Observation Deck. The Amtrak Coastal Starlight the other passengers are remarking on the weird activities of my children:
They are making finger knit scarves, drawing robots, playing cards, reading books, engaging in conversations with others.
Yeah. That’s unusual.
One woman remarked that she’s never seen elementary school aged children not have their head stuck in a hand held computer game on a train. I left the kids in the observation car with an art school student while I headed over to our seats for the kids colored markers and blank postcards for their series of robot and landscape drawings. The young man sitting next to where Diego was sitting said, “Your son is so polite. I’ve never seen such politeness.” I smiled. He thought maybe I didn’t understand. “It’s very unusual, he said.” I know, I said. It’s why I can’t send him to public school. The very idea of the institution would eat him alive.
Why should it be that unusual for a kid to be polite?
Why is it weird to see a kid not with his or her head in a hand held gaming device or a portable DVD player? What is it about us that makes us these freaks of the modern world?
My kids, for the record, know how to play games on computers. It’s not that they’re Amish or something. People act like it’s some weird extra training or something I’ve made them go through. But it’s quite simple:
No TV. Especially the Disney Channel. The Disney Channel is just crack for the pre-teen set. I am not some parent that’s never seen it before. I have. The shows are insipid. The musical ‘stars’ it creates are just muszak for the new century. The kids act like it’s okay to be stupid and not study and dress as if you are cruising the Beverly Center hoping to be discovered. It’s okay for the tweens in the Disney pantheon to be know it alls who know nothing and to be highly disrespectful to their parents. How can you let your kids watch that and expect anything else from them? It’s no different than feeding your kids candy for breakfast. Just don’t do it.
Video Games. Good lord. Limit it. Again, it’s crack. And don’t give me the bullshit about there being education games out there. I’m not stupid; I’ve cracked out on marathon games of, well Marathon, in my day. I played Mortal Kombat for eight hours once back in the day. I know the back stories of the Tekken characters that no one even bothers to play. It’s a drug and the Chinese, Brazilians, and Indians aren’t competing with us for better manual dexterity. Their kids are um, studying science and math while ours are playing ‘educational’ games.
Let Kids Know When They Suck. Call out bad behavior. Don’t be pre-emptive, but call it out when you see it. Explain to a kid that he or she sucks for whatever shitty thing he or she just did. Tell them simply—you see what you just did? That’s why people don’t like kids. Right there. It will make a difference. Just like adults, kids should say please and thank you and be polite and courteous because it’s the decent thing to do. They don’t need gods for this or religions. They just need f(*&ing manners. If your kid doesn’t have manners then it doesn’t matter how expensive a school you are sending him too. Your kid sucks and thank you for filling the world with one more future jerk of America.
Buy Only Toys That Foster Imagination and Creativity. Buy them things that make things. Buy them things that they have to figure out for themselves. If they aren’t four, don’t buy them a stupid plush toy. Don’t buy your kid toy guns. Especially don’t buy your psychotic kid toy guns and then real ones when he grows up–although I suppose that’s fulfilling some sort of imagination and creativity too?
We made it through 13 hours of train travel without either of them so much as looking at a cell phone. It can be done.