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To The Mom Judging Parents Who Give Their Kids iPads In Restaurants

Photograph by Twenty20

Hey Judgy Mom,

After reading your post "To The Parents Who Give Their Kids iPads In Restaurants," I wanted to speak up. You’ve certainly created a digital tsunami when you said you wanted to approach and educate a couple sitting near you at a restaurant who, upon sitting down to eat with their elementary school-aged children, basically babysat their kids with iPads while they talked amongst themselves.

You cite the bad example those parents are setting for their children going forward, the annoyance of the sound of the iPads to other patrons, and the opportunity those parents are missing by not getting to engage with their children who, according to you, didn’t even look up to acknowledge the waiter or waitress when they ordered. In the end, you said you didn’t approach the family because you didn’t want to appear preachy, though confess to becoming just that at the end of your post.

Like you, I don’t allow my children (ages 6 and 9) to use screens at the dinner table at home or at a restaurant. I don’t because that’s something my husband and I together have decided is a family rule. Like you, I find the sound of kids' games and movies annoying while I’m seated near them—though not nearly as annoying as the sound of a bored kid melting down at a table nearby.

And like you, I don’t want my kids to get into the habit of always needing a screen in front of them in order to sit still, though I’m not afraid to admit my kids surely have a whole host of other bad habits I’ve probably created by accident.

But that's where our similarities end.

Unlike you, I’d never consider judging another family for their rules on screen time and where they find screens and their kids appropriate. I’d never think to approach another family to educate them or preach to them about why my way of parenting is better than theirs, regarding screens or anything else for that matter.

Moreover, I’d never assume I had the right answer when it came to anything related to raising kids because my nine years of parenting have told me that there are no right answers. There are just best effort parents trying to make it through the day.

See, that’s the thing that got me about your post. I actually agree with you. I don’t want my kids to have screens at the table either. But the fact that you think it’s okay to be a sanctimommy, even considering approaching the couple whose kids were on their iPads, is where you lost me.

But I've got news for you, as the mom of two young kids who don’t watch iPads at the table, sometimes I wish they did.

Have you been such a perfect parent that you’ve got all the answers? Probably not. I haven’t. Who knows? Maybe those parents whose kids were on their iPads were having a far lovelier evening out than you or I do trying to keep our kids from losing it each and every time.

Here's the thing about that couple whose kids watched their iPads at dinner—you don’t know a single thing about them. You don’t know if those parents couldn’t afford a babysitter and that night was their one shot at a chicken-nugget free dinner so they bit the bullet, broke out the iPads, and let their kids watch to their hearts' content.

You don’t know if those kids are special needs or particularly fidgety and the tablets are the only way they’ll sit still no matter what those parents do.

Or, maybe those parents let their kids watch screens all the time and that’s just how their family rolls. The point is, you don’t know. And the point is, it’s not your business.

Personally, I wondered why you spent so much time minding this other family’s business instead of paying attention to your own. You might as well have been watching an iPad. Dinnertime distractions come in all shapes, sizes, and screens.

I’m not trying to bash you, nor should you think I missed your point. I get what you were trying to say which was, “Hey parents, you’re missing an opportunity to talk to your kids when they watch iPads throughout dinner.” It’s a sentiment most parents would probably agree with.

But I've got news for you, as the mom of two young kids who don’t watch iPads at the table, sometimes I wish they did. Sometimes I’m tired of connecting. And sometimes I want the easy way out. And occasionally I envy those iPad-at-dinner parents who get to have a full conversation with their spouse without playing "I Spy" for the 49th time.

We all make our choices as parents and no choice is better or a guarantee our kids will turn out better, bright, kinder, or more engaged. But the one thing that'll harm all of our children more than the hour they spent watching “Paw Patrol” while Mom and Dad had dinner is a judgy stranger hovering nearby wanting to preach as to why their parents are getting it wrong by allowing those iPads at the table.

So it’s great that you’ve chosen to raise your kids without screens at the table. It’s great, but it doesn’t make you a better parent or person. Me neither. It just makes you, me, and those parents sitting next to you, a group of well meaning parents all trying to do the best we can.

So can you get an Amen? Sorry, but no.

First, get off your soapbox and then maybe we can talk.

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