I experienced two events yesterday morning: the first, a visit to great-grandparents where a quirky collection of toys were brought down, including a Russian doll set of Lenin, Stalin, Gorbachev and Kruschev (I think), and two pencils with some post-its. We spent a peaceful 3/4 hour as the children drew and delivered sweet notes to all of us, frowned over tricky puzzles, and were generally entertained. It was such a pleasing sight, and a delight to discover that it doesn’t take much to make a child happy. It was also quiet. Take note.
Event number two: we went on from there, foolishly refusing granny Olive’s home-made soup, to go to, what to me, was an excruciatingly over-stimulated experience at what boasted to be ‘a family-friendly’ restaurant. Personally, I liked it for about a minute, mainly because the staff handed out Nintendo DS’s and games to entertain the children, and I thought, great, because they’re never going to get one from me, and also, because they’ll be quiet. That momentary optimism soon waned, as what was intended as a family lunch, became the meal of two parents, (ears blasted by over-loud music, and eyes punished with the re-plays of crash scenes from track races, presented by a very young Jeremy Clarkson,) sitting opposite two small heads, wrecking their posture over Hello Kitty and Star Wars games. The food came, the games were momentarily put aside, and the TV acted as a screen back-up. Of course it was child-pleasing, but, I would suggest, it also was child-wrecking. Table manners: disregarded, conversation and eye-contact: forgotten. Also, imagine the shocking extravagance of passing round gadgets as though a dinner out wasn’t enough? In my day…
I left the restaurant sickened, bothered and deaf. I know the thought was clever, but there is nothing good about it. I refuse to accept that I need to just ‘move with the times’, or that ‘this is the future’. One of my worst nightmares is of a future with people who keep their heads down, and don’t truly see or hear. And, sadly, schemes like that restaurant only make it worse.
So: which would you choose, old toys with elderly people, or the flashes and frenzy of the modern version of ‘family friendly’?
Not a tough question after all.