Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Put the tablets away.

Restaurant dining is more or less a minefield for an ADHD parent. You have to be mindful: Will he stay in his seat? Get bored and act up waiting for his entree? Will he be too cold or will the noise around him be too loud? Will he settle for hiding in his hoodie or will he hide under the table? Will something cause a meltdown and will you have to haul him out of the restaurant until he calms down?

Will you get to eat a single bite of your meal in relative peace?

I never of course considered the tablet factor. Which is because I would never dream of letting my kids play with a tablet in the middle of a restaurant. They're out at dinner, it's a special occasion, they should have actual conversations with the other people at their table. At most, I'll give the kids pens and let them draw on the placemats until dinner arrives, presuming the placemats are paper.

But let's just say the parents at the next table were working from a different playbook (one that's battery-operated, clearly), because their kid was on his tablet the whole meal. Even though it was a semi-expensive place generally used for special occasions. Even though, judging from the large group at the table and the presents and such, they were there for granddad's birthday. Nope, the whole meal. I know this because kiddo's eyes were glued to the screen for our entire meal.

He's not capable of looking away from a screen when one is available. He kept kneeling on his seat, craning his neck to watch the other kid ignore his loved ones and play Minecraft. Then he snuck over to the other table to watch from behind the kid. Over and over again, no matter how many times we shooed him away.

Vastly irritating, made more so by two factors: 1. There were 10 of us and no way to easily move to another table and 2. Every single other table around us also featured a kid on a tablet so there was no escaping it.

Seriously, if you're just going to hand the kid an electronic babysitter so he shuts up, why are you bothering to shell out the cash for nice food? Get the kid a real babysitter, send out for some pizza and leave. That way no one has to pretend to enjoy the others' company.

One of kiddo's relatives, who was trying to be helpful, pulled out her own tablet so he would leave the other kid alone. Except that this was what we were trying to avoid in the first place. Why? Because when the cake and the candle showed up, kiddo was too busy playing Plants vs. Zombies to notice that we were singing Happy Birthday to Daddy, and when I tried pulling the tablet away so he'd join us, he freaked out.

For the remainder of the meal, kiddo either obsessed about wanting the tablet back (no way) or hung around behind the other kid and watched him play. One lady from the other table, clearly thinking she was being nice, walked by and assured me it was no problem if kiddo watched the gameplay. What I did not say was, "Actually it would be really helpful if you took that stupid tablet and tossed it in the nearest Dumpster so that my son would calm down for five minutes and I could salvage some part of this meal." Because, you know, probably not nice.

To be clear, I don't object to the general use of tablets and phones. I use my phone a lot. I love my phone. But I don't bring it to the dinner table. And I'm perfectly OK with kids using a device until the appetizer shows up, or until the entrees show up, as long as that's their cue to quit their game and start making eye contact with people.

I am most definitely not OK with other parents making my job harder. Especially since my kid -- the one having the freakout -- was the one who looked like a bad kid, not the other kids sitting silently at their tables, obliviously using their tablets.

We're unlikely to have 10 people to dinner again anytime soon, though, so next time this issue comes up -- and I have no doubt there will be a next time -- I'm going to ask the waiter to switch our table. I'll request a no-tablet zone.

1 comment:

  1. This JUST happened to us this weekend. And my kids were being so good and then this group sat down and did not even wait for for the little girl to be disruptive, they just plunked a portable tv looking thing in front of her. It was sad. And Peter was looking which annoyed ME and then he said " You should not watch Sesame Street at IHOP. That's bad." Etc Etc in a really carrying voice.