Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Concession Confession

I've made concessions. I've caved in. I have effectively let go of certain standards I set in place for my parenting. I can no longer claim that I am a hard ass (look, people, that word appears in the BIBLE, God's HOLY WORD! You know, as in Balaam's A**?? Please don't e-mail me.)

Today, I bought my children a Nintendo DS. All their friends have one. Most have a PlayStation or a Wii or an XBox....I have resisted for years on principle. When I taught high school English (before I had kids) , I DELIGHTED in taking away my students' media devices in favor of having them discover literary masterpieces like Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird ," Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" or Charles Dickens;' "Oliver Twist." I would SMILE when I placed the CD player or cell phone in my locked drawer. I VOWED to never allow my children to replace real literature with cheap imitation.

Yes, this English teacher, who once viewed all video games as tools of Satan to make the younger generations stupider, purchased a mindless instrument of entertainment for her own children. At the beginning of the summer, I shamelessly bribed my children, who had been asking for a DS for 2 solid years, with the promise of a shiny, glimmering personal entertainment system if they would each read for 1,000 minutes before the new school year. Well, today they called my bluff. As I checked off the final box signifying the culmination of a summer of books, I drew a deep breath and announced, "Well, guys, I guess it's DS day." They screamed. They hollered. They danced. They got jiggy with it.

"Mommy, I LOVE you!"

"YESSSSSSS! You are SO much cooler than B****'s mom."

"You can totally borrow my DS if you want to, mom!"

We drove to Best Buy and threw down the cash (Holy Crap) necessary to bring home a Nintendo DS and some games to match. They asked for a special DS case and special DS stickers to decorate the intelligence robbing intruder but, I said NO. Good for me. I still have some principles.

The ride home was difficult for me. I imagined them deciding to forego college and live with us instead. I imagined 2 overweight versions of my children, 20 years down the road, sitting on my couch, drinking Pepsi and eating Funyuns while gazing vacantly into the DS that now sat ominously perched in the trunk. I have a penchant for the dramatic.

My own plan had backfired. I was unprepared. I had to come up with a plan and needed to buy some time. So, I told a small white lie.
"Guys, you can't use the DS for 3 hours. It has to charge. If you use it before it's all the way charged, it won't work right."

I actually pretended to read that info out of the instruction manual, in my "instruction manual voice."
I figured I could come up with some guidelines to save the intellectual prowess of our family in the meantime.

While making spaghetti , green beans and salad for dinner (see, I'm really a good mother) , I came up with the following plan for their video game use:

1) You may only play the DS for as many minutes as you have already READ that day. They put in reading minutes (20 minutes minimum) and they can play the DS........ 20 minutes reading equals 20 minutes video game time.

2) I am the official DS librarian. I keep the DS's and kids can CHECK THEM OUT and BACK IN from ME. There will be no hiding your DS in your bed and playing it until 1 in the morning.

I'm famous for making up hard a** rules that are rigorously enforced for 2 weeks. My husband is famous for the magical 3 day enforcement. I'm sure that's because he's a pastor, you know, the trinity, Jesus rose again after 3 days, etc...

Here's hoping that I can stick to my guns..........


  1. Jodie, it's sort of like you and Mike are the Jonathan and Kelly of the future! We cracked up! And then Jonathan just asked me, "Would we let our kids have a DS? I guess it would be something else..." You're a great mom for rewarding good habits and as someone who zoned out to the original nintendo in my formative years while maintaining a fervent love of books, I think everyone will be just fine. :-) Maybe we can rent them for our trip? They could be good on the plane!

  2. Oh, I am SO stealing them for the flight to South Africa!!!!

  3. Hello, I'm new here. So I'm super glad you posted on this topic, as my 9 year old has been driving me crazy--oops, I mean respectfully probing my views--by asking for a DS every hour for the past month. I like the bribery angle. Keep posting, and let me know if your children become drones so I can avoid a similar fate for mine.

    Oh, and can I please send my kidlets to your house to dinner?

  4. oh sure ... buy them a DS right before school starts.

    now he'll NEVER want to go to school.

    how can i live up to the coolness of a DS waiting at home?

    oh ... i mean ... congrats caleb and alex for achieving your hard-earned reward. love you both.


