How should one bring up children? Should one give them everything for which they ask? Or should one make them understand very early in life that some things are bad for them, whether it is physically or psychologically?
This flight of philosophical depth comes to me on reading an interview in the New York Times with Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft's Bill.
I wasn't sure whether to laugh, cry, admire or attempt to plait my eyebrows. You see, the interviewer offered her questions about Apple. The first was quite amusing: "Do you own an iPod, which is made by Apple?"
When I read this i was overcome with a feeling that Halloween had come early. Melinda Gates needs to be told that the iPod is made by Apple? Might this phraseology not have made her shiver too?
Still, her reply was sturdily corporate: "No, I have a Zune."
The interviewer persisted on pushing the buttons of Melinda Gates and her Zuneiness: "What if one of your children says, 'Mom, I have to have an iPod?'"
Again I was disturbed by this phraseology. Do kids really say "I have to have"? Or might they still have a tinge of human politeness and offer "Please can I have?"
Gates again offered a corporately correct response: "I have gotten that argument--'You may have a Zune.'" Note the enormously polite use of "may" in response to the alleged "I have to have".
The interviewer was not to be deterred. She asked Gates whether she owned an iPad ("Of course not"). Gates denied that her husband works on an Apple laptop. "False. Nothing crosses the threshold of our doorstep," she said.
This curious interview of domestic manners reached its highest note when the interviewer asked: "Isn't there room in this world for both Apple and Microsoft?"
Really. Isn't that like asking someone whether there's room for rabbits and porcupines? Voles and raccoons?
But the response might suggest to some that this interview was being conducted via Google Translate. For Gates' reply was: "Microsoft certainly makes products for the Macintosh. Go talk to Bill."
Perhaps you, too, are left with a peculiar sensation in several of your active quarters on reading these exchanges. I wonder, though, what the Gates' kids might make of it all. Surely they must have held an iPod or an iPad in their hands. What if they liked them?
Is deprivation a positive parenting tactic? Or will children grown up to crave what they were denied? Just as those who own Apple products crave Flash. Oh, wait.