I wish I could tell you that in that instant, I politely told the man that the decision was up to me, the mother, and that my girls and I were spending quality time together--which for us, translates into the dying art of dinner conversation. I wish I could say that I sent him slinking away, red-eared, with the remote control cradled in his armpit. But caught off guard by his strange offer, I heard myself sheepishly reply, “Do you get Animal Planet?” And with a click, our girl-time went down the drain as R & R sat mesmerized by a show on the rescue of abused and decaying dogs. When it got graphic enough to elicit more than a few frowns from neighboring tables, Channel Surfer turned the girls’ attention to another screen, flashing with transformable superheroes and villains.
Sitting there watching my two young barstool potatoes, I felt violated. I had not put my work on hold and driven twenty-five miles in a gas-guzzling Suburban and eaten transfatty food to let my kids vegetate in front of a TV screen. And yet I realized this is where we’ve come to as a nation. Families that spend mealtimes staring at the tube, stuffing their mouths full and ignoring each other, are no longer confined to the American living room. “TV dinners” are now a dining-out sensation. Applebees, I guess it really is “a whole new neighborhood."