Sunday, December 18, 2011

I've decided not to have a parental crisis over this one.

Ah yes, the great parental creep-back. Are you a parent? Have you ever said, 'My child will never [fill in the blank]!' Have you then held that stance for many long, hard months or years, through your child plaintively pleading for reprieve, telling you 'All the other kids get to [fill in the blank]'? Have you endured, 'I hate you, you're the meanest parent in the world, I'll never have any friends and it all your fault!" and still stood you ground?


Right, then you know where I've been.

From here on in our paths might deviate though because I'm about to give in on something big, huge in fact, a bone of contention in my house for at least the past six years.

Of course, this isn't happening all at once, it's been a gradual creep and looking back I can see it now. The 'Okay, but only the ABC site...' then, 'Okay, but only the ABC site and the Lego site, only 30 minutes a week each. That's it!'

Later, and I justified it as a way to keep the kids quiet in the car while the GOM was learning to drive them all around - only then we didn't get a car, so then I let them play on them for short spells during them week - it was iPod Touches earlier this year. Honestly, my boys were 12 and 10 (and 6, but seriously, I'm not really counting him because he only gets in on the experiment by social strategy, if he was the oldest there would have been no way he'd get an iPod Touch), when they finally got their own gaming device. They were, quite literally the only children in their respective classes who didn't have some sort of gaming device. That's not an excuse for getting them devices, mind you. I have no problem with my children standing out from the crowd.

BUT, gah!

Their friends prefer not to visit here because 'There is nothing to do...'.

Even Bryn's (the six year old) friends say, 'No, let's go to my place, we can play on the Wii.'

Now, I have to admit this has been convenient, because quite frankly having four children in this tiny house is plenty, adding friends to mix can be bedlam! Twice Lukas had a friend over and Ari got out onto the road and was brought back by someone else and I hadn't even noticed he was missing - and no, I wasn't ignoring them, there are just too many exits to our property and the kids run amok - and while screeching like a banshee works well with my kids, I'm somewhat reticent to unleash the banshee around other people's kids...

So, where was I? Oh yeah, I haven't minded my kids visiting their friends houses, but how long can that continue? How long would you be happy to always host your child's playmates and never have that favour returned?

You can see where I'm going with this, can't you?

Well, you're wrong!

We are not getting our children a games console for Christmas...

My brother is...


And we're letting him...

See the creep?

At first I was a bit, I don't know, uncomfortable with the idea, but then I got over it. Here's why. A month or so ago - after begging and pleading and bargaining for a couple of months straight (and I mean, the. child. would. not. shut. up. about. it - nothing wrong with his determination), I got Erik the game MineCraft on my computer so he could play it with his group of friends. One of the friends used to be in class with Erik and his mates, but now is being home schooled, and his parents and the parents of the other boys are all working to ensure a weekly meet up of these boys, so they don't lose contact. All the boys are into this game MineCraft - which as far as games go is innocuous. The boy who is being home schooled has a server, so all the boys play in a world of their own creation and can 'chat' in that world without the fear of strangers on the net trying to contact them.

This group of boys negotiate their society quite well. I set up my own world, separate to theirs so I could learn to understand the game and talk to Erik about it. This means I get to hear about what he and his friends are all up to, including various dramas in the group and how they negotiate those. I've been able to witness Erik's social development in this group, and it has been encouraging to me (I worry about his social development a lot).

On Friday Erik brought his school report home and as per usual he scored almost all Cs (in Australia that means he's exactly where he's expected to be at the conclusion of grade 5), except in 'Interpersonal Development'; there he scored a B. So, okay, he's older than his class mates, which might account for this advancement, however Erik has always been socially slow to develop. He has always been more naive, more childlike than his friends, socially. So, for him this is a big deal! I'm so happy to see him doing so much better than I did at his age!

Wow, I'm rambling - aren't I?

Okay, so participating the this group of boys, and playing a computer game as part of social process (in fact, I don't think he could be part of the group for long if he didn't play the game, it represents such a great chunk of their cohesiveness), has softened my view of gaming.

I have accepted that in some circles the social currency of gaming is not something that can be substituted. Perhaps if we lived somewhere where it wasn't such a force to be reckoned with, where children were interested in other pursuits, but we don't, we live here - for many good reasons.

So, my brother is buying the boys a console for Christmas and  instead of saying no to his generous gift - which I could do (I'd still say no to gun toys, believe me) - I'm saying yes. I'm consciously allowing the creep because in the balance of things, I can see more good coming from it than evil. I can see how we can mediate and moderate as parents and I have faith in our ability to guide our children in the use of these things - as we already do in so many other pursuits. The GOM and I have no issues building protective boundaries for our children's minds and bodies.

Meanwhile, Uncle Mike will be the coolest guy on the planet on Christmas Eve (but no fear, we have much smaller, inexpensive but very lusted after pressies up our sleeves so we won't be completely uncool)!


What have you allowed that you used to be adamantly in opposition to your child having or doing? Where have you experienced parental creep?

PS. Of course, the contents of this blog post are top secret - no blabbing to my kids!


Unknown said...

Last year my Ex gave the kids each an Ipod touch for their birthdays. Which I was against because I thought it was too much, and more technology etc. But to give him his due, they were great gifts. It's actually been great, as it's small, they can take it everywhere, they can play against each other and their friends/cousins when we get together, and the games are usually free. It's wonderful for travelling, doctor's surgeries, waiting rooms etc. So I'm happy with it now. They both want an iPad, which I would get if I could afford it. Until now, they get to fight over mine, but only on those occasions like the above. Again, until I saw other kids using them and saw her great they are and how many useful apps there are (and many educational ones) I was totally against them. It's okay to 'creep' I think, as long as you come out as winning!

Anonymous said...

The thing we held out longest about was something many might find surprising, but which we felt strongly about - going trick-or-treating at Halloween. But in the end we had to give in because the kids had done it when at a friend's party. The fact that they can do nearly anything these days at other kids' houses does make the "over my dead body" position very difficult to maintain. I think the best you can do is what you are doing with computer games, and get involved yourself, understand how it all works. This means that as well as having fun together you can be wiser to it all. The only other thing we've insisted on is no screens in bedrooms - we won't try to stop you doing much but it's all going to take place somewhere fairly public.

Sif Dal said...

Thanks for you replies, they both reflect my own experiences (I was also totally against the idea of the iPods until I got a chance to see how the boys were with them (yes, I bought them while still having doubts about buying them, I was desperate for some sort of bargaining tool and when you don't have you child's currency, you can't negotiate with them because there is nothing they care enough about to want to put themselves out).

hfbstest, we also have a no screens in bedroom policy for two reasons - I want to know what they're getting into and I don't want them hiding away in their room day in and day out, the family community is too important to me (and besides, they're liable to do that plenty enough when they properly get into teen hood (as I did with my radio).

Good Job!