Alright, listen up this is my upfront disclaimer: If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. But, if you see yourself in this post, just a little bit, please don’t be offended, please be encouraged. Take this post as advice from a good friend who cares not only about you, the quality of your life going forward, but the life of your child.
Parents. Don’t be afraid of your children. Parent them. Give them their boundaries.
Also fathers, don’t leave all the shitty work to your wives. Please be an equal partner in the raising of your kids. I mean I know you had the shortest job in the entire creation of your little angel, twenty minutes, if your wife was lucky, so now it’s your time to shine. To balance the scale of parenting by being present, hands on, and authoritative.
What’s with my out of left field post you might ask. Well thank you for asking, I’m more than happy to tell you.
I don’t cook much when we’re at our Cali house for such a short period of time. 1) I don’t always know how many, if any people are going to be around for dinner, so it’s a waste of money to go to the market and stock up on food that might just end up going bad in the fridge. 2) I have so many favorite places where I like to eat that I prefer to just hit those spots and have leftovers. Makes my life so much simpler.
Now you have the back story here is what sparked this blog.
Three out of the last four nights that we’ve been out: Wednesday for Mikaela’s 21st birthday, which we celebrated at Catch LA, her pick. Our fave date place Giorgio Baldi on Friday, and then a local spot tonight. Every single dinner had kids who were dominant dinners in the dining rooms. What do I mean by that. I mean on Wednesday, in an extremely adult environment, sexy candlelit, dimly lit space there was a boy, between the ages of 6-8 on an iPad. Close your eyes. Imagine a dim, adult dining room, and then picture the bright blue light being emitted across that softly lit space. Just picturing it pulls you out of the zen, right out of the sexy doesn’t it? Yeah it does. I know for sure it does because sadly our table was looking right at that blue screen for a good part of the night until the next group of four who were coming to dine were seated, and blocked the light. I’ve said it before I’ll say it a million times, in fact I have an entire chapter dedicated to this in my How To Raise Your Kid Without Losing Your Cool book, that focuses on dining without technology. It is possible parents, trust me it is, tens of millions of parents did it successfully before you. Take that in.
The worst part of that entire scene was that the little girl who was sat beside the mother was on a device as well, and the father was watching the iPad with his son. The wife/mother was sitting there surrounded by people, two whom she created, utterly alone. A beautiful, impossible to get reservation, sexy West Hollywood restaurant and that woman was essentially all alone.
Talk people. Interact. Bring coloring books, engage with your children, with your lover. Be present.
Then last night directly beside me, no matter how I positioned my chair the same thing. A kid playing games on his iPad, the screen flashing the action of whatever he was doing in my peripheral vision. I was starting to get a headache, I’m not kidding you. Finally I had enough; Baldi is even more intimate than Catch, I mean most everybody needs their iPhones for a few minutes to read the menu, it is that dim, that romantic, and lovely. YB and I were finally all alone, after months of having at least one other person at the dinner table with us. I wasn’t having that spoiled by somebody else’s kid. I turned to the mother and quietly, politely, asked her if his screen could be dimmed. To which the father loudly replied; “Why is he even on that thing? We’re at a restaurant, put that away. Honestly, what does he have that for???” Shocked as if he had just sat down at their table, rather than having being sat there for the entirety of the meal.
I stopped listening to the roasting the man was giving his wife because all his reaction made me want to do was to say to him; “Well I don’t know why he has it, but since you’re his FATHER and sitting right there staring at him, one might think you would have noticed him on it before I brought it to your attention???” But I bit my tongue and instead enjoyed the magical sound of the young boys laughter and chatter after the device had been removed from the equation.
You see parents, kids WANT TO CONNECT. They want to ENGAGE. To SHARE. To be INCLUDED. Don’t look at having dinner out with your child as a burden, look at it for what it is. A blessing. A time when you get to have them all to yourself for one-two hours of uninterrupted bonding time. The icing on the cake was tonight when a young boy who, thank God, didn’t have a device but, was allowed to run all over the restaurant and was treating the outdoor landscape, which happens to have trees and a pond in it as his personal playground. The parents of the little boy thought it was cool to let their kid climb around tables of diners while he hopped, jumped and swung from the trees on the patio. The mother had zero authority over him, she kept asking him; “How about we go over here now? Are you ready to come look at this over here??”
When that little boy was making his stomping, screeching way over to the area directly beside our table I leaned every so slightly off my chair and said; “Sweetie please don’t jump and play over here by my table, go back over to your table. This is a restaurant, not a park.” The boy turned on his heel, as did his mother and went over to his table. Sure he continued to climb on things but he did it at his end of the patio, and anytime he made a move to come back over my way he looked me dead in the eyes, and moved along. Not out of fear, but out of knowing. Knowing that I had an expectation of him. And you know what? Even though that boy wasn’t mine, he respected my boundaries. It was that easy, and it got into his bright little brain the first time I told him what it was I wanted him to do. I didn’t ask him, I told him.
Kids want to know what the rules/expectations are of them. It makes them feel safe. And it makes the life of the mother so much easier. Notice how I said mother. I do so because in every single one of these scenarios the dad’s, were not pulling their parenting weight. Jesus the one at Baldi even threw his wife UNDER THE DAMN BUS. Meanwhile the guy tonight, never even got up from the table to “manage” his son. He didn’t even look up from his menu. Shame, shame, shame.
It takes two to make em, it takes an equal partnership of two to raise em up. Don’t tap out after your twenty minutes is up guys, parenting is a lifelong commitment, stick with it. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint.