I read Rachel Balducci's recent thoughts on video games and thought, "amen, sistah!" Two points bear reiterating:
1. Rachel's take on Wii summarizes my view on all things electronic. She writes, "My bottom line mentality about video games is this: they are here to serve ME. Not the boys. Not their creative spirits. Not their need to 'drive' cartoon cars or 'shoot' bears or even 'scuba dive' with very life-like looking creatures."
2. Rachel highlights another point that has proven true time and again for my beloved offspring. She says, "The thing about video games is this: they bring out the absolute worst in my children. If I’m ever in the mood to see a colossal meltdown of epic proportion, I need only suggest something like 'hey I know! Let’s pull out the Wii and have some fun!' Which is code for: how long will it take until someone gets punched in the gut by someone else for playing 'not fair.'"
We just returned from an enjoyable and lengthy jaunt north. We built memories and sand castles. In the midst of it, we dealt with LOTS! of kids and plenty of HOT! weather. When the temperatures in southern Ontario exceed those of Augusta, Georgia, you feel that someone has done ya wrong.
When kids are multiplying faster than biting flies, I will be the first to admit that strategically timed doses of the electronic babysitter were a godsend. I enjoyed leisurely bike rides thanks to Scooby-Doo. The adults had relaxing card games thanks to Sly Cooper. We survived a blistering day with a little assistance from the TV and a PS3.
Electronics served a useful purpose, and I was grateful.
I do, however, agree with Rachel: the short-term relief typically does not come without a price. We witnessed more whining, bickering, he-got-longer-than-I-did, it's-not-fair, blah, blah, blah, blah.
I often challenge my kids with a simple line: Examine the fruit. Do these activities help you to be kind, considerate, or even just plain happy? We have gone back and forth over the issue of buying a game system. (Note: I do not think there is a single RIGHT answer to this question.) At the end of the day, we have opted not to invest in one because I don't want one more electronic gadget to manage and because history has shown they don't bring out the best in my sons.
Less all this come off as a load of holier-than-thou tripe, let me clarify two points. First, we are not purists. While we have not invested in a gaming system or hand-held games, we have our share of computer games. Second, we are far from entirely consistent even within the boundaries we have set.
When I have been flat on the couch with morning sickness, when I've been pre-occupied packing for a trip or painting the hallway, I have milked electronics for all they're worth. Do I, the former English teacher, think this is less than ideal parenting? Why yes, yes, I do. Do I think this beats shrieking at my kids or, worse, finding an unsupervised toddler in the driveway? Absolutely.
Balance. Balance. Balance. Essential for kids. Even more essential for their parents.