Both the boys’ birthdays are in March. Since Christmas, Piper has been talking about getting them a Wii and inviting a few kids over to play in lieu of a party.
Individually, Tigger has been asking for a new Leapster. Between the two boys, I’ve bought four of these things and three have broken. Add to that the fact that the game level for Leapsters stops around 2nd or 3rd grade (Tigger is in 2nd) and I just don’t want to spend another $50-60 on a new machine and $18-24 on new game cartridges. I’m thinking it might be time to graduate to a Nintendo DS.
The boys have a very old computer in their room that is not hooked up to the Internet and probably never will be, on which they play a couple of games that still work with Windows 98. On the one hand, it’s good because they play the games together, cheer each other on, laugh at the car crashes, and sometimes a good hour goes by before they remember that they hate each other. On the other, Pumpkin has gotten so obsessed with this one Volkswagon racing game that we have had to hide the mouse to stop him from playing it when he’s supposed to be cleaning his room or doing anything else besides playing with the computer. Similarly, Tigger would go all day from TV to computer and back again if we let him. And when we don’t, he goes from person to person to dog badgering and antagonizing one target after the other until someone yells at him. The boy needs a hobby.
Obviously, I didn’t have a computer growing up. In the late 70s, my dad bought one for his business that took up an entire room. I played with it, but it didn’t exactly have games. We had a ginormous TV in the family room, but there were rules about watching it. For a long time, long after I had outgrown Sesame Street, we were only allowed to watch PBS, yet I do remember watching the Brady Bunch, the Partridge Family, Bewitched, and somewhere around the 8th grade, becoming obsessed with Starsky and Hutch (no clean cut Donnie and Marie for me, no!). When my mother would leave us with the babysitter so she could go shopping, I watched Saturday cartoons all damn day, not because I liked them necessarily, but because I could.
Common sense, the childcare
mafia media, and pediatricians all advise parents to limit TV. Even before I was a parent, I had a strong suspicion that excess TV would be linked to ADD. Now the vocabulary has been expanded and we talk about screen time. I know these things.
I can come downstairs between 6-7 AM any given morning* and find Tigger on the couch watching whatever loud, flashy, nonsense Nicktoons has to offer. Often I find he will have been there for an hour or more already, and not so much as let the dog out or eaten breakfast. While it is an alternative to being woken at 5 AM, it worries me, that TV is the absolute first thing he goes for, whether he’s rolling out of bed, or coming home from school. Why can’t he go read a book?
When I worked in the bookstore, I found myself sneering at all those moms who would ask me for books for their sons, and say, almost apologetically, “He’s really not a reader.” Now, I can sympathize. Reading, the main source of my happiness as a child, is now a daily battle I fight with both of my sons.
Tigger is even a good reader. His vocabulary is amazing for an almost eight-year-old. But as with just about everything I like or that is good for him – he hates it.
So here I am facing the prospect of bringing more “screens” into the house. Now, I realize that there are going to have to be rules around screen time, and that I’m going to have to make them.
On the one hand I’m leery of increasing the forbidden fruit nature of the TV in the house, but on the other, if we can determine the rules beforehand, they could be a good motivator. Wii could be only for the weekends and days off, and only if all homework and chores are done. I’m betting that room will be cleaner a lot more often.
*This morning we were awakened by the sound of screaming laughter from downstairs. It was 5AM and both kids were up watching cartoons. Piper went downstairs and shooed them back to bed. Pumpkin went back to sleep until 6:30 and Tigger slept on the couch until 7:30. Now that’s more like it.