When Is Rude, Rude?

A Dad's Point of View by Bruce SallanEvery generation seems to have its standards of proper behavior and every generation tends to judge the next generation by their own generation’s standards.  How often does a parent say something like, “When I was your age, we never did…” or “If I did that, my parents would…” I found myself doing exactly that when some good friends whom I like very much came over for a visit.

These are long-standing friends so the incidents I’m describing must be understood in that context. While I found certain behavior a tad off-putting, I value these friends very much.  So, if these “friends” happen to read this column and figure out that it’s them I’m loosely describing, please know that I care for you very much. Plus, I’ve taken slight dramatic license in the same way that movies do when they say, “Based on a true story.”

This family is composed of my original friend from college and her husband, contemporaries of mine, and their two sons and daughter who are all in their twenties.  The older son lives nearby while his parents and bother and sister live out-of-state.  The older son recently got married and his wife has fit in very well with everyone.  Since his parents came into town to visit them, we invited all four over for the afternoon and dinner to our home.

From the moment “the kids” came in, they were on their cell-phones texting, “surfing,” and otherwise interacting with their technology while half-paying attention to us.  After hello, the first words from them were to ask what our code for the wire-less connection was.  I’m not kidding.

Now, being the bashful, unassuming, and quiet guy that I am, I actually took this in and did keep quiet for a while.  We went to a nearby Barnes ‘N’ Noble and this was still going on while I was trying to share my good news about some of my web activity, via my laptop, with these friends from out-of-town and their son and daughter-in-law.  Jokes were made at my expense as no one cared to see what I was so eager to share.  I got the message and shut down my computer while still observing “the kids” continually checking and interacting with their phones.

I actually got a personal lesson and reminder that expecting my friends and family to support my “work” endeavors, even the publication of my first book, is unrealistic, unreasonable, and unsupportable so I was grateful for this reminder and took that lesson to heart.

I learned this long ago, when my column began appearing on various web sites and I found “my friends and family” were not interested in receiving notices about them and certainly were not interested in posting comments, which is a staple that all bloggers and web-sites seek.

Instead, I developed relationships with many of my readers and quasi-friends from Facebook, Twitter, and my web sites.  I could ask these “quasi-friends” with impunity for a favor, a comment, and know they would be happy to do so, especially since I made it clear I would reciprocate.  That is still what I do. I also learned to never ask my wife to comment.  She supports me in so many other ways, doesn’t really enjoy Social Media, works very hard, and provides a wonderful home for my sons and me.  That is more than enough, for which I’m regularly grateful and tell her so.

However, let’s return to dinner with my friends, after our “coffee” at Barnes ‘N’ Noble.  My wife prepared, as she does so often, a lovely meal.  It was a perfect night for al fresco dining and we were able to sit outside and enjoy a wonderfully comfortable early spring meal. Our friend’s younger son and his wife continued to interact equally with their cell-phones and us. I finally spoke up, suggesting that the son consider turning off his phone.

His parents looked up, but didn’t say a thing.  Nor did anyone else.  A few minutes later, after all the food had arrived and my wife finally sat down and joined us, I saw him again using his phone, this time like a middle-school kid cheating, since he was doing it in his lap, under the table.  It was so amusing that I made a joke and just gave him a look.  At that point, I stopped. This wasn’t my business.

The rest of the evening this young couple continued their multi-tasking and we all made the best of what was still a pleasant night all around because, as I said earlier, I value these friends and especially appreciate the long-standing relationships I have.

Shortly after they left, I asked my older son what he thought about what had transpired.  He simply said something to the effect, “Dad, that’s the way it is for their generation” with no judgment or derision towards them or me.  For the latter, I was grateful.

I’m still unsure of what is correct?  It is likely not my place to offer “suggestions” about behavior to anyone else’s children, so I know that is not “correct.”  At our dinner table, no one is allowed to interact with anything other than another human being.  Cell-phones, television, or anything tech is not present.  That is the value I choose to teach at home.  How others choose to raise their children or demand from their adult children is not my business.  Lesson learned.

One Response to “When Is Rude, Rude?”

  1. Lisa Bridges
    June 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    Hello Bruce:
    I’m writing this because seeing evidence of true humility (i.e. “I was the one who could be wrong.”) is almost NEVER present on the web today! LOL! Kudos to you! I have read several articles you have written and I identify with your point of view to an almost absolute extent, so I want to tell ya that I was rooting for you in this story, specifically for you to point out that the rapport between all of you was good enough that everyone could laugh it all off and chalk the differences up to the generations together. From personal experience, I have learned that this laughter gets our points across much easier than suggesting a course of action for someone else, which comes across as telling them what to do with their lives. I agree whole-heartedly with you in how you run your dinner tables, and it’s really cool you were bothered enough to write about it.
    I’m rooting for you that you can – in ordinary social interractions – stand up for your beliefs in even more inclusive and fun instead of parental ways, and that this is fortifying your sense of humor as well as it has your sense of humility, because we could all use more humor in our lives!

    Thanks again and happy humor-filled tolerating!

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