I’ve already explained about how we are, apparently, mean parents with silly rules, one of which is that we won’t buy a Game-Boy for Christopher.
Help me out here, folks — am I ridiculous about this? It’s not that we’re not all down with techology and the latest gadgets. We love technology. We have two computers in the house, one with internet access. I am very, very wired … I have a blog; I’m even on Facebook for cryin’ out loud. Both the adults in the house have cellphones. We are hardly a household of Luddites.
But I have this deeply-held belief that in a society that’s so quickly becoming overwhelmed by new technologies, human beings need to be thoughtful and intentional about what technologies we let into our lives. I believe you shouldn’t get it if you haven’t thought about it and decided it will make a positive impact on your life. And everything I’ve seen of these little hand-held video game contraptions that are so ubiquitous in kid culture these days makes me feel they are NOT a positive contribution to the life we, particularly, want to have.
(Disclaimer: I really don’t mean this as judgement on anyone who has them. I can remember, as a child, feeling vastly put-upon by those Superior Families who Chose Not To Have Television, and I really don’t want to be that person. I’m sure we have tons of stuff in our house you wouldn’t have in yours, because you’ve decided it’s not right for you. “Right for you” being the key here. Part of the issue with me is that the perils of the Game-Boy seem uniquely ill-suited to our son’s introverted personality. and part of it is that I don’t want to police the thing … again, it’s a very individual decision).
When I blogged about Christopher’s sleepover, I don’t think I mentioned that one of the boys brought a Game-Boy. The introduction of this piece of technology into the house led to the three third-graders being far quieter and more well-behaved than I thought normal or natural. While this was a relief, in the short-term, the larger implications disturbed me. If you have three eight-and-nine-year-old boys in the house, shouldn’t there be a lot of running, yelling and screaming? Wrestling, chasing … you know, playing? There was some of that, to be sure, but a lot of the time was spent huddled over the Game-Boy, taking turns with the Game-Boy, discussing what was being played on the Game-Boy. It felt … wrong, to me.
I know, I’m such a freakin’ Nazi. First I don’t like weed, now I don’t like Game-Boys. I’m not fit to be living in the twenty-first century.
So after the warm-up discussion about our silly rules the other day, yesterday morning Christopher started negotiating (I swear, if this kid does not study law it will be a tremendous waste of natural talent).
“If I saved up money myself to buy a Game-Boy, would you let me have one?”
“What if somebody gave me a Game-Boy? Could I keep it??”
“But WHY? That’s doesn’t make any sense. That’s not fair!!!!“
At this point I wanted to say, “You cannot have one one a boat, you cannot have one with a goat.” But instead I took a deep breath and said, “Do you really want me to explain why I don’t like them?”
He did. So I tried. I said, “When kids play with Game-Boys, they don’t interact with other people. Everybody’s just got their head in their own Game-Boy, not talking, not developing any social skills. Instead of learning to get along with others and learning to entertain yourself, you’re just interacting with the Game-Boy. I don’t like it and I’m not having it in this house.”
“But what if we set limits on it like you do with my computer time?”
“No. I don’t need one more thing to police.”
“What if we borrowed someone else’s Game-Boy and I tried it for awhile so you could see…?”
See what I mean about him being called to the practice of law?
I’m not sure what I’m called to, but if there’s a job where all you have to do is say “No” over and over again, that’s what I’m training for. This conversation ranged all over our getting-ready time yesterday morning and eventually got teary-eyed (on his part, not mine) as he insisted that I was totally unfair and if I wouldn’t let him get a Game-Boy, he wasn’t going to eat breakfast!!!!
Faced with Gandhi-style resistance tactics, I held firm. Five minutes later he came down and churlishly filled a bowl with Cheerios. Mom 1, Gandhi 0. The subject of the Game-Boy, thankfully, was allowed to drop.
We went out for supper last night. As we sat at East Side Mario’s waiting for our food Chris said, “You know Mom, I think I sort of agree with you about the Game-Boy.”
“You do? Why?”
“At recess today, Jasper, Derek and Thomas all had their Game-Boys. I wanted them to play with me but all they wanted to do was play with their Game-Boys.”
So — huge triumph: I have actually presented my point of view to my son in a way that makes sense to him within the framework of his world (at least until he changes his mind and starts begging again). On the downside, I’ve apparently instituted one more way for him to be a social outcast, because it seems the appropriate way for kids to spend their school recess these days is for each one to be huddled over his or her individual handheld gaming system, and if I don’t buy my son one eventually he will be destined to spend the rest of his life wandering in the wilderness looking for people to play pirates with him.
Hmm, could a solution be … maybe the school banning Game-Boys during school hours?? You know, it’s OK to say no to technology once in awhile … isn’t it?