I swore I wouldn’t do it. And then I did.

I’ve long detested hand-held video games especially when played at the table in a restaurant. Video gaming and dining are two experiences I never would have put together. Unless, of course, we’re talking about Pac Man (or Ms. Pac Man) and the game is being played arcade-style on a giant, old school, black box with a joy stick in the back corner of some dimly lit dive. Then it’s perfectly acceptable.

But video games are no longer limited to a fist full of quarters and the 60 seconds it takes for ghosts to catch up to the frantic, little, yellow guy. In just about any restaurant at just about any table at just about any time, you can find kids barely out of diapers along with their elder peers plugged into a myriad of electronic gadgets, staring hypnotically at mini screens. The group may have gathered together for a family meal, but the time spent seemed a little lacking when half the party passed the evening in a quasi-vegetative state.

Maybe it’s because video games never appealed to me, but that kind of evening just never appeared to be a great way of spending some quality family time. Then, last week, suddenly, everything changed.

I was at ZinBurger when I experienced the miracle. I had suggested having dinner there to my husband as I was curious about the burger and wine pairings, and he is curious about any food and beverage pairings. After ordering our burgers, we sipped our wine leisurely while engaging in lively conversation (okay, after 15 years it wasn’t so lively but it was conversation). About midway through our meal, I realized something. Our kids were with us.

We had brought them to the restaurant, but I had forgotten all about them. They hadn’t made a peep since we ordered. Silently they sat, playing the DS’s they had begged for but never received until this past Christmas when Santa, that sucker for doleful children, bestowed the gifts upon them.

Never before had I let them bring the devices to a restaurant, and although they looked slightly lobotomized that night as the faint blue glow reflected off their expressionless little faces, it was worth it. For the first time in 10 years I could actually enjoy a meal while dining out with my family.

I don’t plan to make a habit of bringing video games to restaurants, but I’ll admit I do see the electronic gadgets in a whole new if dimly lit LCD light.

(Photo: Flickr/kidperez)