Here Comes The Judging
“Mom, what do you think about little kids using iPads in restaurants?”
I was out for dinner at a local pub with my 23-year-old, and they posed this question as the two of us were performing our regular routine while waiting to order. No, not judging people, although that is a fun pastime, but playing cards.
I followed their line of sight and spotted a toddler in a highchair playing on a tablet, quite happily pushing his chubby fingers against the screen as his parents chatted over their dinner. This was likely the only quiet moment they’d had in their busy day. Good for them, I thought.
This was actually a tough question for me to answer, for a couple of reasons. First of all, when my own “kid” sitting across from me, and their siblings were little in the 90’s and early 2000’s, iPads didn’t exist. Neither did smartphones with games; really not anything beyond a Palm Pilot or maybe an Etch-A-Sketch.
But of course we still took our kids out to dinner. We brought along colouring books, and the ubiquitous playing cards, and it kept them, and us, entertained until the meal arrived. Once the meal was served, all entertainment, such as it was, went away. We also made sure that we had a reservation if we could, and ordered quickly, if we could, and knew we would be skipping the après meal coffee or second glass of wine. It was get in and get out before anyone got restless or bored. Because guess what, being out with adults is sometimes boring (even when you’re one of the adults).
But as I thought about whether I would have let my kids play with screens during a restaurant meal, I flashed back to a meal out we had just had a few days before, in another restaurant. A casual sort of pizza and pasta place, where we were celebrating a birthday. I looked across the restaurant at a couple who had come in with their daughter, who was probably about four years old. Sure, there was a screen pulled out. In fact, two screens. By the parents. Their child sat and coloured quietly while her parents scrolled on their phones. They scrolled before they ordered, they scrolled as they ordered, they scrolled as they waited for their food…and they scrolled as they ate. The phones were never put down. The child ate, and coloured, while her parents, by their hand motions, seemed to be rapidly flipping through screens on their phones. They could have been dealing with a family or work emergency and were taking their daughter out to distract her while they dealt with the situation. That would be giving them the benefit of the doubt. But, for arguments’ sake, let’s say they were just catching up on social media. That type of phone use, I don’t understand.
Did I mention at the start of this that judging people was a favourite pastime?
I don’t think the Pizza People made eye contact with their server, but that’s their choice. What bothered me was that they didn’t make eye contact with their daughter either, as they all sat on a bench on one side of the table, eyes contacting only with their phones.
I have two grandsons, aged one year and two and a half, and their mother, my daughter, isn’t allowing them to even watch television until the age of two, or be on screens at all even past that age. They’ve never used a tablet or a smartphone, with the exception of a snatch and giggle and a glance as they steal one of our phones off the coffee table. Believe me when I tell you, as their sometime babysitter, that I sometimes wish they were allowed to use a screen just once in a while. (Did you know that toddlers are tiring to run after?)
I applaud her for making a decision that I honestly and luckily didn’t have to make regarding techno-tainment at home, and in public. I’m probably still going to continue to judge folks like the Pizza People, and have conflicted feelings about whether toddlers should have screens when it might be convenient, but for now, I’m just going to enjoy beating my kid at cards. And maybe post on social media about it.