Gosh, that was such a refreshing picture I painted the other morning, with the treehouse, the long hikes, three boys living the wholesome, country life with no machines in the garden. Didn’t that just warm the cockles of your heart, and everything, what with it being Valentine’s Day? No smarmy love stuff-just nostalgia for a time period when boys lived the life of Tom Sawyer, and there was nothing to interfere with this idyllic view.
Gluten-Free Mama and I saw the down-side to Gameboys immediately. It’s hard enough to get kids to focus on schoolwork and reading books, when these bell-ringing, light-flashing devices are not in the arena, let alone when they are in direct competition. It’s not that the boys resisted homework or reading, but they led active physical lives also, so there was only so much time in the day and priorities had to be set.
All three boys played soccer and little league growing up, and wrestled, at least at the middle school level. All three consistently made the Honor Roll, and none got into any more trouble than maybe providing occasional lip service to me, necessitating a lunchtime appointment with Richie, who did detention in those days.
The school district had written a grant to acquire a class set of computers, so that one computer technician could guide an entire class though specific exercises designed to make them more computer-literate. Though we were a rural district, we did our best to keep our students on a par with those of urban areas, so that when they went on to higher education, they would not lag behind, technologically.
Whereas GF Mama and I supported computers in the classroom one hundred percent, we did not favor playing computer games in lieu of doing homework. It was like opening Pandora’s Box to get the good things, but trying to filter out the bad things at the same time.
Not that much different from life. So the tug of war between the three boys wanting to have access to electronic games, and Gluten-Free Mama and I not wanting them to have this access, essentially began somewhere around the time that HeadSodBuster was eight or nine, and the other two a year or two behind, and never stopped.
|Erin Rose, HeadSodBuster, BenJAMmin & Small Boy|
There were no hills upon which to die. We held out on the Gameboys, which burst on the scene in 1989, for as long as we could, and then capitulated. We knew it was only a matter of time before reality caught up with us; all we did was try to delay the inevitable.
When the Super Nintendo Entertainment Series System was introduced in the US in 1991, Gluten-Free Mama and I put up a unified front and said no. I don’t remember when the battles began but I do remember how they ended.
It had to have been after 1996, because that is when Nintendo-64 came out. Again, the pleas, the promises and the tears ensued, as they tried to convince us that a Nintendo-64 would not only not be a distraction, it would actually be an enhancement to education.
You don’t ever want to get into a debate with HeadSodBuster, when the stakes are so heavy, because you will lose every time. The only reason I ever won anything, was because I was the dad. Hey, any port in a storm-you take what you can get.
In this particular instance, it was they who took what they wanted, and they did it diabolically, pulling the wool over first, Gluten-Free Mama’s eyes, and then over mine. It was an intrepid stroke, guaranteed to be successful by the very audacity of it.
On a day like any other, except that they were all four together, Gluten-Free Mama drove the three boys down to Walmart in Ukiah, in the old Trooper, with its spacious back compartment. While GF Mama was doing her thing with the shopping list, the three rascals, the oldest probably fifteen years old, or so, boldly sallied through the check-stand with a brand-new Nintendo-64, paying in hard-earned cash. They then took it out and stashed it in the back, cleverly concealing it so that GF Mama never saw it.
The rapscallions were cautious to keep a low profile. When I finally realized what it was that had them so preoccupied, later that evening, imagine my surprise to find them hunkered in front of one of those idiot boxes. Now, mind you, I have never so much as considered playing these games and there is a damn good reason.
I know I would love them, so forget it; I do not have the time. Just as I have never been snow-skiing: It is better to not get started, than to get hooked and spend the rest of your life enjoying a hobby that is well out of your price range. You pick and you choose.
“Who did you guys borrow this from?” I asked, noting the pristine box. Anytime they had borrowed one in the past, it was a beat-up thing that got treated kind of like a football.
“Uh, we didn’t borrow it-we bought it. Mom said we could. After all, she spends time playing Yahtzee.”
They were all in agreement.
|Gluten-Free Mama's electronic drug of choice|
I raised my eyebrows, in my best Mr. Matlock mode, and said, “I doubt that,” and sauntered out to the kitchen where I asked GF Mama,
“You really let them finally buy one, huh?” more curious than anything else. We always talked these things over and tried to stay united. However, there were now three of them and only two of us, and they were smart fellers.
“Let them buy what?” she looked alarmed.
“Well. that answers that, the little turkeys. They bought a Nintendo 64 today down in Ukiah, and just told me that you said it was OK.”
She looked sideways at me and said, “You know who was behind that, right?”
“Oh, yes. But you know, they all three work (at the Chevron, no less), they all get good grades and they play sports. There just isn’t enough time in the day. Besides, we held out this long and that is a moral victory in and of itself. I’m not dying on this mountain.”
When I went back in the other room, I had to do the parental disapproving thing, which went doubly hard because I had also held the role of their language arts teacher. I called them on their deception, and then threw my hands up in the air.
“At this point in the game, I am not going to be a jerk and take your Nintendo away, but I do not appreciate the way you went about acquiring it. It was sneaky and underhanded. But since that is not your usual style, I am going to overlook it this time.”
HeadSodBuster had the grace to not smirk. “Sorry. It’s just that you would never have allowed us to get one, otherwise.”
“Why do you suppose that is? Because I am mean?” I always like to be kept informed.
“No, you’re not mean; you don’t want us spending all of our time on it, that’s all.”
“Well, not all of it, anyway, but you will be going off to college one of these days, where I am sure you will not have time for Nintendo-64.
The other day, when GF Mama and I were rehashing this incident, she scoffed at the notion that college took precedence over electronics. “Oh, no way. I was up there once when they had a tournament going in the basement.”
My eyes got big and I said, “I remember that house. OK, I stand corrected. They still played Nintendo-64after high school. Good thing we let them have one when we did, or they would never have been able to play at the college level.”
Basking in the glow, I can now assert that my sons played college-level Nintendo-64. Does it get any better?