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It’s dinner time on the fourth night of our family trip to
Mexico. My husband orders a starter and
a main course. I casually clear my throat to get his attention, which is the
polite equivalent of giving him the husband-kick under the table. “What?” he asks sheepishly. I remind him that
kids at the dinner table are like fish in the refrigerator; eventually they’re
going to go bad. Someone from the table next to us leans over, “That’s why we
always bring the iPad. The kids sit quietly at the table for hours.”
I’m sure it seems like I just forgot my kids’ iPads that
night at dinner. I didn’t. I brought crayons and drawing books, but no iPads.
That was on purpose. My kids do watch TV
and use iPads, just not at the dinner table.
Parents dining with kids who aren’t watching iPads almost
look like they’re missing something. It’s pretty common to see kids sitting
quietly in a restaurant watching a favorite show while their parents enjoy
their meal calmly without their kids chattering away. As I look around the restaurant that night in
Mexico, I realize my kids are the only kids there who weren't. For a second I wonder if I’m
depriving them of something.
Truth be told, I love TV and so do my kids. I think TV is
fabulous and I think iPads, which allow you to watch TV anywhere from the
toilet to the top of the Eiffel Tower, are amazing. And it’s not like I think no screen time is
the smoking gun when it comes to our kids’ intelligence. I grew up watching an
hour of TV per week while my husband grew up watching endless hours of TV each
day. He did far better in school than I
did and went to a much better college than I did. Clearly all that TV watching
didn’t hold him back. And yet I still
don’t want my kids to use an iPad, phone, computer or game at dinner with me.
I want to talk to them.
Some of my most vivid childhood memories involve dinnertime conversation, and I want my kids to have the same memories.
I know it’s sort of corny and makes dining with my kids much
harder than it needs to be, but if I’m going to bring my kids to a restaurant
with me I want to talk to them. Some of
my most vivid childhood memories involve dinnertime conversation, and I want my
kids to have the same memories. I don’t want them to check out when I’ve
brought them out. I don’t want them to
zone out and barely utter a word. I want to hear from them. I want to talk to
So while I know that meals with kids in restaurants are much
easier if they are occupied and zoned out, I’d miss out if my kids were watching
and not talking. Sure there are
meltdowns and multiple bathroom trips. There are meals they hate and the times
they’re bored. But in between those
off-nights are conversations about ninjas and superheroes, with each of us
deciding what super power we’d have if we could have one. There are the nights when we try to explain
how an election works and why voting matters. There are dinners where we all talk in funny voices and dinners where
the kids barely let us talk at all because they have so much to say. There’s always a conversation about what meal
we’d eat everyday if we could only eat one meal everyday. And there’s the
inevitable, “which is better chocolate or vanilla debate” that never seems to
And there are always times they break my heart like when my little one had accidentally splattered marinara all over her face. She got
upset and started to cry. As I dabbed her face with a wet napkin she looked up
at me and said, “I never want to let you go.”
I may be depriving my kids by not letting them watch an iPad
at dinner, but I’d be depriving myself if I did. I don’t ban iPads at the table to
make my kids smarter or so they learn to sit patiently at the table. I ban
iPads at the table because my kids have a lot to say and I really, really want
to hear it.