Smartphone vs. Smart Parenting

So last evening, my 6-year-old and I went to Family Fun Night at Chick Fil-A. Mad Science was in the house. And it was a madhouse.

I think most of the parents had the same idea I did. Get the kids out of their own house. One woman in particular was taking advantage of the opportunity to spend some quality time with her smartphone. Dumb move, lady.

With mom’s attention off of them, the two daughters had taken over the show. There was a youngish girl in a lab coat who was supposed to be directing the activities, but she had to exert most of her energy on telling these girls (ever so nicely and with an enthusiasm I envied) to stop touching everything on her table. Yes, the girls were old enough to know better, and so was their mother.

At one point, the girl in the lab coat asked all the kids to join her at the table for a demonstration. Each of the kids was to take a turn reaching inside a bowl to try to pick up the piggie. It was supposed to be an optical illusion in which the kids reached through a hole to pick up an object that is actually only reflected.

The oldest of the miscreants took more than one turn and soon figured out that she could pull the lid off the bowl to reveal the real piggie, which she triumphantly snatched out of the bowl. The girl in the lab coat then very diplomatically retrieved her piggie only to have the younger sister repeat the same feat. In all of the chaos, my daughter, who was politely waiting in the back of the group, did not get to see the piggie.

The next stunt involved balloons. Specifically, it was the blowing up of balloons. The idea was for each child to put his or her thumbprint on a balloon and then to blow it up so as to enlarge the thumbprint. However, it was much more fun to blow up the balloons and let them go.

On its third release, I caught the balloon of the oldest piggie-grabber before it landed in my ice cream. Tempted to take it to the nearest trash receptacle, I begrudgingly gave it back. Mom, still staring into the depths of her phone (while my eyes attempted to bore a hole in the back of her head), didn’t take notice.

There was another child taking part in the blow up and release game, but her father told her to stop. She didn’t, and the dad didn’t take any further action. However, I do have to give him credit for at least recognizing his child’s behavior as annoying to others.

My own child could not participate in the game because she has not yet gained the ability to blow up a balloon on her own. After her balloon was blown up, however, she did toss it into the air. It landed in the booth behind us, and although the grandfatherly gentleman at the table did not appear disturbed, I promptly took possession of the balloon and did not return it until we left the restaurant. I reminded my sweet child that we were not at home and that we could not play with the balloon in that way because it might bother others. She said she understood, and that was that.

What I did was not difficult. It’s not like parenting is rocket science. You establish boundaries and enforce them. If your kids goes out-of-bounds, you reel them back in. You do not let them take charge. They are children. They do not yet know how to respect others. If you don’t show them, they will never learn.

I have been told that I am too harsh and controlling, overbearing even. I may well be. And I may be over-reacting to a fly-away balloon and a piggie that didn’t stay home. My daughter didn’t seem to mind that she didn’t get her turn. I would like to think that I get some of the credit for her reaction because when such things do upset her, I take the time to tell her that not all people do things the way we would like them to. And sometimes that means that we don’t get what we want. In this instance, she didn’t see the piggie and I didn’t see a mother acting the way I thought she should.

I guess in all of this I should learn from my daughter’s example. That is what smart parents often do. They realize that they don’t know everything, and they learn from watching their children figure out how to work within the boundaries of society. There will be other mothers who will try my patience. Of that I am sure, but there will also be other piggies to see.

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