The “perfect” family—mom, dad, and two girls probably ages 6 and 9—sat across from my husband and me as we dined at a local restaurant to launch our weekend As hard as I try, when I am out in the world I cannot help but notice families. It is my passion and my life’s work, and I am just selectively perceptive to parents and kids wherever I go. Knowing them doesn’t matter, (but it is the icing on the cake.)
The girls were adorable. The older one, on the quiet side, seemed calm, centered, attentive, and responsive. Her little sister was a fire cracker—chatty, effervescent, with something to say about everything. Mom engaged the girls in conversation, reminded them to mind their manners, and responded to their barrage of comments and questions.
Dad worked on his Blackberry. Three times he hurriedly left the table and returned to resume his rapid fire thumb work. Several times Mom responded to a comment from Dad clearly unrelated to the family, and admonished the children to be quiet, not to interrupt.
Now I couldn’t not look! I have to blog about this, I thought.
I do notice families, but I don’t ever comment. But what would I have said to this family? Dad, you’re blowing it! The older your children get, the fewer are the natural and spontaneous opportunities to chat with them, to influence them, to impart your values and opinions. Dinner out together is a neutral, unloaded opportunity to communicate and connect with your children. I might continue… You are your child’s first teacher, and what are you teaching your girls? Just for starters, they are learning that your work is more important than they are. Even if that isn’t the truth, it is the message. (And maybe, just for a little good measure, I would tell him that he is incredibly selfish!)
How many parents admonish their children to unplug from their ipods, turn off the video games, shut down the Wii, to join the family?
Joining the family starts with you, Dad.