We are on Day Eleven of a total video game lockdown at my house. My boys are seven and eight, and my frivolous, totalitarian imposition of this hellish world without iPads, Nintendo DSs, and the computer has destroyed their lives in one fell swoop. They will lose their friends, most definitely die of boredom, fall hopelessly behind on the latest Minecraft mods, and worst of all — they may be expected to go outside.
Now this all happened once before, in November. I even called it No-Video-Game November, to make it sound catchy and motivating, and held onto the unsure hope that it might become an annual thing. But the joke’s on my kids, because as reigning household führer, I’ve decided to launch it again, a tremendously unjust and arbitrary five months later! Mwah-ha-haaa!
I don’t expect any of you to engage in such cruel and unusual measures at your house — at least, not without some cataclysmic precipitating event. I’m certain I am the only mother in America who would unceremoniously and without reason wrestle from her children the one thing that gives them unbridled joy. But we’re living in strange times, parents, and should you find yourself in this frightening, screenless underworld, here’s what you may expect.
If your children tend toward the dramatic, there will be widow-caliber wailing and/or relentless comparisons of your home’s political atmosphere to the Third Reich. If your children favor a more martyred approach, you will be followed from room to room as they collapse on every surface within earshot and SIGH.
A hailstorm of claims that every board game in the house has been played, every Lego has been Lego’d, every ball and bike in the garage has been employed to its utmost. It is 8 a.m.
You honestly can’t remember why you’ve done this to yourself. You try to distract the withdrawing addicts with dinner at the local pizza place, where, without their handheld electronic behavior-tamers: two drinks are spilled, a wrestling match erupts on one side of the booth, and a straw wrapper is blown into someone’s plate at the next table. You’re horrified, but they’re giggling through it all, so you’ll chalk it up to bonding. You pat yourself on the back and allow yourself to hum ‘We Are Family.’
You’ve decided that a teeny amount of TV isn’t really compromising your no-video-game edict (what are you, cavemen?), and you weep with sweet relief when they hunker down for a couple episodes of Mythbusters. (Plus, science!)
The children have resorted to requesting baths and showers as a way to pass the time.
The bickering begins in earnest. It’s like a micro-season of Survivor unfolding in your play room – the contestants, once allied in their mutual strife (and combined disgust at your wanton promulgation of child abuse) have turned on each other. After their frillionth solicitation for refereeing services, you warn that the proprietor of the next complaint will be sentenced to dog poop duty in the back yard. They look at you like that might be a reasonable diversion. Dear Lord, you can taste the victory! You are breaking them. You will live like Little House on the Prairie! There will be chores and harmony for all!
Desperate and drowning in ennui, the natives venture out into the sun. They are blinded at first — disoriented. The feel of the spongy turf beneath their feet is dizzying. The memory is foggy, but they think they recognize that play structure over by the fence from their toddlerhood. Maybe they pretended it was a pirate ship once? At any rate, that’s enough for one day. They scurry back into the bosom of a controlled climate and a pantry full of NutriGrain bars.
Family hike — a long, steep one at that — and virtually no complaining. This is the stuff, sister! You’ve really out-mommed yourself.
Your children have read an unprecedented number of books and gotten along much better than you anticipated. It could be your imagination, but you swear you can see a whisper of bronze in the skin of the little zombies.
Exact repeat of Day One, only they’ve ratcheted up the whining and exasperation. To hell with this. Everyone else’s kids play video games. Disheartened, you suppose ten days is a decent showing. You admit for the millionth time that your parents were made of tougher stuff than you, and you fire up Mythbusters again while the iPads charge.
No. NO. You are not a quitter. Time to haul out the big guns. Baking with the children. Monopoly with the children. Nerf wars with the children. Rainbow Loom with the childr— actually no. Fuck Rainbow Loom. But anything else. Whatever it takes. You renew your resolve.
We made it 30 days last November, and we will make it through May, too. My children’s friends will understand. (Or they won’t.) Our fellow restaurant patrons will forgive us. (Or they won’t.) My younger son — nicknamed “the rugged indoorsman” — will learn to love being outside. (He definitely won’t.)
Regardless, I intend to continue No Video Game November and Screens Go Away May (I’m still finessing the branding) for a long while.
My boys will hate it.
That’s how I’ll know I’m doing it right.