The holidays are still a fresh memory but all the decoration are down.
The DS is now an integral part of the household.
We were all working last night. Mom-ita preparing dinner, me preparing for my yoga class, and M-ito preparing to be a world class fossil hunter. It sounds exciting, I know it does. But here’s the thing. In order to be a world class fossil hunter my son has to do the following:
- Sit hunched over a tiny handheld portable electronic gaming device (a DS) for an hour, possibly more if we let him – and we try not to let him ever go that long;
- Intuit directions and rules as he goes along as to what is needed to be a world class fossil hunter (not easy because the rules are in small print and I can barely read ’em even with my reading glasses and, of course M-ito doesn’t like to read the rules, and double of course because you also have to understand gaming lingo) – also M-ito makes lots of mistakes along the way and it is frustrating going;
- Figure out how to pause the damned thing when either his mother or father wants him to stop to either, say… get the table set, or answer a question, or interact in any way with the world around him;
- Yell out successes and failures to me while I’m ten feet away typing wickedly at emails (of which I have no idea what he’s saying because I haven’t played the game and can only guess at what his statements mean – I usually simply answer, “that’s great,” or “keep trying, you’ll get it next time.”);
- Do lots of thumb exercises and obtain good hand-eye coordination (hey, I have to be honest – it does take some of these qualities to succeed in the game including make good use of your opposable thumbs)
So… after the fifth or sixth time we asked him to come in and set the table M-ito, still playing, nodded and mumbled something akin to, “Yes.”
I got up and said, in typical, I’m-not-proud of myself-mode, “If you don’t put that game down I’m going to take it away.”
At which point he said, with extreme frustration, “I can’t figure out how to pause the game without losing the game I’m playing.” He said this, uncannily, while still playing, barely missing a beat.
I reached over for the game and he leaned away from me, using his elbow to slightly block my angle on the DS. I said, in my most menacing voice – because I was getting pissed off now (though you should note that I also knew I was tired from my work and upset at myself for letting him play so long and so… attempting to take some responsibility for the confrontation occurring), “You’d better turn that thing off right now or I’m going to throw it out the window.” Ah, that was poetry.
That’s when the tears started and the crying – all while still playing, at least minimally so his game didn’t disappear and be reduced to oblivion. Sometimes the most difficult part of playing these games is figuring out how to save your game. The simple precaution in the future is to read how to do this first, before he starts to play. After you’ve plowed through an hour of hard work making mistakes and learning game-play I understand not wanting to lose what you’ve gained. I do. I really do.
I used some yogic breathing, calmed myself and said, “Let’s look at the instructions and see what they say.”
Twenty seconds, M-ito still playing, I took the DS from him. His eyes wide with terror he shouted, “No!” as I touched a button to find the right screen. A quick flash appeared with the dialog, “Do you want to save this game?” M-ito used his stylus, angling the two screens towards him so he could see and pressed the statement a few times.
“It’s not saving!” he shouted again.
I took his stylus and tapped the, “Yes.”
The screen disappeared and M-ito mouthed, “O.”
Then another screen came on asking, “Do you want to continue playing?” and I quickly tapped “No.”
M-ito only saw the no and broke down into tears again. These are the kind of tears that go right through you. The dad-ditto-you’ve-betrayed-me kind.
“You lost my game,” he said. “Now I have to go back and start all over!” Variations of this came and went between sobbing and weeping. I sat in the other room, looking at Mom-ita and looking back into the room. I might have said, “It’s only a game,” but I hope I didn’t. I tried to tell him it was okay – that I’d not erased anything. He swore it was all lost. The game didn’t mean a thing to me, but I tried to remember it meant a lot to this 7-year old boy. M-ito’s anger turned sullen. He wouldn’t come in and eat. He wouldn’t talk to us. He might even have said something in the nature of, “You don’t want me” or “love me” but I’m still to this moment not sure. Mom-ita as the neutral party, tried to get involved. She said, “We’ll take a look at it after we eat,” but he got angry at her too.
We ate a quiet and unhappy meal. I got angry again after a while too and called him on his attitude (how did he get that look in his eyes and the nasty set of his jaw?) and the way he spoke to his mother. Otherwise I was silent the rest of the meal too. It was a big unhappy party and I didn’t think I could be brought lower until I started wondering if I had indeed lost his game. What if I did?
Finally, dinner over and the game back in hand, Mom-ita playing mediator. We looked at it together and lo and behold. The game was right where it was supposed to be – saved and in one piece.
M-ito looked up at me and smiled, gave me a big hug – night and day.
“Next time have a little faith in your father,” I said. Exactly what my own father had said to me many a time when I was a kid. Oh how these things come back and haunt you.