Hello. Activity. Pizza. Sing. Cake. Presents. Goody bag. Goodbye.
The birthday party: Great for kids, not so much for adults. But it’s important that our children have friends and nurture those relationships, so when we receive that Hello Kitty or Spider-Man invitation, we RSVP “yes.” We take them to the party, and set them loose like free range chickens in a zoo/bounce house/arcade. The parents then spend the next two hours orbiting their child like the moon around the earth, keeping a sniper’s eye on them. Ever notice how many questionable decisions your child makes at a birthday party? That’s because you’re staring at him for two hours without interruption. No one could survive that kind of scrutiny.
A few weeks ago, I took my oldest son Jackson to his friend Luke’s birthday party. And you guessed it: Hello. Activity. Pizza. Sing. Cake. Presents. Goody bag. Goodbye. Jackson and the other kids bowled, played laser tag and drove go-karts. Meanwhile, the parents engaged in empty-calorie small talk about jobs, commutes and whether our lawns needed work. What we didn’t talk about was the elephant in the balloon-strewn room: One of the moms working on her laptop for the entire 120-minute soiree. During pizza and cake, she had her Macbook Pro open on the table. In the laser tag waiting area, she sat on a sofa, typing away, the glow of Microsoft Excel all over her stoic face. She did not participate in any conversations. She stayed completely to herself. (Full disclosure: The venue was relatively contained. The children were in no danger of wandering off into traffic.)
At first, I was appalled. Seriously? You brought your laptop to a child’s birthday party? Would it have killed you to stand around awkwardly and talk about your lawn? There seemed to be a total lack of social grace. Have you no manners? Is this the example you want to set for your child?
But then I began to imagine the possibilities. What if she has a major deadline at work, and didn’t want her son to miss the party? What if she had put her child in front of the TV while she worked at home? Is that really a better option?
By the time I was driving home, I was strangely proud of her. For today’s moms and dads, time is precious. If I handed you two free hours right now, imagine all you could do. Grocery shop. Start those thank you notes. Pack tomorrow’s lunches. Schedule the tutor. Fold some laundry. Use the bathroom without carrying on a conversation through the door about a lost Beyblade. Sure, this mom could have glad-handed her way around the party and politely chatted with people she’ll never be friends with. But instead, she ignored our judging eyes, and made full use of her time.
Work is always within arm’s reach. It’s a vibration in your back pocket, or a text at a red light. We live in a hyper-productive, multitasking world that wants us all to do more with less. So we shouldn’t be surprised that a busy parent brought her laptop to a birthday party. This moment was inevitable. One day soon, birthday invites will announce, “Wi-Fi available.”
Of course, Laptop Mom will be judged harshly for her actions. The first person to bust through the status quo always is.