Until I was a teenager the nearest thing our family had to legit technology was a rotary dial telephone and a four-station television set – five stations if Fox was coming in good that day. If there was more savvy stuff available it hadn’t made it to the back forty yet or we couldn’t afford it. I can still remember when my parents brought home our first video game – the Atari 2600. It had been out long enough other kids in school were already talking about it and my sister and I evidently whined enough they bought one just to shut us up.
My game of choice was Pitfall, I was without a doubt the best in the family and the first to beat it. I had learned that by standing on the alligator’s eyes you can jump across landing on their heads without getting eaten. My sister’s game was Frogger and my dad’s Ms. Pacman. Our mom couldn’t care less. Once we had it the family dynamic changed forever. No longer would we spend evenings around the television watching Dallas or Falcon Crest, instead we would fight for turns on who got to play next.
There were times while playing that the day would virtually waste away. I would be so enchanted by the pixels and the sounds that I became hypnotized with jumping rolling barrels and eating blue bobble eyed ghosts. But I would always come back to reality and remember there was a real world outside where I could play with friends, ride bikes, climb trees, or throw a tennis balls against the side of our house like I was Nolan Ryan pitching in the 9th inning. God, how my mother hated that.
I can’t ever remember my mom screaming at me to stop playing video games and go outside and do something. And unless I was in some hot streak gammer ‘zone’, dying for the 2,898 time was usually enough for me to realize I needed to stop or I was going to throw the controller out the window. And when that did happen never, and I mean never, did I expect, require, hope for, or demand my mom or dad to entertain me. I was creative enough I could usually find something to get into of my own accord which might include hitting my sister with a baseball bat or wrecking the four-wheeler.
If the ability for self-entertainment is hereditary, my kids got none of my genes. For my kids, if their recreation doesn’t include a Wii, iTouch or iPad, Netflix, Nickelodeon, or a laptop with an internet connection they spend the entire day laying around the couch like those bored models in Calvin Klein ads. It drives me to the brink of insanity. We live in a private gated community that is as safe as a police station. We have nice manicured grounds and my son has a friend his same age a stone throw from our front door. But instead of adventuring the great outdoors they’d rather snuggle up with a controller and argue about who gets to be Harry Potter.
It invariably happens that I reach my tipping point and demand all electronics go into the ‘OFF’ position and they need to find some other way to amuse themselves that doesn’t require an electrical plug. Then within minutes, as if rehearsed, comes the gripe-fest at how bored they are with pleas for, Daddy, can we go here? Daddy, can we do this? Daddy, can you buy me that? Daddy, can you do this with me? Daddy, make monkeys fly out your butt.
And when I can’t immediately drop the 649 other things I’m doing like washing clothes, cleaning floors, or earning a living they start in with their whiny Fran Dresher voices …I’m bored! There’s nothing to do!
And then I unleash one of my favorites on them: “You’re responsible for your own fun! If you’re bored, that means you’re boring!”
Am I the only one that has this problem? Or have they only gotten like this because they’re divorced kids and have become far too dependent on mom and dad who, after missing them for several days, does back handsprings, somersaults, and pulls a raccoon out of their hat with joy that they’re kids are back? And when did it become my parental responsibility, aside from clothing, feeding, keeping them warm, and ensuring they aren’t mauled by panther,s to be their walking three-ring circus replete with clowns and a bearded lady ready to perform at a moments notice – ot to mention the whole monkey butt thing? Besides I’m pretty sure that gig doesn’t pay well and has crappy benefits.
For the life of me I can’t, and won’t, be that dad who shoves his kids in front of a monitor because it’s easier nor am I going to be that parent who stresses out weeks before spring break each year scouring the internet for ‘fun ways to entertain your kids this spring break’. I graduated with a concentration in Finance, if they want to talk about the Theory of Supply and Demand I’m all in, otherwise I’m done pooping monkeys.