Tag Archives: children

Dinner Talk

Swiss Chalet in Saint John, two 20-something women with a toddler Swiss_Chalet_quarter_chicken-2011-Tabercil-wikicommonseach and one infant. Four full meals. One child picks at his food, the other has eaten all he wants. One woman eats her meal, the other appears to be done. All the plates are still full. Side dishes, most still full, been pushed away.

One toddler goes exploring, over to the next table. He reaches as high as he can and pulls napkins and cutlery off. The woman sitting there smiles and talks to him. The child’s mother doesn’t notice what woman on cell phone wikicommonsis happening two feet away. Her head is down, over her cell phone. She is reading and texting. The other woman doesn’t notice either. She is chewing french fries and talking on her phone.

Finally the child’s mother looks up to see where he is. “Come back here Randy” she says and apologizes to the couple. They say it’s ok, they have a grandchild the same age. Randy sits in his chair. Mom goes back to texting.

The other mother goes to the washroom, baby carrier in one hand and phone held against her ear with the other. She returns, still talking on her phone. Both women continue texting and talking to people who are not in the restaurant.

Randy climbs down from his chair and goes to yet another table to pull things down and hang off restaurant patrons’ legs. Occasionally, his mother looks up from her screen to see where he is. Sometimes she gets up to retrieve him. He screeches when she demands he sit still. She goes back to her texting and reading.

Birthday Boy

birthday cake with sparkler wikicommonsWaiters head over, bearing birthday cake with a sparkler. They surround the table, clap and sing to the other little boy, who has stayed quietly in his chair. His mother continues talking on the phone, glancing up as they finish to say thank you. Then she returns to her call. The other woman texts throughout the entire thing. Birthday kid eats his cake and looks confused. The waiters are gone and everyone at his table is back to ignoring him. Randy screeches, baby sleeps, moms talk and text on their phones.

Randy’s mom looks up long enough to realize he is tired and is not going to shut up. “Ok, I’m taking you outside” she says. She puts her phone in her purse, gathers both boys up and leaves. Randy screeches all the way. The other mother puts her phone down and gets the baby ready to go. She asks for boxes for some of the food. Thank heavens, there is enough left to feed them all for another day. While she waits for the bill, she talks to her baby and to the couple sitting beside her, apologizing for her nephew bothering them. “It’s ok,” they too say, “we have grandchildren that age.”

Thankfully, Randy hadn’t made it to our table. While the child’s behaviour was understandable, if not desirable, that of the mothers kid-and cell-phoneswas not. Talking neither to each other nor their children, engaged solely with people somewhere else. We were fascinated by it and repulsed. Happy birthday, little boy. You deserve better than what you got.

junk email aug 2018
From a spam email I received recently. I highlighted the probably accurate – and scary – figure.

Five years later

I wrote this the day after it happened five years ago because I needed to cleanse my mind of this hideous family outing. I didn’t post it then though. Maybe it was just a “when I was young” old fogey complaint. Everyone had a cell phone, and always seemed to be on it doing something. Part of life. But others still talk about the omnipresence of phones, even little kids. The kid who wrote this widely-shared essay would be about the same age as the two little boys in Swiss Chalet.jen-adams-beason-fb-may-2018

Corrie Street Nov. 8/15

Make a wish

Thursday Tyrone reassured Hope that she’d meet Santa, the real Santa, in tyrone tells hope she can make a wish for SantaLapland. I too desperately wanted her to get her wish. I knew that he, like Fiz, was worried about not having the money for the trip, but couldn’t break her heart by saying no.

Contact Make-A-Wish, I thought. That surprised me. I’ve never been comfortable with the premise of it and similar foundations that fund terminally ill children’s wishes. A lot of money is raised to send kids to Disneyland. But couldn’t that money be better spent on research for cures? For preventing preventable disease among millions of poor and undernourished children? Trips to Disneyland or wherever seemed to me like First World, individualistic self-absorption.

hope-and-tyHope has changed my mind. For a sick child, that wish is the single most important obtainable thing in his or her life. Fiz and Tyrone are showing me that, for the parents of a gravely ill child, that one child is the world. The mantra of ‘we should care equally for all children everywhere’ may be a valid sentiment. But it means squat to parents and children facing grave illness.

Generosity of spirit

If there are kind people in the world who want to help make dreams come true, who am I to quibble about where and how they express their generosity of spirit? Not having the money to give your child the one last gift he or she would really like is one extra burden on already overburdened parents. Money alone can’t cure childhood cancer, but fiz listens and worriesit can provide the means of bringing that bit of joy to sick kids and their families.

So the next time a grocery cashier asks if I want to donate to Make-A-Wish or Children’s Wish Foundation, I will not reply with my usual ‘no’. I’ll donate. Thank you, Hope.

If you haven’t seen this already, here’s how St. George, Ontario made sure a 7 year old boy got to see Santa come to town.

Newtown CT

When smoking was still permitted in restaurants, you’d sometimes see signs:  “No pipes or cigars”. That was because the smoke from those is much stronger. To me, this is a Bonnie Parker Cigar1933 pd wikicommonsway to look at gun access.  There are many valid reasons for owning a gun; for hunting, target shooting, self-protection. Many types and models that serve those purposes well have existed for many years.

Other firearms are designed for specialized purposes. Automatic and semi-automatic weapons, assault and sniper rifles were developed for military actions and are what you want in those situations. But for civilian hunting, sport or protection, their capabilities are not needed. Like cigar smoke, they are too strong for a setting of civility.

Our communities and streets, we hope, are places of civility. So let’s remove the “overkill” weaponry from them. That’s all previous US gun control legislation tried to do, and having even that back would be a vast improvement today.

balloons at Sandy Hook school signThere may well still be people who for whatever reason decide to shoot strangers, family or friends – maybe many of them, maybe even 6 year olds. But if they weren’t carrying firearms that would hold such large ammunition clips, maybe they wouldn’t be able to kill so many.

I think, by definition, those who kill people they don’t even know have something seriously wrong with them. There are ways, perhaps, to redirect or resolve their personal issues. Something more is desperately needed in our mental health support system.

A blog by a woman about life with a potentially violent son is chilling, but her honesty and insight makes it required reading for all of us. Provision of mental health care must be improved. But, please God, not just with psychiatrists prescribing yet more psychotropic drugs.

Gun Culture

26-Newtown-Christmas-trees‘The Culture of Violence’ has been much talked about since the massacre in Newtown. Video games, music, movies, drugs and media hyper-attention have all been blamed. All may contribute, I think. But that’s a very large and amorphous mass – called, indeed, culture. Can’t change it all with legislation.

I wonder if Miss Manners hit the nail on the head in discussing the loss of the dinner party as a social staple. In the NY Times, she says the ability to converse and generally act civilly is gone, replaced by opining and expounding without listening. Courtesy and respect can be taught and practiced at home, with family and friends.

To go back to the smoking analogy, people have adapted to bans on even cigarette smoking. If they can do that, why should it be any more difficult for people to adapt to something much less physiologically distressing like having limits placed on the types of firearms, modifications and firing capacity you can legally have?

 gun manufacturer ad-bushmaster-acrThere is a final irony in what happened Friday in Newtown. Connecticut has some of the strictest firearm laws in the US.  And the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a supporter of 2nd Amendment rights, is based there, in Newtown. The gun industry has a long history in Connecticut. Some of the country’s largest gun manufacturers have their headquarters there. They pay taxes to the state and provide jobs. One may ponder whether the right to unbridled gun ownership and those jobs and tax monies are worth the 28 lives lost Friday.