I had read a lot of books and felt that I was well grounded in the knowledge of parenting well before I was married or had children. I had strong ideas of what kind of a parent I would be. But what I lacked was the never ending- around the clock- always demanding- sometimes draining- mostly uplifting- experience of raising real children. Like my sister-in-law once pointed out in a not so sweet tone ‘once you get your own children you won’t be so perfect anymore’ OUCH! (I totally deserved it!)
Once I experienced motherhood I realized that my well thought plans and straight forward approach didn’t work quite as well in real life as they did in theory. Not that the theory was wrong but real life is so much more complicated and sometimes I am at a loss as to how to apply the book knowledge to a certain situation.
My most recent ‘complicated’ experience started a few weeks ago. Video games entered our home. I was so not prepared for that. One night when I was working my husband had introduced Mario Karts to our oldest. Couple weeks later, when they had opened every possible new track, a package arrived in our house that contained Sky Captain. Now it’s on to the Monster Trucks.
Clearly the boy enjoys playing them. And I’m not completely against them in the lives of children. There just seemed to be ‘too much’ of it. From the beginning my husband and I talked to him how playing games is a privilege and not something he should take for granted. And there have been days when he’s lost that privilege and have had to go without playing all day, sometimes two or three in a row.
Here’s where it became ‘complicated’. I was feeling guilty for letting him play that much (what ever that much is) and at the same time I was thrilled he had found something to do that didn’t require my attention. Better yet, Beth and Joshua loved watching him race so they left me be also. WELCOME FREE TIME! But the quilt was growing as was his addiction. I had to intervene, for both of us. I was tempted to throw the games away but realized that would not address the problem. Something else would take the place of videogames and we’d be in this situation again. (And I also imagined him to grow up to be holed up in a room playing videogames all day long, not being able to hold onto a job or a wife and blaming me for ruining his life by not letting him play when he was a kid .. kinda like the relationship I have with Finnish chocolate because my parents deprived me of that when I was growing up. Yeah, totally blaming my lack of self disciple on them!). So what I needed were guidelines. I had mentioned this to a mom friend and she told me about an other mom who has her children ‘earn’ their TV time. Sounded like a good idea. After struggling to decide how much one workbook page meant in video time I settled for 10 pages (about 45min) = 30 minutes playing, usually separated in two sessions (Nathan’s choice).
Transition was much easier than I thought it would be. Nathan seems to be proud that he can ‘earn’ his game time. After breakfast he asks for his book and does the required pages. So far he has been satisfied with 30 min /day. My quilt has disappeared. A win win in my book!
(I should add that when my husband is home and he wants to play with Nathan that time does not need to be earned. That is counted as ‘quality time’ between Dad and a son. Because clearly, it is.)
How are you handling tv and video games in your home?
Hanna is a mom of ‘one and twins’ who’s trying to strike a balance between theory and real life. And to not ruin her kids while figuring it all out.