It's 6 in the morning on a Saturday. The galumph of large, pre-teen feet shake the floorboards of the living room. Seconds later I hear the sing-song melody of the television turning on followed by the high-pitched screeching of cartoon characters. My 7th and 4th grader can barely make it to their school buses in the morning during the week, but come the weekend, they're up before the sun, in front of that television, and they will stay there until their toenails grow fungus roots into the couch cushions and the floor, which is progressively littered with the spray from whatever the hell they're eating.
That's the other part - they never stop eating. But they don't eat meals. You can cook them a healthy, nutritious and filling meal, they nibble at it. But in the middle of nowhere, one of them grabs a bagel and just starts to chew on it - too lazy to toast it, or butter it or apply cream cheese or even jelly. Just gnawing on a plain damn bagel.
These can't be my kids! I was raised, you don't eat a bagel without a schmeer of something! Veggie cream cheese, hummus, something!
7am: the dog's still not walked and the cat's still not fed. My sons are staring at the screen. One of them is drooling - spittle literally hanging off his bottom lip like un-chewed spaghetti. They'll live like this, in their pajamas, teeth unbrushed, breath smelling like rot, until moved.
"Walk the dog!" First words out of my mouth. before 'Good Morning!'
"Feed the cat?"
"Who wants eggs?"
Nothing. No response.
But if I switch that television off... oh my god! The whining! screaming!
"That's not fair!" Moaning.
Then they walk the dog. They get outside and re-enter... different people. They breathed fresh air. They moved their bodies.
But man, the thousand and twelve programs between Netflix and Youtube, Gumball and Bob's Burgers... my kids have a ton of fascinating things to watch.
"Why don't our kids read?" I lament to my wife.
"It's a different generation," she shrugs. Does she understand something I don't? Or does she not get it?
I know they read. They read at school, and they read at night in their beds. That's their wind-down, reading time. So, okay, they read. But sure as the sun will rise, Sunday morning, they'll be up bright and early again, watching like zombies until they're pushed out into the world again and awaken to the fact that there is tactile life - sticks to throw, balls to kick and chase, and possessions to fight over - things they will miss while drooling in front of the blue light of a screen.
Wait, I have to go. My show is on!
Hi. My name is Stephen Tesher. I am a novelist, screenwriter, educator, and father. I've authored three books, staged numerous plays and optioned screenplays, articles, and this blog.