particularly his love of the Stones. Of course, I could have done without Taco's "Puttin' on the Ritz." But it did keep them partially engaged for the ride out to the Air and Space Museum.

Tina said...

Shannon - they will be fine. they will be the one with their blackberry half under the table sending e-mail messages, checking stock quotes and updasting their facebook page during the staff meetings. I know this because they are already here where I work.

Shannon said...

Foggy - A kid who owns an iPhone? Other than that, I don't have as much issue with kids entertaining themselves in the car...but the dinner table? No way.

Tina - You're probably right. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned doodling?

freckledk said...

The kid is going to be "that guy" when they grow up - the one with the bluetooth, speaking loudly in a relatively quiet restaurant.

I want to spank his parents for their suckitude. You're responsible for who you raise.

Shannon said...

Frecks - He'll also be the one standing at the entrance of a club, yelling, "Don't you know I'm on the LIST?!!!?!?"

Shannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
emma said...

That's truly the saddest story ever. Those kids are gonna need a crap load of therapy when they get older and some urgent lessons in social skills!

zandria said...

That's some messed up stuff right there. I completely agree -- kids need to learn how to communicate and/or be polite, not take themselves out of a situation by using technology. No way would my parents have allowed that...

Daniel said...

I don't get it... It's amazing how kids get so disconnected from their environment. I recently saw 2 mind-teens kids kicking the back between them, both with their earphones in... No possibility of talking, seeing how the other is doing... just lost in their own world..