This week, staff writer Frank Friedlander discusses parenting of today compared to the past.
So last night, we went out for my birthday dinner with my grandmother. Thank you, I accept cash, checks, and various gift cards. Anyway, it was myself, granny, my wife, and of course, Francie. As anyone with young children, especially toddlers will tell you, going out to eat with them is always an adventure. Sometimes, you have to eat in shifts. You’re essentially at the mercy of the speed of the service.
At the Flat Top grill in Evanston, the service tends to be relatively quick, but quick to adults and quick to a toddler are two very different things. It was not long before Francie became antsy, attempting to put all 30 of her pounds into powering out of the high chair. “Out, out, out,” she demanded. I’m sure that most of us did the same when we were out to dinner with our parents, leaving them with the options of letting us scream out heads off or abandoning the table and walking us around the restaurant or outside. However, in our day and age we have a better option: technology. I simply whipped out my I-Phone, clicked on You Tube, and pulled up a Wizard of Oz video, averting the potential disaster.
My 90-something grandmother’s only response was “that looks expensive. What is it, a tape recorder or a watch?” As odd of a response as that may be, the I-Phone, and devices like it are not given the appreciation they deserve. Granted, our parents had options such as books, toys, and games, but they did not offer nearly the possibilities and entertainment potential as what we have today. Back in the early 80s, my folks couldn’t exactly whip out a television and VHS and pop in a video. We have virtually every form of media entertainment at our fingertips, and perhaps we should appreciate them more than we do.
An I-Phone, I-Pad, and similar devices may be a bit pricey, but they more than pay for themselves in situations such as the one previously described. I’m sure that there are a lot of people reading this and thinking, “why not just find another way to calm the child down?” or even the brilliant “just let her/him cry it out” option. I’ll assume that those people don’t have children.
While I am not one to advocate the plant ‘em in front of the TV approach to parenting, I certainly appreciate the assistance of technology. When you need to take care of a minor task, or simply enjoy a meal out, there’s no shame in turning to any available way to keep them occupied. We’re just fortunate enough to have more efficient tools at our disposal than our parents had. Prior generations can get on the soapbox and preach about how much better their gadgets and gismos were. However, I can guarantee that if you were to give any kid on the planet something that talks, walks, or pees, they’d take it over an Etch-A-Sketch or sack of Legos every time.
With all of this in mind, next time you’re at a restaurant, doctor’s office, or anytime there’s a wait involved, and your toddler is about to erupt, chances are, you’ll pull out a small apparatus capable of endless methods of keeping them occupied. Perhaps, you’ll be a bit more thankful for this invention, and even more so for your parents and how much more difficult it was for them to keep us calm, even if they were able to lug around a VHS and big ‘ole boxy 1980s style television?