Parent vs Parent: no video games for us

Filed under: Big Kids, Teens, Health & Safety: Babies, That's Entertainment

When Christy was 10, I bought her a Nintendo entertainment system for Christmas. This was back in the early 1990's, when video games were fairly new. The console came with two games - Tetris and Super Mario Brothers. Christy liked the games well enough, but I LOVED them. After Christy went to bed, I would set myself up in front of the television and furiously push buttons and curse. I spent many nights trying to master Tetris and many mornings regretting my late-night game playing. As I struggled out of bed each morning, I vowed not to do it again. But that night I would be back on the floor playing that game. This went on for a very long time and if the game console hadn't broken, I might still be at it.

We never replaced the Nintendo and computers hadn't taken over the world yet, so that was the end of our foray into the video game world.

By the time my sister had children, video games had become wildly popular. Unlike Heather's son, my sister's boys spent the majority of their waking hours either in school or playing video games. As soon as they got home each day, they would make a snack and take it up to the game room. About dinner time, they would emerge, dazed from hours spent battling whatever it was they were battling up there. When I visited my sister, I would see the kids only when they took a break for a kitchen run. When I did get a good look at them, it was clear they were both gaining weight from all the hours of physical inactivity.

My sister wasn't happy about all the gaming and fought a losing battle trying to put limits on it. She was the parent and should have won that fight, but she rarely did. And even when she won, she lost. If they weren't playing video games, they were nagging her about wanting to play video games. It seemed to me that games that resulted in arguments with mom and excessive weight gain were probably games my nephews shouldn't be playing.

We are all the product of our experiences and my experiences with video games have been negative ones. For me, video games are like playing slot machines (which I really like). The need to try 'just one more time' overcomes my objective reasoning and I end up tired and broke, having gained nothing. For my sister, having video games in the house meant doing regular battle with her overweight kids.

Which is why nobody was more surprised than me when I bought Ellie a Gameboy for Christmas. I don't know why I did it. Probably some misguided attempt to make her happy by giving her the one thing she desired most. As soon as the game was charged and she started playing Hello Kitty, I regretted the purchase. She completely zoned out on the little screen, tuning out everything around her, including me.

When she finally did come up for air, she was frustrated and mad because she couldn't get past the first level of the game. I made her turn it off and put it away, but she didn't want to. She begged to keep trying 'just one more time'. If Ellie is going to devote that much time and attention to something, I'd rather it be something worth mastering.

I let Ellie play with her new Gameboy for a while and then packed it up and moved it out of sight. It is currently tucked away in it's little pink bag behind the door in the den and Ellie seems to have forgotten about it. As for me, I know better than to touch the thing.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.