I got hit with it during snack time two days ago. I asked my son, who is now nearly eight years old, if he’d like to have a few friends over for pizza and a movie. I suggested several of his buddies from school. He was quiet for a moment and I assumed he was mulling it over in his head. Then he began to stammer a bit. “Uh…well…maybe…except I don’t think I want to invite Jamie.” (FYI - Jamie is not his real name. It has been changed to protect his identity on the off chance that he is reading this in his down time.)
I began to prepare a lecture in my head. I was gathering my usual sayings about how we should be nice to everyone and try to invite new friends over to include them, etc., etc. Then Emmett continued, “I don’t think I want to invite him, mom. I heard him tell his brother that our house is boring.” Well, there it was. Boring. Our house is boring. “Why?” I asked. Emmett thought for a while before he answered me. “I heard him say that we don’t have Wii or a TV with a big screen on it so our house is boring.”
I had figured that this day would come. Let me start by saying that I am not opposed to TV, video games or large screens in general. We do have a TV set and trust me I use it – and I’m not above that at all. My kids have their favorite characters and their favorite shows. We were slaves to Thomas the Tank Engine for years. But I put off video games. I have tried to avoid them but I knew that this day would come sooner or later.
Emmett would prefer that we give in and get him a Wii now. And I have no problem saying no to him. That’s not an issue for me. What I have trouble with, is the fact that I feel like giving in to video games is giving up a piece of what I love about childhood for them. I love that being a kid means living in your imaginary world and creating things and getting down on your hands and knees and playing. I am hoping to avoid the day when their automatic response to boredom is to play a video game instead of creating their own game together.
Here’s part of the truth as well. That imaginary world is part of what I love about being a parent. I knew I was a real mom when I realized that I had calluses on my knees and the tops of my feet from all of the crawling around on the floors we did. We could fill hours with dinosaurs, Little People, or trains. Or – my personal favorite game – when Little People took the train to Dinosaur World. Yes, no kidding, I was that good! Now, I notice that the knees on my jeans aren’t popping holes every six months like they did when the boys were younger.
As Emmett gets older, he’s stepping away from that more and more. He is entering a world of sports, wrestling, tag, and video games. Not, as Seinfeld would say, that there’s anything wrong with that. He is getting big and leaving the world of little kid stuff behind. That is exactly what he is supposed to do! But I’m not sure if I’m ready to leave that world behind. You know how some parents get sad when their kids move out of the baby stage? That’s how I feel about their early imaginary years. It saddens me to feel them slipping away.
So, maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s less about them and more about the fact that it’s hard for me to watch them change. I don’t want my son to be ostracized or left out, but I am also happy to find that there are some other boys his age who have a great time at our house. They don’t seem to mind that we don’t have as many electronic games or gadgets. He has a lot of friends who are still happy to come over and play Legos or “spy” or “ninja” in the backyard. Sometimes, they will even play “veterinarian” or “school” together with my three-year-old. I will try to foster those relationships and that kind of play as long as I can.
I am hoping that I will be a good mom of bigger kids and I am guessing that someday we’ll give in and buy that video game system. I’ll deal with those things as they come. But for now, we will play. Case in point – Nate and I enjoyed a rousing game of “T-Rex” yesterday. As a mother, all I can do is enjoy those moments a "Wii" bit longer!
About the author:
Stephanie Olson is a mother of two boys who lives and writes in Seattle. She believes her golden rule in parenting, “Just wipe it off on your pants!” will be her epitaph someday.