It started a few weeks before Christmas: “Everybody has a DS. Or a Gameboy. Or a DSi. Mostly they have more than one. They have like an old DS and a Gameboy and a new DSi.”
I hate “everybody.”
For the record, I also hate those portable electronic gizmos (do NOT make a parallel here to my beloved iPhone, please, as Husband did during our great pre-christmas-will-there-be-a-DS-under-the-tree debate. Then I’d have to stop having sex with you too). In my crotchetiness, I’m convinced that, particularly for boys—most of whom have the social skills of carp–spending their days staring at a small screen and trying to kill, chase, thwack, slice, or otherwise capture a moving target that can’t be a good idea. I mean, if they were doing these pursuits with actual bleeding humans, so that there were face-to-face interactions, I might feel differently, but as it stands? Hate’em.
Husband insists that a screen is a screen, and so what’s one more? We’ll just monitor the DS like everything else, he says, and if Liam wants new games for his gadget, then he buys them with money saved from his allowance.
I meant to hold my ground, I really did. Because yeah, sure, a DS is “just another screen,” but what that actually means is just having another screen to wrangle over:
Me: time to take a break from the computer
Son, not looking up: in just a minute, I just have to level up…
Me: five minutes
Son, not looking up: okay okay
Me, five minutes later: time to take a break
Son, not looking up: I just have finish this battle
Me: no, not one more battle, it’s time to take a break
Son, not looking up: WHY ARE YOU SO MEAN?
But then I got to thinking. I thought about “everybody” and my own struggles with that anonymous—and yet so personal—presence. “Everybody,” in my growing-up years got to watch more TV at night, got to watch cartoons, had a phone in her room, got to eat potato chips on a regular basis, got to wear platform shoes (what can I say, it was the late ‘70s), got to stay out later; everybody got to put streaks in her hair. And everybody’s best friend, Nobody, was around too: nobody had parents who listened to opera, nobody had to do chores for her allowance or got such a paltry amount, nobody only had one television in the house. Everybody and Nobody ensured that I spent most of adolescence feeling like I didn’t Fit In.
Nobody and Everybody. I’d sort of thought that because I had sons instead of daughters that I might dodge the bullets launched by Nobody and Everybody, but clearly, I was mistaken.
So I gave in. The boys both got a DS under the tree this year, a combination present from their parents and their grandfather. Caleb couldn’t care less—he played with it for a little while and now I think it’s under the couch. Liam was ecstatic, filled with the joy of the season (what? It’s about giving, not receiving? whoops). He danced around the living room spilling kisses and hugs on all of us.
Actually, it’s been more or less okay. (Yes, for those of you reading closely, that means that Husband is right. Galling but true, iPhone comparison notwithstanding. Our sex life is saved.) Sure, during the winter break both boys played on various electronics until their eyes bled, but hey, it was vacation and I just wanted there to be, if not peace on earth than at least peace in my apartment. (I’m not sure we quite got to the seven hours a day that “everybody” plays, at least according to a recent study, but we tried.) The DS doesn’t leave the house unless explicit permission has been granted; hours on the DS count in overall screen time, and blah blah blah. Rules and Boundaries have been established.
Truth be told? The happiness on Liam’s face made me happy, as did indulging his electronic desires. I can see what leads parents to give in to their kids’ every whim: all that happy jumping around is addictive.
Liam went off to school after the holiday all excited to tell his friends about his new gizmo. At dinner that night I asked if it had been nice to see all his friends.
He frowned. “Everybody got a phone for Christmas.”