Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Guest Blogger: Gina Conroy

The Devil’s Play Thing?

PS 2, Nintendo, X-Box. Whatever you want to call it, I'm convinced it was sent here straight from the pit of Hell to torture moms.

I remember my first home video game. It was “tennis.” Two sticks with a ball that pinged back and forth across our small black and white screen. Then came Atari with space invaders and a host of other games I can’t seem to recall.

Those mesmerizing two dimensional boxy aliens marched across the screen, charging and firing. It was exciting trying not to get blown up before beating your high score. Not too much skill was involved in these games. Just good hand coordination and speed. So different from today’s three dimensional realistic video games that require multi-tasking maneuvers and strategy.

I remember enjoying game time, but I don’t think I was obsessed with playing them all day long like kids are today. Like my kids are.

Is it just my family, or do your kids turn into little monsters, fighting and jockeying for their game time?

My four year old daughter has just started playing with her three older brothers. That makes four kids arguing over the Nintendo. I've tried everything. I've limited their time playing by using a kitchen timer, but that sometimes sets me up for more trouble.

"Mom, he went over his time again!"
"Hey, give me that it's my turn."
Crash! Bang! Whine!

Then we moved the games into my oldest son's room.

"Mom, they're in my room again!"
"Yes, I know. I said they could play Nintendo."
"But there destroying the place..."
Slam! Bang! Whine!
"Mom, he locked me out of the room again."

Recently my son got the tv and games taken out of his room for not letting his brothers into his room. This has been an ongoing problem we haven't figured out how to solve yet. How can he have his privacy and keep the little ones from tearing up his room when the family game unit is in his room? Just take it out! Problem solved, somehow I don't think so. Well see.

How about the "mom, he's not letting me win!" whine. Or the "mom, he turned off the game" scuffle. Did I meniton I think these games are sent from the evil one?

During the school year our kids were not allowed to play the games during the week and only 30 minutes each day on the weekend. My kids thought I was sent from the evil one, especially when their friends played hours after school.

"Mom, so and so gets to play as long as he wants."
"I've talked to so and so's mom and that's not true."
"A different so and so says he feels sorry for me and that you're the meanest mom in the world."

Well, then I talked to some moms about this problem and learned that one mom made her children earn game time. As much as they practiced piano, they could play PS2. Guess what we're doing this summer?

One son is playing a lot of piano, the other is doing a lot of complaining.
"Mom, why do we always have to earn fun?"
"Do you have to earn time at the water park, the movies, sleepovers?"
"No." Head hung low in defeat.
Subtle grin of satisfaction on my face.

But I'm not a complete ogre. I often surprise them with free game time, especially when friends are over. Still, I'm thinking of putting the game systems away for a while. I did this once when the fighting and never ending question "when can we play PS2?" was driving me up a wall. I had a very peaceful few months without the kids asking to play.

I'm at that point again, ready to pack up the games. Just moments ago I heard arguing from up stairs, now all is quiet. It's one of those free game times, and I figure as long as they're quiet and happy I'll be able to type away. And those are the times I thank God for Nintendo. So, are these game systems sent from the evil one or a blessing from God?

I guess it all depends when you ask me!

Gina Conroy is a homeschooling writing mom of four. For more musings by this author, visit her blog Portrait of a Writer...Interrupted.


At Wednesday, 26 July, 2006, Blogger Tricia Goyer said...


I can SO relate. My boys would spend HOURS every day on video games--if I let them.

Of course, knowing how much they love the games also scored me points as being "the coolest moms ever." Last year, I discoverd a friend of a friend worked at Nitendo headquarters, a

nd we got a "inside tour" and tons of free stuff. We drove 10 hours over the excuse I needed to conduct an interview . . . they were picturing WWII, boring stuff. Boy were they excited when they saw the Mario on the side of the building!

Basically, we allow video games when chores, homework, exercise, etc. is done. We are also super-picky over the type of games they play.

I also think that each family needs to make their own rules, but I'm curious . . . what rules do you use?

At Wednesday, 26 July, 2006, Blogger Gina said...

The rules have changed over the years, and now that my four year old daughter likes to play "Mario Wins" AKA Mario Party, the rules will probably have to change again.

During the school year, they only get 30 minutes on friday, 30 on Saturday, and 30 on Sunday. But often I let them go over as long as there's no fighting. Usually they sit in front of the tv watching each other's 30 minutes if they want to play a one player game. So actually, it's over a hour of watching/playing games per day.

For the summer, they've had to earn game time by playing piano or doing school work like a typing program. They began to complain it wasn't fair so I reconsidered and since it was summer, I doubled their game time. So for 15 minutes of piano, they get 30 minutes of game time.

I really don't like violent games, but the boys love to shoot things up. I think the worse game we have is Star Wars Battle Front II on PS2. It has cool graphics, and they usually shoot robots or light saber the bad guys. No blood and guts stuff.

But I still have challenges with the boys fighting and going over time. I don't know how to handle that since I don't want to have to watch them play and I don't like tattling.

Right now they lost PS2 privileges for a month for fighting over the game. Their friends are bummed because my oldest would often go over and play a while at their homes. But we also have Nintendo 64, so I'm not a complete Ogre. Still, they haven't played in almost a week.

I'm curious to how other moms handle this issue. I have to admit though, when the boys got me my Pac Man game, I was a little obsessed and possessive. So how do you balance the love of the game with the inevitable headache it brings us moms?


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