The “No Technology” Consequence

Our ninth grader came home with a few unusually bad grades. He’s losing focus, missing assignments. So, we banned technology until the end of the school year. Seven weeks. No video games. No YouTube videos. No watching South Park episodes for the millionth time.

To him, this means passing through the Gates of Hell.

So, he spent Sunday pouting and doing the homework that he had claimed earlier in the weekend was already done. Look at that! He actually studies for Spanish tests in Hell.

Although not the one who came up with punishment, I, of course, was the one getting the silent treatment. Until he handed me a letter Sunday evening. A full page. Almost as long as his English paper on A Farewell to Arms.

“Dear Mom and Dad…” it began before launching into his “re-commitment to getting straight As” and his strategy to achieve such a feat. He glared at me while I read how he is going to focus on studying so much that he will not be able to talk or eat until school gets out.

“That’s a bit extreme,” I said, annoyed at the theatrics.

He stuck his chin out and shook his head like a four-year-old stubbornly trying to win a not-speaking contest.

“Then show the letter to Dad.”

He shook his head again, as I knew he would.

“If this is your plan, Dad needs to know.”

So, he stomped upstairs, and I could hear them talking softly, before my son returned to me in the kitchen. With the greatest of seriousness, he said, “Dad and I figured out a better plan. I’m going to focus on schoolwork from 3-5:00 every day.”

“Perfect,” I smiled.

“Except for a five-minute break at 3:55.”

No technology… but speaking. And eating. And re-committed.


Things I Will Never Like

Sometimes when our nine year old is angry, he goes to his room to cool down by drawing the thing that made him mad (a mean picture of his brother) or making Keep Out signs or writing down the offending event. Then he returns to family life or homework or the basketball game on the street with a smile.

On a recent weekend evening, he shared a list he had written earlier in the day. The spelling is his (with translation where necessary).

Things I will never like

  • Sewead (steping on)
  • Penut butter
  • Spelling
  • 80s muise
  • Gaming fingers (a.k.a. jamming fingers)
  • Dierreiy (diarrhea)
  • Dring off with a cold wet towel
  • Peolpe that stay inside all day and play video games
  • Peolpe that brag

Funny list.

Five Year Old in the Bathroom… Really!

The membership director walks a prospective member through the new game room at the country club. There’s a basketball hoop, air hockey, a flat screen television, indoor climbing things for toddlers and video games.

It’s the middle of the day before schools get out. Atypically quiet, except…

…for the 45-year old woman in a skirt with a toy rifle, shooting at barrels coming down a virtual waterfall. Bam! Bam! Bam!


I don’t try to explain. Bam! Bam! Bam!

But I imagine, “At our club, even our moms like to play!”

Mom Over-Thinking: The Nerd Shirt

My boys have lots of t-shirts to show allegiance to their favorite sports teams – Broncos, Redskins, Tarheels, Nuggets, Rockies, Falcons, Nationals and Cardinals. They even have soccer jerseys from Ireland and Springbok rugby shirts from South Africa.

But on a recent flight to Atlanta, while reading the Sky Mall catalogue, I came upon “I love Minecraft” video game t-shirts. My kids are obsessed with the game. So my first thought was “I have to get these shirts!”

Then I froze. I could not believe that for an unguarded moment, I was excited to buy video game t-shirts for my kids.

And days later, I keep wondering why. Am I trying to protect them from the fact that their classmates will think they are dorks? Is it that I do not want to encourage their obsession with video games? Or is it my own opinion that guys who wear video game t-shirts are losers?

It’s not fair. I am perfectly happy to get them sports t-shirts, even when they don’t play the sport. My oldest doesn’t really like sports at all, yet you would never guess that by his apparel.

They should celebrate the things they enjoy, not the things I think make them look cool. If they can show off their favorite football player or play basketball in their favorite basketball player’s jersey, they should be able to play Minecraft in a “I love Minecraft” t-shirt. Right?

Of course, that’s right. I just can’t seem to make the purchase.

Art, High Drama and My Third Grader

My third grader reminded me this week how inspired kids get when they get to study, read about or write about a topic they care about. Not the topic that gets assigned or the one you pick for them.

He had an assignment to report on an artist, and because we recently visited the Crazy Horse Memorial with its massive carving on the face of a mountain, I suggested that he write about the artist responsible for its creation. He seemed on-board. Great.

Then he started to do the research. And he crashed. Tears turned to hysterics that wouldn’t cease.

“I just don’t get it!” he screamed multiple times.

Trying not to get swept up in the high drama, and wondering what a relatively smart third grader wasn’t getting (except getting to play football instead of write his report), I asked, “What don’t you understand?”

“I don’t get anything about this report!”

I assumed he was having trouble understanding how you carve a perfect face into a mountain with explosives, so tried showing him a book of artists that he could choose from instead. The tears multiplied with that approach.

And then, “Why would anyone be an artist? I don’t get it, and I can’t write about it if I don’t get it!”

Thank goodness my husband is a quick-on-his-feet, think-outside-the-box kind of guy, who happened to call just as I was about to lose it. “He likes video games. Tell him to write about a video game artist.”

An hour later, grand discoveries had been made about his favorite video games, a great rough draft had been written, and he had emailed an artist/animator who works on one of his favorite games – DragonVale.

When she emailed back asking what his favorite dragon was, he gave me a huge hug. “That was fun. This is going to be the best artist report ever!”

For a guy who thinks he knows everything he needs to know already – football trivia, getting to the next level on video games, and how to shoot an okay lay-up – I will have to keep him on his toes by playing on his passions to keep him hungry for knowledge.

So when he has to write his report on a news broadcaster…. I bet I can get pages and pages and pages about a sportscaster who thinks Matt Ryan is the best quarterback in the game. And it will be good.