Here are the facts:
Christmas is coming. Fast.
I have very little money to spend on gifts.
Teenage son desperately wants a video game for his Xbox 360. So bad.
I used to be conflicted.
Not any more.
I've written about it before. The whole video game thing is a sore topic for me, and I realize (for those hostile commenters in the past that think they were telling me something I didn't already know), that there are elements of control in that, and projection of marital issues. All of that aside, I do not think video games are inherently evil, I just cringe at how addictive they become, and how increasingly violent and realistic they have to be to carry any merit with the teen boy crowd these days. I've relaxed a lot. A lot. I mean it. I still have a rule of no rated M games, although some of them make it in if they have the 'special family filter' thingy on them. There's one in particular that is a huge hit with my son. He will have his friends over and they will play for hours. And they play live with other players around the world. It's great fun, I've heard. It just sounds like a war zone to me, but I know there's something in boys that wants to conquer.
But I've also written about the fact that I worry about my Teenage Son. I love him so much, and I'll admit that I'm not quite ready to cut the strings loose. I'm a firm believer that media choices (movie/TV/music/video games) affect our minds and spirits. I see a correlation in behavior, and as this is such a vulnerable time for him, I want him to have the freedom to choose, but then again, since I'm the one who has to live with him and his attitude, I also want some ability to censor at least what kinds of influences make it into this home. I don't think being immersed in war violence all day every day can be that beneficial when it comes to figuring out how to solve problems day to day. I mean, we can't really just blow them all away, can we? I believe there is some kind of hyperstimulation of the rage part of our brains going on there that reroutes other neural pathways, but that's just because right now I'm up to my cerebral cortex in the Central Nervous System. Another topic.
I'm in this state of trying to be Cool Mom to keep the peace and also trying to be Good Mom to raise a proper man. I already make him mad about so many things. I'm trying to meet him where he is, true, but my goal is also to keep him elevating himself. No easy task. Mainstream youth are pretty happy just hanging out where they are, with not a lot of thought about the future. I realize that I may not like these video games, but he does. They are important to him, and I can't completely discount that. But do I spend $60 to bring it home?
I had halfway decided to bite the bullet. I put the game on my Amazon wishlist. I almost put it in my cart several times. While walking around Costco, I picked it up and looked at it. I hated it, but I was trying hard not to. I almost put it in the cart, but then I set it back. And then I went back and looked at it again. Again, something stopped me. The game is rated M. (He told me it was T.) There is a "special family filter thing", but I don't know. He's only almost 14. 8th grade. Isn't there room to grow in his thirst for blood? I don't believe his father would buy it for him. I don't believe his father would be thrilled with him playing it. And should I buy warfare for Christmas? The baby Jesus' birthday?
I came home from Costco without it. Still conflicted. I looked at it again on Amazon and moved it from my wishlist to my cart. But didn't check out. And there it sat. I was praying in my heart, not just about the game, but about my son. Proper manhood. Moderation. Boundaries. Courage. Wisdom. All those things.
And then, at 2:47am I was awoken from a deep sleep with a very vivid warning in my mind:
Do not buy that video game.
It was so clear and so urgent. I had images come to my mind, things shown to my mind of the effect of immersion in violence, especially as entertainment, ways that it would affect him. I know I can not prevent him from ever playing--nor do I want to--, but I could set a limit on what I spend my money on, and thus endorse, and what we bring into our home. I lay in bed for thirty minutes or so, with the conviction seeping deeper and deeper that this particular game was not right for my son at this particular time in his life. I was given wisdom and courage and foresight. I got up at 3:30am, and deleted it from my Amazon shopping cart.
I was also given in my mind a wonderful compromise. Buy the family a Wii. Satisfy the video game craving, but bring us together downstairs, and nobody has to die.
And for the Teenage son? A really handsome, manly watch that he has wanted. Maybe it will remind him that life is a collection of seconds, minutes, and hours that should be carefully guarded and wisely used. And when he feels the heft of it on his wrist, I hope it reminds him that his mom loves him big time.