Sunday, March 11, 2007

Parenting without kids

When my wife Kara and I went out to dinner a couple of nights ago, taking a break from the regimen of Ramen noodles and Cinnamon Life Cereal to which we’ve been rigidly adhering since we put our house on the market, we noticed that a couple of nearby families allowed their small children to have their Game Boys out at the dinner table.

For those unfamiliar with Game Boys, they are handheld devices with tiny little screens that devour childhoods whole, allowing kids to play video games when they should be out catching fireflies and smooshing them on their shoes as a warning to all other low-flying insects. Parents who allow Game Boy-playing in restaurants are clearly putting their kids into a high-risk category; these kids are far more likely than their peers to mature into adults who wear Bluetooth headsets when they’re not even talking on the phone, like they think they’re platoon commanders or Old Navy employees.

I can only imagine how my parents would have reacted if I’d have whipped out my old Game Boy (which was black-and-white and carved from a granite slab) at the dinner table, much less at a restaurant. The only game on that Game Boy would have been “Super Mario Brothers: I’m Looking at My Bare Hands Now Because Mom Just Snatched My Game Boy.”

As you can probably tell, Kara and I like to criticize everyone else’s parenting skills, because when you don’t have any kids, you have lots of time for stuff like that. You can also watch movies that do not feature talking bears, and you can say bad words without having to spell them out.

But we’ve also been thinking about babies a lot lately, mainly because our friends are proving to be slightly more fertile than the Tigris-Euphrates river basin. Sometimes, they even find that out on purpose. Walking through the aisles of Target yesterday to hunt for some presents for a baby shower, we were amazed at the contraptions that are available to new parents.

“Oh man,” Kara said, “Look at this thing.”

She was pointing towards a device that looked like it should have been offered for sale at a farm auction instead of in the baby aisle. It reminded me of the episode of Sesame Street where they visit the dairy farm.

“I can’t believe you actually have to hook yourself up to this thing. I wonder if it hurts,” Kara said.

“Moo,” I replied, feeling very gender fortunate, but also thinking about how much easier life would be if, like cows, people could just eat hay. You could keep a bale in the kitchen and just go to town on it whenever you wanted. No preparation, no dishes. I’m not sure if you’d want to figure out how to chew on your cud, though, because that seems pretty gross.

We ended up purchasing a baby wipe warmer. I had no idea that baby wipe warmers even existed, but apparently baby-wiping technology has come a long way. We thought that this gift was also culturally relevant at the moment, because if you’ve seen the movie “Hannibal Rising,” which of course you haven’t because it’s terrible, you find out that Hannibal Lecter would have grown up to be a park ranger if his mother hadn’t used cold baby wipes on him.

Judging from what we saw in the mall, our baby-having friends sure seem to be in for it. Parenting these days offers challenges that weren’t around even a few years ago. For one thing, kids have wheels in their sneakers now, which makes them nearly impossible to catch, especially on inclined planes. They just glide on along like they’ve evolved without us. At least they refuse to wear helmets, just like when I was a kid. Fads may come and go, but cranial contusions never go out of style.

You can give Mike Todd a timeout online at


  1. As a single mom with 4 kids, I will stand tall and defend the parents who allow the game boy at dinner. And I will even follow it up with an explanation.

    First off, for a lot of working parents, dinner out at a restaurant is not a treat like it was in the good ole days of the granite game is a necessity. For myself, being the only parent who works nights, 12 hour shifts, yada yada is either dinner out, or those noodle things you are talking about, only multiplied by 5 with 3 of the 5 mushing them into the carpeting........I choose dinner out on those nights. Trying to keep 4 kids quiet, in their seats, and safe from being murdered by their mother is really, if the game boy consumes them and keeps me from drinking myself stupid at dinner....I am in high praise.

    I am really looking forward to when you have kids ..... I will be reading every blogolicious entry! *LOL*

  2. oh yeah - I'm with Iris on looking forward to you and Kara having kids. This is gonna be fun. I was alwyas the best parent before I had children. I canr comment on the gameboy thing becuase we only have one kid and we dont allow them at the table. But if I had more than one.... and needed peace and quiet.... well, all bets are off. Out comes whatever keeps them occupied for 10 minutes.

    I never used a wipe warmer with Hannah because I'm a firm beleiver that a nice cool cloth feels good on your butt at any age! lol

  3. There's a LOT of delight before they get old enough for wheeled shoes and GameBoys. You wait.


  4. I have to agree with the others on the gameboy. As long as it's turned down, that is. Can you turn those things down? Anyways, it's not like you can hand them a whiskey sour and and say, "hush now, sweeties, mama's busy..."

    But I F'ing HATE those wheeled shoes. Good Christ, what sort of warped individual decided that kids need to be able to move FASTER, especially in malls? I'd like to hit that person in the head with a hammer, G-dammit.


  5. I've never let the kiddo have his DS (one step above game boy) at a restaurant, I would if it was a big company dinner with lots of talking and no kids though. I have let him have it in the waiting room at the dentist and the doctor. You try sitting in a waiting room with a little kid for an hour or more. God Bless the DS. hehehehee

  6. Mike, I think we all know why you don't want kids to have their Gameboy at a will be too tempted to take it and play it yourself.

  7. Here via blogexplosion

    I'm sorry....did you say something? I had my bluetooth phones in both my ears :)

    The only time my son uses his gameboy is when I am taking a martial arts class and he is waiting for his class. It's funny, they all crowd around in a circle, passing them around, trading games, etc......and I smile thinking Atari 2600 RULES (ha!).

    Funny post!

    My Blog

  8. Hey dudes! All I know is, whenever I get around to having kids, they won't be playing Gameboy at the dinner table. Also, if I ever get around to climbing a big ol' Nepalese mountain, I won't use any of those sissy air tanks. I'll do it like a real man -- with my bare lungs. And maybe some of those power-walking ankle weights.

  9. Poor, Mike... you just sealed your fate and you don't even know it.

    You NEVER, EVER say what your kids WON'T do..

    I guarantee you will eat those words, poor dumb boy.....


  10. Anyway, I don't think it will be too much of an issue, 'cause my kids'll be too busy mowing the lawn and fetching my newspaper and what not.

  11. OMG I laughed so hard I think I farted.

    You just keep thinking that little man. lmaooooooooooooo

  12. You pin-pointed one of my big pet peeves - the people who walk around with the bluetooth ear-piece even when they aren't on the phone. Do those people think they look cool with a flashing blue light on the side of their head?! What idiots they are.