Sunday, June 8, 2008

Video Games, A Family Intervention

My kids love video games.

We have admittedly fed this love, because we enjoy a good round of Smash Brothers or Mario Cart as much as anyone. It’s cathartic to occasionally beat your children in an area they consider themselves to be “grand masters.” When I schooled my son recently on Soulsword, he was most gracious. “She grew up on Mortal Combat and Kung Fu Battle and Gauntlet.” He explained to his awe struck sisters. Being a gracious mom back, I said, “Yes, young grasshopper, you have much to learn.” My son didn’t know his mom could trash talk either.

Being a child of the 80’s, I have fond memories of blowing wads of quarters on Ms. Pac Man, Centipede and Donkey Kong Jr. I was the Jedi master of the Star Wars game, back when all you had to hit was line drawing outlines of those tie fighters, which really meant something because I was…shocker…a girl! I was one with the force then, and sometimes, even now the mitochondrion rally to my side.

My husband and I have brought our children up on the classics, Frogger and Paperboy, and told them of the lost favorites like Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom, or the classic Gauntlet, wherein we were both frequently told, “Never have I seen such bravery.” when we would launch into suicide missions against hordes of orcs once we were out of spare change. The fondness in our voices at those times indicated tacit approval for this activity as a form of recreation.

Unfortunately for our offspring, games and game systems change and people sometimes grow up. Being grown up, we get the fun job of imposing limits in life; bed time, what’s for dinner, what’s for snack, what they can wear to church and how much they can watch television. However, in the arena of video games, we have admittedly, shown our human frailty. With seven of eight kiddos preoccupied with no mental or physical power supplied by a supervising adult, it’s hard not to succumb to sloth too.

With the baby safely tucked in her crib, my husband and I would race to our respective computers and begin our own plunge into the opiate that video games provided. Originally, we showed characteristic adult restraint, setting a proscribed time limit for this indulgent activity that was strictly observed. Then one day, the timer went off and I turned it off and instead of barking the usual, “Game over. Time’s up.” I returned to the computer to finish my round of spider solitaire. The kids stayed in Nintendo Land and my husband walloped on the French with his massive Roman navy in an island based scenario of Civilizations.

Hours drifted by and we ordered pizza. The baby played in the room with us, supplied with hugs and cuddles, occasional bottles and diapers and a pick me up as needed. The day shot by and everyone had vacated reality for all of 8 hours. We felt exhilarated and drained at the same time. We had frittered a day. Here in 2008we had managed to beat the demands that we always be doing with a unplanned unstructured day of pure indulgence that cost only the price of ordering three pizzas plus cheesy bread.

The next day was sort of a hangover, the price of our day of hooky. Laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, homework projects and gardening all acted as silent critical editorials for our day of indulging the Id. Naturally, we did what any beginning addict does, we made excuses, did a quick cursory attempt at each of the problems and then rushed back to our addiction of choice. Another wasted day, but this one did not thrill as much as the first when the work week returned. For a time, we keep this mentally and physically destructive but entirely legal habit under control. It was limited to a weekend only pursuit, we would binge play on Saturday and Sunday.

I stopped scheduling weekend activities.

However, the creeping addiction of virtual crack provided by fake worlds and fantastic swords kept trying to pry open the rest of the week and eventually succeeded. Homework finished, they would rush to their screen of choice. I wasn’t much better, feeding the baby as I played on my laptop in the kitchen.

Fortunately, we have many actors in our family and the one least invested performed an intervention of sorts. It was partially due, as all interventions actually are, to the increasing level of sloth by those supposedly providing guidance, supervision and care. Having requested a glass of water and received none, my two year old decided to help herself. She got a paper cup from the closet. She took it to the sink. She filled it to the brim and quenched her thirst .

Smacking her lips with satisfaction, she walked over to where her siblings sat pushing buttons and cheering on their latest hero, Link. Toddlers are called toddlers for a reason. Sippy cups are used for a reason. Toddlers carrying sippy cups can trip all day and not spill a drop. Toddlers carrying nearly full paper cups trip and electronic equipment designed to provide hours of entertainment do not like the results.

The cry went out too late but there it was, a 6x6 inch cube of plastic rendered unusable by virtue of one of the basic necessities of life and the “we presume” innocence of a two year old. Looking at the remains of the once beloved box, the children shook their heads in disbelief as we all recovered from our madness and remembered again the taste of barbeque, the spray of the pool waterslide and the glory of listening to baseball on the radio that should fill the hours of summer.

Never has a toy fallen from grace so quickly. Never has a recovery come so instantaneously. The next few weeks passed in a blur of summer activities that made me proud to be a parent and put the whole video crack addiction behind us. It was just a bad bump in parenting and family dynamics, a fall, the result of our fallen nature, from which we had emerged stronger.

Then the kids started a lemonade stand. I was feeling so proud of them for inventing a way to enjoy the day until I saw the sign. “Raising Money for our OWN Wii. 50 cents a cup. Donations Welcome.”

And I know, I may have to give the baby a glass of lemonade one day.

1 comment:

JimmyV said...

You rock!

My toddlers stands before the PC, points and says, "Game. Watch."

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!