Every summer I write a post about how much summer bites–when you have kids, that is, and no relatives to pawn them off on. My sanity can handle one month of summer vacation—no homework or projects due, no waking up at 7am. Any longer however, and my inadequacies as a mother become blaringly apparent. I don’t like having day-to-day reminders of what a crappy job I’m doing as a mother. It slowly chips away at my already precarious self-esteem.
I haven’t always been a crappy mother. In fact, I was the greatest mother back when my son was a baby. Too bad he’ll never remember all the things I used to do with him. I had more energy, I wasn’t working, he wasn’t talking—all these factors contributed to a much more harmonious relationship between us. We’d go walking with the stroller or baby carrier, play ball or Hot Wheels. I’d hold him in my arms and dance around the living room to Enrique Iglesias. We’d nap together, eat together. Life was so much simpler.
When it came time for me to go back to work, my son went to day care in the summers. $500 a month x 3 months. Well, Mommy works from home now and doesn’t have $500 a month to spend on daycare, so Mommy bought son an Xbox instead. Yes, an electronic babysitter, because all the single moms have one!
I’m well aware that my son’s brain is atrophying, but I’m at a complete loss for alternatives. Most of the kids I know either visit relatives for a while, or the entire family goes on vacation to break up the monotony that excessive summer leisure can bring. Cancel those out for us. My son’s father didn’t even remember to call him on his birthday a few days ago, and the grandma who lives in the same town flaked on his party due to her booming new business, so you can see where their priorities lie.
If I knew how to entertain children for 8-10 hours, I’d be a preschool teacher, instead of a writer. Most writers just want to be alone with their thoughts. Or their Facebook. And while I can take my son swimming and shopping, and to the occasional movie, it’s Just. Not. Enough to fill an entire summer.
Last night I awoke at 4 in the morning to find my son still playing video games. My head almost exploded in disbelief. I stayed awake for 2 more hours trying to decide punishment. Do I take away the Xbox? But that will punish me. How bad do I want to be punished? How bad do I want a paycheck for the work that needs to be done?
Well-meaning folks are so quick to give advice. “Take away all the games,” they say. I’ve done that before, and guess what happens? Every 15 minutes or so, my son wanders in, claiming he’s bored and doesn’t know what to do. Without looking up from the computer screen, I tell him, “Read a book, play with something, wash my car.” He scoffs at those ideas. Because my son is borderline obsessive-compulsive, he’ll continue to interrupt me for hours until I finally lose my temper, then feel guilty and agree to do something with him, which in the end, results in me not getting any work done. So, unless these well-meaning folks plan on paying my bills, they all need to stfu.
The sad thing is my son’s not doing anything different from what I did at his age. I started flying from New York to California to spend summers with my dad when I was 8. He never had a babysitter for me, so while he was away at work all day, I’d watch TV for hours. If you’re in your 40s, you’ll remember shows like Love American Style, Hogan’s Heroes, Love Boat, Fantasy Island. As I got a little older, those shows were replaced with soap operas. Almost 5 straight hours of ABC soap operas a day. Yes, indeed, I was one of the privileged to witness Luke and Laura’s historic wedding on General Hospital.
I’d like to think all that romance watching contributed to my present vocation as a romance writer, but the jury’s still out on that one. The only positive data I’ve read on video-game playing is that it promotes intrinsic motivation, concentration and cognitive effort, and requires a cumulative effort over time to achieve a goal—which could also be loosely translated to mean my son will grow up with the skills to help him be able to score drugs if he wants them, and be successful at doing whatever it takes to continuously score drugs.
Anyone have any suggestions on how to keep a preteen boy busy in this age of technology?