Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

Battle of the Game-Boy, Round 2


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?


9 thoughts on “Battle of the Game-Boy, Round 2

  1. Okay, so you have just added another reason why I have put you and Jason on my “parenting idols” list. You guys are amazing!
    I DO wish they would ban Game-Boys, cell phones and other such devices in schools, but that is a can of worms that I seem to remember you have already talked about… and one that is very controversial (to everyone else it seems).

    Keep sticking to your guns! I think you are great (mean) parents!

  2. Trudy, you are my parenting hero! Way to go!

  3. Thanks (blush) … we are so definitely NOT parenting heroes or idols …

    …although I am now having a good laugh imagining “Parenting Idol” as a reality competition show. “Tonight on Parenting Idol … Trudy performs ’10 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting a GameBoy’.” My kids could be the judges and tell everyone why I should be voted off.

    I guess in blogging there is a tendency to highlight your better parenting moments … I should post one soon about me really losing it with the kids and yelling for no reason at all!

  4. Blush away, Trudy! I know that there are days when none of us are the parents we want to/should be (as Jamie said in his latest, “People are people”), but you do seem to have a good grip on what is important.
    I like that idea about “Parenting Idol”… or not.

  5. I’m glad Christopher worked that one out for himself. I decided that Gameboys were ‘right’ for our family in this context: the Gameboys & the games are kept away in a cupboard until we are travelling in either the car or a plane. Car & plane trips for us mean extended periods of time trapped in a capsule, bored bumless. So I figured that 60 minutes on a piece of personal technology would be OK in those situations. I battled in my mind with the whole TV/computer/playstation/gameboy thing…I too knew ‘superior’ families who didn’t own a TV and certainly seemed more pious than my pagan family who had our favourite shows!! It occurred to me one day, after grappling yet again with why I wasn’t a wonderfully pious mother myself, that even if it was a book my kid was spending hours on, I’d prefer a bit of balance in their life. I think in the end that it is the decisions we make with purpose that make parenting a conscious decision (doesn’t make us experts but it give meaning to our rules/decisions & that helps the kids)….I’m saying this probably more as a teacher who has seen parents deliberately not make any decisions because, as we all discover at some point, parenting is not always as much fun as it looked in the brochure!

  6. Tracey, I think you’re right — the point it to be intentional about it, to make decisions about what’s best for your family rather than just “going with the flow.” Keeping the gameboys, etc., for travelling seems like a good use for them. And yes, it’s definitely the years of teaching that give me some of my perspective on some of these things.

  7. Hold firm, Trudy!! (And encourage me to do the same–I’m actually in disagreement with Mars about this–he wants to buy Mad Scientist a GB for his b’day next month!!!)

    Here’s my point…all those other technologies have positive aspects, things that are definitely good for the person/family. The computer is educational and helps with work. The phone aids in communication. The iPod … well, OK, the iPod is maybe not justifiable, but it isn’t something I used in front of anyone (except plugged into my car where we all enjoy better music than any local radio station plays).

    Game Boy does one thing and one thing only: allows ONE person to focus all their attention on a game. It’s not educational, doesn’t assist in interaction at all (in fact, it prevents it).

    I refused to buy one for my older son (also an introvert), but I allowed him to save up his money for a game system (it took him a couple of years). It was Step One on a VERY slippery slope that ended with him virtually flunking out of his first two semesters of college because he was playing World of Warcraft 20 hours a day.

    And for my credibility sake’s: we have five computers for five people, three iPods, two cell phones, one blackberry, one Palm Pilot and one digital recorders. I’ve been blogging for three and a half years and maintain my own website. I’m not on Facebook, but I *am* on MySpace and YouTube. Definitely not Luddites here! But we aren’t doing the game system dance with Mad Scientist, who already shows addictive personality traits. We’re just not, no matter what Daddy says.

    Hold fast, my friend. Mean mother or no, you’re a *good* mother for insisting.

    (Though I will admit, the Gameboys for travel only have some appeal.)

  8. Thanks for the affirmations Katrina — I think you totally get where I am coming from. By the way I do think the iPod has a positive use — it makes me exercise more. I’m far more likely to walk if I have the iPod! (Christopher wants one of those too, by the way).

    Re Tracey’s point about GameBoys for travel — the piece of technology I am holding out on that even Jason would like to get is a portable DVD player to use in the car on long drives. The thing is, our kids are FABULOUS travellers. It’s really their one party trick — being good in the car on long drives — it’s always been really easy to travel with them. The instant we introduce DVDs into the equation, I know they will never drive ANY distance again without insisting on one. We will have introduced electronic entertainment into a situation in which they’ve always been perfectly able to entertain themselves (or fall asleep) and that seems wrong to me.

  9. LOL. We think SOOO much alike.

    I’m holding out on the car DVD too, for the same reasons (but at least Mars is with me on that one). My children love to travel, and they are good at it. Why mess up a good thing?

    Oh, and one additional reason: I love to travel too, but I like to listen to podcasts and music. I do NOT want to spoil MY travel experience by having to listen to Air Buddies 20 times in a row. *shudder*

    And I didn’t think about that. My iPod keeps me exercising too. So there ya go!

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