Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Second Summer of Yes

I'm anticipating a difficult summer, a repeat of last summer, which I optimistically called The Summer of Yes, though that was before I lived it. 

What a brilliant idea, after all! A summer in which my kids would have to say "Yes" to all my goofball ideas of great activities! Let's go to Taliesin West, kids! Let's go to the Jewish Museum! Let's go to the library, let's go to Arcosanti, let's go antiquing and to romantic comedies with mom! Yes, yes and yes!

This is not exactly what happened. Daughter was onboard if ice skating and Peter Piper Pizza were included. Bar Mitzvahzilla? Apparently he thought it was the Summer of No.

He told me he only wanted to play on his PlayStation. All summer, nonstop. As in, "Mom, can you just drop me off at home?" And then, "Can I go on the PlayStation when we get there?" Well, from time to time we could run out to the gaming store and buy another game for sixty dollars. Wow, that was nice of him, to let us spend time together.

About three years ago, I decided to override my husband's wise counsel and bought Bar Mitzvahzilla a PlayStation 2 game system. He was already twelve and was apparently the last child anywhere in the Western Hemisphere who didn't have a gaming system. He was already a social outcast - there were legions of boys who weren't interested in coming over to our house to hang out because there wasn't anything to do there - despite our basketball hoop and air hockey table. One time a boy came over and expressed astonishment that we had a nice house; the kids at school had all assumed that we were poor because Bar Mitzvahzilla didn't have a gaming system.

So I gave in, buckled. I said yes. I told Husband that we could keep this thing under control. It'd be used when friends were over only. And anyway, seeing my son stick out like such a sore thumb reminded me of myself as a kid, when friends came over with their perfect Barbies with store-bought Barbie clothes, and then I'd pull out what passed for a Barbie in our house: a Barbie body with a freckled Skipper head and one leg. And it was naked. I felt my boy's misery.

After two years had passed, I had to shovel past criss-crossed mounds of wires just to find my son somewhere tangled in the middle, the computer addict needing more, more, more. And just like they say happens with drugs, the purchases didn't stop with the Playstation. Soon there it was yes to the Wii, yes to the XBox, and yes to the iTouch, which I actually thought he'd use for music. Little did I know he could download games.

Sometimes things I don't want to look at closely kind of dance around the edges of my brain and then, when I finally notice them, my brain kicks back on and I can act swiftly. So when Bar Mitzvahzilla tried to opt out of every activity last summer in favor of staying home with his favorite friend in the world, the PlayStation,  well, that was it. It became the "Summer of No" all right, but with me saying No.

So I took it all away. He put up a good fight, asking me hundreds of times after the ban if he could use it anyway, waiting to tire me out, insisting he had nothing to do. And of course he had nothing to do. He had become the most boring child in the world, with no interests except gaming. With it all gone, we just had to wait and find out who existed under there.

But by the middle of the first week he was playing basketball in the driveway and then he put on his Rollerblades and zoomed around the neighborhood. By that Friday he became aware of the existence of other people in the world again, and actually had a conversation with his sister.

Who would have thought that it took saying "no" to get my kid to say "yes?"

Have any gaming troubles in your household? Budding addicts like mine? Have you ever taken it all away? Planning any amazing outings for your kids this summer? Doing any Mommy Day Camp like me? 
Yesterday was the release day for Aidan Donnelley Rowley's book, Life After Yes. Aidan blogs over at Ivy League Insecurities and has written her debut novel which is getting great reviews! Go to Amazon and buy it now and after you're done reading it participate in the book club discussion on Motherese about it!


  1. I am giggling at the image of you, riffling through a spiderweb of cords, trying to find your son, gripping the PS2 console.

    BOTH hubs and Awesome Stepkid R are gamers. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't know I existed if not for the occasional flinging of a sandwich their way.

  2. This cracked me up. We have that addiction here too. Comes and goes, but both my boys have suffered at one time or another. And for vacations, they are very happy to sit home and entertain themselves with video or computer games. What really cracks me up is that they play them over the internet know with headsets on, talking to their friends who are playing in their own homes. A new high-tech way to play with friends!

  3. So hilarious - congrats! I learned a long time ago that by forcing my gang to do things that I want to do, you know, important stuff, unlike Xbox (husband) and Facebook and reality shows (daughter) then we all get along better. I drag them to museums and movies and zoos and after two or three hours of a little quality time, they can go back into their little caves and we're all happy!

  4. Boys and their video games. It is terrible. I just hit you again on HERE'S TO YOU THURSDAY. Of course, with this post you've now given me ANOTHER IDEA to tinker with on youtube! Anyway, hope you like it.

