Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Yesterday Alex cried for an hour because I let Lauren have the PS3 to herself after school. He was told that he could play after dinner when Lauren was doing homework, but that would not console him. Of course, many fun options were offered up to him, but everything was too boring. He "only likes video games and tv." Well, then, maybe we should clean his toys out of his room since he didn't like them, I proposed. No, no, no. He likes them a little, he said, but not enough to play right now. I tried reading a cute comic book to him, which interested him for little bits, but then it was back to tears. Finally, at 5 o'clock, I relented to let him watch tv in my room. I also gave him some dinner because he said he was really hungry. Lauren kept playing PS3. At 5:30, I put Lauren's dinner on the counter, and he happily started playing video games. It was sort of sad because he wanted to play WITH Lauren, but she had to do her homework. She had a lot to do, write two essays plus do her math, so I let her take a small break to play with him in between assignments, since she was doing well.

But this incident has brought up the whole screen time issue in my mind once again. I saw some postings online, and was pretty amazed at how much anger is out there among mothers. One mom sought some advice about her five year-old boy that was "addicted" to video games and would cry when he had to turn them off. He only got to play for 30 minutes, and yet there were so many chastising women responding to this mom who was seeking help. I was shocked at how few were willing to actually HELP her, and instead just wanted to blame her. It made me think of the saying, "those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." I can't imagine that any of those critics have raised their children without making even one mistake. But whether or not the poster made a mistake is both debatable and irrelevant. Thirty minutes of video games seems hardly scorn-worthy, in my opinion, but that isn't the issue, is it? The issue is, how does she deal with the fighting when his time is up?

To that, I have no advice, and neither should anyone else for that matter. Those advice discussions are pretty pointless regarding parenting. No parent can possibly describe every situation fully, or begin to make any stranger understand a child partially. Only the parent has all this information, and therefore, only the parent can find the answer. We are so programmed to deny our own power, our instincts, that we look to complete strangers with no apparent credibility, to solve our most personal and important struggles. We need to start winning back our trust in ourselves, and to stop blaming ourselves, too. Yes, I've blamed myself plenty for indulging Alex in too many video games. But the damage is done. He's hooked. Any energy spent with "could have, should haves" is wasted. Now I need to buckle down and make sure that video games are only a part of his life. That there are other healthy and fulfilling aspects in it, too. And if there are, then I see no harm in his enjoying his favorite pastime in front of a screen.