Although I’m not always successful, I do try not to be (overly) judgmental of other parents and their parenting styles/choices. There is, after all, a good chance that half the time (or more?) when I’m ragging on some parent for something they did (or didn’t do), I’ve been guilty of the very same “infraction.” For every time I’ve snickered about a parent engrossed in a phone call instead of watching his or her kid, I’ve probably done the same. We just don’t know all the details. We just don’t know who is on that phone call. As a result, it’s not really fair to judge (among a host of other reasons). That being said…
I was at dinner tonight with a client in LA (yes, another business trip, though this one was only for the day, which is nice). A couple of tables away from us sat a dad and his 14,15 or 16-year-old son. A fairly typical scene. At least it was until the father pulled out his iPod. For the next hour, father and son sat in absolute silence. The son doodled on the butcher paper “tablecloth” and the father listened to his whatever. (For my guess, I’m thinking book on tape.)
The whole situation made me so sad. But, it enraged my client. She wanted to go talk to the dad and ask him what the hell he was doing! Didn’t he realize he was sitting with his SON?!? Didn’t he realize the damage he was doing to this poor kid? She wanted to basically slap him silly and wake him up to the amazing opportunity that he was blowing in his silence.
And, while I agreed with her, I also couldn’t help but wonder if there were some deeper story. I mean it did appear as if the son was just as bored with dad as dad was with son. (No doubt a defense to what he knew was coming – nothing.) The kid just kept his head down and buried in whatever artwork he was doing. Maybe they had only recently had a big falling out. Maybe they had suffered some kind of tragedy that they hadn’t yet come to grips with. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
Or…maybe my client was right and this dad was just a total a-hole.
He was sporting the most heinous hat I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t really a cowboy hat or a baseball hat. Sort of something in between. Some kind of collapsible safari with a drawstring. It was awful. So, while that alone might make him into some kind of weird guy, the fact that he was ignoring his son only made him worse.
Obviously, my client was upset because she was thinking about her son, who is just a few months younger than K-Man. And, I was sad because I was thinking about K. I just didn’t understand how any dad could get to this point with his son. I had a flash forward and thought about K and me out at dinner – is this how it was going to be? No, of course not. That could never happen. We’ll always have the same kind of special bond that we have today. This, at least, is what I told myself.
Before this dinner I was determined to keep my relationship with K-Man as warm, loving and mutually caring. Now, perhaps, I’m even more determined to do so. I don’t know what caused this father and son to break down so tragically. But, for their sakes, I hope they figure it out and get it all back on track.
I can’t wait until my kid wakes up in the morning.