  5. Did you really take it away. WOW. That's amazing. And he actually went outside? This is a miracle. A miracle. I'm not sure I'm brave enough to take away their Wii or Playstation or whatever it is I bought them.

    I'm impressed.

  6. Oh Linda. I chuckled all the way through this. I can truly empathize. Summer indeed. Problematic enough when overwhelmed-with-work-and-whining morphs into "I'm bored..." And that's definitely the age for it.

    My boys enjoyed gaming (we only have one small old playstation), but never really got addicted. Nonetheless, I still find myself climbing over cables (what do they go to???) not to mention dirty socks (why aren't the DIRTY ones sucked into the alternate universe like the clean ones??) and the pitiful looks that say "get a life" when I suggest something, and instead, they turn to Facebook or texting.

    Happily, somewhere around 16 that seemed to change. MAJOR socializing going on every chance they get. Face to face. Then the only drama is the one car household, the price of gas, the late nights, as I sit at home and wish my social life were even half as exciting.

    Damn. Where's that playstation?

  7. We have a PlayStation and the one who uses it is my husband. He is obsessed with Rock Band, specifically Beatles Rock Band. And it is fun, actually, to see my toddler learning the lyrics to Beatles' songs. But it's less fun when Husband loses his temper when he fails to complete a song with some obscene number of points. I can only imagine what it will be like when my boys are old enough to start playing along.

    (Thanks for the mention of the book club. I hope you'll read along with us!)

  8. Well done you, taking the play station away and reintroducing your son last summer into the young life of fun he should be having. Debbie over at Debbiedoos wrote a post a few months ago about her son's obsession with his electronic toys and what she did about it. These toys are fine in moderation but all too often it seems can take over young people's lives.

  9. WOW! Good for you! We only have a Wii and my son only likes one game- Star Wars- but I try and limit his time. I can see where he would easily slip into playing it all the time... his best buddy has an older brother that is really into gaming, so that influence worries me a little. But, I am glad to see that when faced with the tragedy of no games, they eventually go back to being a normal kid. Lesson filed away for use in the future. Thanks!

  10. We put the tv in the closet, literally, for a few months. We couldn't keep it under control, us the kids, everyone. It was always on. We brought it back, but in moderation.
    I can't even imagine what it'd be like w/ gaming stuff! I'm not into that sort of thing at all, but my husband gets easily addicted to video games and the sort, so we try to keep it minimal for our marriage's sake :)

  11. As a teacher, I would cringe when my students told me how many hours they were playing on their gaming systems and not reading!

    My fifteen year old was not allowed to own any gaming system until she was nine. Shoue bought herown Gameboy and ventually bought Gamecube and Wii all by herself. DH and I still do not like them.

    And I am glad we did not buy them? After the fun wore off, she became busy with other things like school and BBYO. What a waste of my money that would have been!

    Our 7.5 y/o twins want a DS sooooooooo badly! Sorry, not happening.

    Good for you for standing your ground!

  12. So sorry for the typos...I should be in bed!

  13. Oh, you're my hero. Our game systems are broken right now and I'm thinking, YAY!!

  14. I have this same problem. In the summer I limit computer/TV to after dinner. At least that makes it more tolerable. I think one of my kids would never unplug on his own. He would eventually just melt into the electronics.

  15. I love your writing style.

    Though my kids don't have a gaming station (they're little girls and completely uninterested), I've said "yes" to things for the same reason you did. Looking at them and fearing they'd experience things similar to how I did. That gets me (almost) every time.

    My mom always told me that having kids "pushed buttons" and "brought painful things right back to the surface." I kinda figured she said that because she was peeved when I decided to have kids because we lived three states away. Turns out she was just being honest, dammit.

  16. Santa finally brought a Wii with him two Christmases ago. It comes and goes in spurts, mostly because I will not let them rot their brains out.

    We mostly have purchased non-violent Lego games, but I dread when they start demanding more...

  17. Thank you (I think?) for this glimpse at my future. My husband is an addict who has so far resisted temptation to buy a gaming system because he knows once it's in the house, he's done for. But when the kids start putting the pressure on, too ... I'll be the only one not tangled up in the spiderweb! =>

  18. You are hilarious. YES to this post. : )

    P.S. I am so glad you have started posting pictures of yourself, it is really nice to put a face to these words. You are beautiful.

  19. Can you believe we are still catching up on posts from Five for Ten? Crazy, right.

    But I'm here!!!

    And I have to say this. Jamis is 7. I see the slippery slope, oh yes I do. We'll take away his DS and the Wii for a weekend or a week when necessary. And doing that frequently has indeed pushed him to figure out what the heck else he likes to do. Oh the novelty of living with a device of some sort in your hands.