Friday, March 7, 2008

Family Dinner

Last week, Matty and I were out on a date at a local pub/restaurant, where we saw a young family with a daughter about 3 years old sit down for dinner. As they settled into their seats, removing jackets and opening napkins, the mother took out a portable DVD player, set it in front of the little girl, and proceeded to play Monsters, Inc.

The family looked happy, Mom and Dad engaging in meaningful conversation, I'm sure (I couldn't quite hear over the blare of the movie), and of course the young girl was thrilled. But I thought this was terrible.

I hate to judge (okay, I don't really hate it), and I have no idea of this family's circumstances. Amy, I know, has used this technique when Jonah was younger, and for all I know, this little girl had some kind of developmental disorder and might go into anaphylactic shock without a steady dose of Billy Crystal. But I don't think so. (I couldn't take my eyes off the movie, so I had a pretty good view of the family all night.)

I won't launch into yet another defense of the family dinner, but this seems to cross the line. You don't have to dine out as a family; if you feel that your child cannot sit still and behave for an hour while you eat, you can either eat dinner at home or hire a babysitter. But frankly, by the age of 3, I think a child is old enough to dine in a family restaurant without constant entertainment.

Matty disagrees with me here; the DVD player was rather large, about 7-inches wide; Matty thought a more discreet size screen, like on an IPhone, would be okay. But I still feel like it sends the wrong message to the kids. If they learn to only enjoy going out to eat with their parents if they can watch a movie the whole time, they'll never learn to actually enjoy dining out in a restaurant.


Historic Moment said...

I agree with you that the movie in a restaurant is in poor form, but for perhaps different reasons.

I think that providing constant visual entertainment for a child when you're out and about will cause a child to not be able to entertain themselves quietly. Having a tv playing on your table is rude to the other customers. And, you're teaching your child that they can have what they want right then and there, no wait. You're bored? Here's a movie. Only one step worse, don't even wait for the boredom.

Sitting in a restaurant with your parents bored off your mind is part of being a kid. We all survived it and I'm sure this child will too.

Laundry & Children said...

I have to agree with you. I have pretty high expectations of my kids and they constantly amaze me by living up to those standards. If you don't expect much, you won't get much.

A television at the table! And here I was feeling guilty that I let my kids watch the dvd player in the car (but only on long trips, not around town).

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~Emily Holmes
Program Assistant