We held out as long as we could. And it wasn’t very long. I read a statistic one time that said something like 95% of boys play video games. 95%! How do you compete with that? My wife and I have two boys so our chances of keeping video games out of the house were pretty much shot the second the X chromosome laid eyes on the Y chromosome across the crowded DNA strand. We were never into video games before the kids came along. My wife didn’t like them because…well she’s a girl. Sorry to generalize and sound sexist, but that 95% of boy gamers drops to about 25% for girls. And while I played a video game or two as a kid, I never really obsessed over them…probably because I have the hand/eye coordination of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. With the popularity of video games today we knew it was inevitable, but we wanted to keep them out of the house for a long as possible. Maybe until they’re, say, 10? Stop laughing. We may have been naïve but we really thought we had a shot. Then my 5 year old discovered Super Mario Bros at a friend’s house earlier this year and those Italian paisan won the war. (Italians won a war. There’s something you never hear.) He was hooked. When the time came, he quickly hopped on Santa’s lap and placed an order. Santa rolled his eyes, but realized resistance was futile.
We decided to go with a Wii because the games are more active and get the kids up and moving. If they were going to play video games all day, they were going to work up a sweat while doing it. It sort of worked. One of the games we bought was Dance Party 3 which is a fun game in which you copy the moves of the dancers on screen. It’s a great workout and trust me when I say you’ve never seen anything more cute than a 5 and 2 year old dancing hip hop to “Pump It” by the Black Eyed Peas. Even their Mom and Dad danced a song or two although their Dad almost had a heart attack. My epitaph would have read “Death by The Pointer Sisters’ I’m So Excited” But the “keep them active” plan backfired as well because the Wii console comes with Super Mario Bros included for free…which requires no activity whatsoever. And my son’s favorite game? Yup. He’s a 5 year old junkie and that bastard Mario is his dealer. Completely addicted. He could play all day and would too if it weren’t for those pesky human functions like eating and sleeping. Notice I didn’t include “going to the bathroom” on that list. That’s because I constantly see him playing the game while hopping from foot to foot in a manic dance of “holding it in”. While I appreciate the fact that he is getting a little bit of exercise I have to yell at him,” Put that thing down and go to the bathroom now!” Every now and then I’m tempted to see what would happen if I didn’t say anything.
The key word in that last sentence is “tempted”. I’m wrestling with the Bad Dad devil on my right shoulder that is telling me that my job could be so much easier if I just turned that damn thing on and let him play it as much as he wanted. A free babysitter for as long as I need. I could get stuff done around the house; I could run errands without the constant “Why are we here? When can we go home? Can I have this or that or that?” I could, dare I say, relax with a good book! Remember reading, parents?! Just as I crack open a book that doesn’t rhyme or have pictures though, the Good Dad devil on my left shoulder appears and ruins everything. He shows me the future and there’s my morbidly obese 25 year old son, sitting on his bedroom floor in a filthy t-shirt and shorts about to reach the highest level of Super Duper Mario Bros. 26. Strewn on the floor around him are half eaten bags of Cheetos and empty Red Bull cans. I recognize his bedroom because it’s still in my house!! This thought alone is enough to make me reach for the “off button”. So video games have infiltrated our home like termites. Now it’s up to me keep them from burrowing too far into my kids’ brains.