Last Christmas, everyone Grey knew got a Nintendo DS from Santa. At daycare Pablo (junior to Grey by nearly a year!), Jordan, Ivan and Isaiah ALL got DSes. At church, Kasper, Thomas and Susan carry them around — that I know of.
Grey, at three years old, did NOT get a video game system for Christmas.
I figured at first that this was the latest passing fad and he’d forget about it and move on to Moon Sand followed by GI Joe action figures. Three year olds are not known for their persistence and patience. I murmured something about maybe if he still wanted it and was good, perhaps one would be forthcoming for his birthday. Christmas to an October birthday is 10 months. That’s like a third to a quarter of his ENTIRE LIFE. In ten months, he went from a newborn to a small walking person. No way was he going to remember come his birthday.
Boy, was I ever wrong. Every. Single. Day. since Christmas, Grey has begged for a DS.
Soft light, snuggles on the bed. Mommy is telling Grey a fantastical story about Grey and the Magic, Magic, Magic, Magic Door, which involves a genii in a bottle. The genii appears in a puff of fragrant smoke and offers Grey a wish. What does Grey wish for? (Thoughtful look on an amazingly perfect, sweet face) “A green Super Mario DS”.
A rainy morning drive in, with windshield wipers rhythmically passing across a drizzly sky. NPR, talking about the latest financial indicators, is nearly drowned out by the thump of raindrops on the roof and the swish of water from semi tires. Grey sighs wistfully in the backseat. “Mommy? Do you know what I wish? I wish, I wish (oh, if you could hear the wistfulness in that small voice!) I wish I had a DS.”
Grey was led into malfeasance by an older child. Specifically, running away and hiding when it’s time to leave daycare. The wrath of MOM is called down upon his head, and great sadness and woe ensue. After the tears are dried, a post-mortem occurs. Mom carefully leads her golden-haired child through the thought process about whether someone who asks you to do something wrong is being a good friend. We’re almost there. “So Grey, would you want to be friends with someone who did something that made you feel badly?” (Grey ponders, seriously, having followed his cues this far.) “If they had a DS, yes.”
If Grey could have anything ANYTHING in the whole world, it would be a DS. I’ve started using the DS as a touchstone for money. “Mommy, can we fly to Grandma Johnstone’s RIGHT NOW?” “No, that takes a lot of money.” “How much money?” “About three DSes”.
Grey has learned truly astonishing social skills in pursuit of the DS. I have seen Grey walk up to a completely unknown child and in less than one minute con them into loaning him their DS so he can play.
All this is to say: Grey is getting a Nintendo DS for his 4th birthday. His Grandma Flynn begged the privilege of being the one to grant him his heart’s desire. His father and I are providing the games (Kirby and Super Mario Bros)
I have extremely mixed feelings about it. I don’t fundamentally object to a child playing video games. We let him play Wii. Last night I let him play video games after preschool because I was tired, and he’d gotten very little screen time over the weekend. But I am very concerned that video games and tv not crowd out both real experiences and reading. I KNOW how addictive video games are. Will he play games instead of building block towers? Instead of learning to read? I also know that the answer to this is good parenting and rules.
Guess what, folks? Good parenting takes ENERGY. Sometimes it’s much easier to avoid a point you know will be contentious. The phrase, “No, you cannot play the DS now” will probably come out of my lips a thousand times in the next two years. I’m tired just THINKING about it. I think the DS will be reserved for car rides and times where he has to wait (drs. office, etc). Maybe exceptions can be made when he is sick (or I am). I suspect this will not delight him.
But in the final analysis, I cannot deny my son something he wants so desperately that is in my power to permit. A three year old can’t get a job and earn enough money to buy his own. In the ways available to him, my son HAS worked extremely hard and diligently in obtaining his goals.
I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he opens that gift from his Grandma. I don’t think I’ve ever held such a dream so hard and had it come true.