  5. Ah, crap. Thanks, Lisa. Now I won't sleep tonight...... If they keep fighting over it, then it will be gone by Tuesday... :)

  6. Jodie, this is hilarious. I guess I can think so because my kids aren't at that age YET! But I think the "earning time" idea is great. And how much can they play if they are also reading? I don't know, maybe I would be shocked, but it doesn't seem like it can get that out of hand...can it?

    Anyway, I'm enjoying your blog! And the insight!

  7. Cute, very cute! You have a great idea about being the librarian.

  8. Thanks for the laugh! Excellent parenting Jodie. My boys are older and I can say you've done well to recognize that your children really want something that you're not so keen about. It doesn't sound like you need to worry about your kids overusing them and having them sacrifice valuable time spent on physicalactivity, reading and socializing. In the long run you may grow weary of acting as "librarian" and opt for another method of limiting use if necessary, but I think it's an ingenius start. And it is just a start: Wait until they start asking for cell phones, a pierced ear, a laptop, a TV in their bedroom..... I have no doubt you'll tackle each of these challenges as you did this one. With love, logic and finding a way to appreciate their world outside yours while still setting boundaries you can all live with.

  9. Good luck, Jodie! My kids earn game minutes daily by keeping rooms clean and making beds that they can cash in on Friday. I've made a one day per week rule because 20 minutes can turn into an hour very easily by them wanting to "just finish this one game", but the game has 20 levels.... So it's a treat on Friday (and I'm trying very hard to stick to this hard-ass rule)!

  10. This post tickled me so! Guilty!! I too have caved and given in to the media blitz. I hate to tell you this but...
    We started out with a lot of guidelines just like the ones you mention. I think its good to start that way. My boys gradually learned to self-monitor, and usually would move on within the specified time. Now I tell myself that they have that option and frequently choose to engage in creative play or other more intellectually stimulating activities. (See how I rationalize?) After all, there will be a lot of choices in life, shouldn't they get practice choosing what is best, blah, blah, blah?
    oh, forget it. This makes me tired.
    they just like their DSs, okay? (Do I sound defensive?)
    Time to gracefully bow out of this comment (It's late. I'm delirious.)
    Blessings. Enjoyed visiting you tonight!

  11. Welcome to Media World. We too have the "you've been on the Wii, computer or whatever for x amount of mintues" Now you have to go outside, read, play a board game, etc. There is more to life than Mr. Ninetendo!! And I swore I would never do this, but I do, I plan out in my head how long it will take for them to "save a game" so I don't constantly have to hear them say, but wait I have to "save". Back in the day, there was no "saving" and we got through childhood just fine.

    We also are book lovers at our house and we have an awesome book called "101 Places You Have to See Before You are 12" It is a family project and we are always planning when we can mark off the next place and that takes a lot of time away from the media devices. I got it at our school's book fair but have seen it at Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc. You are a great Mom and you guys would love this book. Dinner sounded great. Yum, yum....

  12. Jodie--you are hilarious!! I'm sure Alex and Caleb, my two precious grandchildren would never abuse the privilege or fight over it!! I guess this means I had better start buying some Scholastic books again!! Besides somehow, I see you and Michael getting in some time too--what is bedtime for the kidlets again? I seem to remember a Webkins incident?

  13. I just want to say this is amazing. Joe and I are already talking about how to deal with the challenges of electronics with our future kids. I told Joe and he loved your plan. Thanks for the ideas, keep them coming.

  14. HaHa! The next generation thinks they have us with their "I just have to save this first". I used to fall for that until I realized they were taking 15 minutes to "just save it".

    Now I say "okay, you have exactly 2minutes to save it and then it's going off regardless". What's the worst that could happen to them? They have to play again? Boo Hoo! Too bad we never had to "just save" a great game of rotten sardines or kick the can before coming inside for bed when we were kids!

  15. This is SO my house - although we opted for the Wii for Christmas last year - and it was my Husband who wanted to open it, play it while the kids were asleep, then re-wrap it and put it back under the tree...
    It's unbelievable how their little eyes turn square after a while!! I always loose track of the time - timers are good.
    I think if we had a DS, it would be Chris that would be hiding it in our bed...actually, on the other hand - I might be able to get out of a few things...hmmm

  16. Carlee,

    That's hilarious....I totally caught Mike playing it alone last night...I m ay need to come up with some rules for him...

  17. Seriously, I am DYING laughing right now reading your post. This was so great! I can totally realte. I loved your idea about playing for as many minutes as they've read. What a great way to use it!


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