by Risa Green
Quote me on this: videogames are the source of all family friction.
I am a hard ass when it comes to videogames. I never gave in to the DS, no matter how much my children begged and cried, nor how many times it showed up on Hanukkah and birthday lists. We have a Wii, but playing is only allowed on weekends and school holidays. Last year, when my husband and I updated our iPhones, we gave our kids our old iPhones (without the phone part) to use for the apps – a sort of makeshift iTouch – but with the stipulation that they could only use them when we went on vacation. The rest of the year, the iPhones are hidden in a secret place in my closet that they’ll never find, no matter how much they snoop around.
I made these rules for the usual reasons: I don’t want my kids sitting in front of screens all day, exercising only their fingers. I think that videogames at the dinner table is rude. I like to talk to my kids when we’re in the car, not be ignored by them while they sink into an Angry Birds coma. Occasionally, of course, I’ll break the rules. If there’s a no homework night I might let them use the Wii, or I might toss them my phone to play on if there’s an unreasonably long wait at a restaurant. But most of the time, I pretty much stick to the program.
The program, however, went all to hell during the last two weeks, while my children, Hellraiser 1 and Hellraiser 2, have been on spring break. Suddenly, the Wii became fair game. My son would disappear for hours to play Lego Star Wars or Lego Indiana Jones, surfacing only for meals and the occasional bath. My daughter would sometimes play with him, or she’d sit on the couch, mesmerized, watching him. Mostly, though, she’d be screaming at him that it was HER TURN, waving the Dance Dance Revolution mat in her hands like a matador in a bullfight. And then I would come in yelling at her to stop yelling at him, and yelling at him to go outside and DO SOMETHING REAL for a change, and then they would yell at me because it’s spring break and they’re allowed to play whenever they want on weekends and holidays, and then I’d threaten to throw the thing in the trash while they ran up to their rooms, crying about how unfair their lives are. And then I’d give them the standard, parental guilt trip about how there are some kids who have no toys, and who have to make toys out of sticks and twigs, and I could easily arrange for them to go live with those kids. Permanently.