Share a Computer? Not in my House

Oct 13

“Mom, can I play the computer?”

It’s the one phrase I dread more than any other technologically-related question from my kids’ mouths.  While I inwardly cringe when any of my boys ask to turn on a screen, this one is particularly cringe-worthy.  That’s because I know that if I say “yes”, the whoops will eventually succumb to arguing, tears, and threats … not necessarily in that order.  Strangely, the computer, with its gateway to infinite online play, reigns supreme in the realm of home entertainment (well, all entertainment, really.)  Although we’ve added three DS Nintendos and a Wii to our arsenal of mind-numbing, frozen-stare inducing activities, all three of my boys prefer to crowd around the single computer monitor than race against one another in Mario carts with a white plastic steering wheel. 

When the computer is on, they are forced to take turns.  That is, they have to share.  Normally, I embrace the opportunity to challenge my kids to be charitable toward one another.  But, in my household, asking them to share the computer nicely is akin to telling one of them to divvy up their stash of candy from a party loot bag.  “What?!?!” being the most common response to my plea to be nice, and share with your brothers.

Yesterday, my oldest son was granted permission to turn on the desktop computer, located in the family room.  “You guys can go play Wii!” I offered the younger two boys with enthusiasm (and hope.) 

“Nah,” they’d responded, “We wanna play computer, too.”  Oh, great.  They got my usual low-down: You each get 30 minutes to play then it’s someone else’s turn.  Got it? 

Forty minutes later, the younger boys were complaining of waiting too long and my oldest son had no plans to relinquish the mouse.  That’s because he had not finished playing his game.  He could no more quit mid-video game than a fighter pilot take a snooze before landing the jet.  An argument erupted among the boys and I was forced to join in.  I was busy, myself, working on my laptop… writing a post no doubt, or tweeting about writing a post.  My past parenting experience dictates that I really should stop what I’m doing and enter the room to calmly explain how things needed to proceed.  But it’s always so much easier (for me) to just yell out my commands from wherever I am at the time.  Our tizzy went something like this:

Me: “Your time is up! Give the computer to your brother!”

Oldest son: “I’m not done my game!”

Youngest son: “It’s myyyyy turn!”

Me: “Just give him another 2 minutes!”

Youngest son: “But he’s gonna take forever!”

Oldest son: “No, I’m not! I just gotta finish!”

Youngest son: “Noooooo! It’s my turn!”

Me: “Hey, Stop fighting!  Just give your little brother his turn!”

Oldest son: “I’m not done!  Ow! He hit me!”

At this point, screaming ensues, someone is down, and I am forced to abandon my own business to tend to the wounded.  Okay, no one will be honouring me with a badge of creative parenting anytime soon, but aren’t kids supposed to figure out their own solutions to sibling rivalry?  Whatever happened to good old fashioned board games.  If one kid got too cranky about losing, he’d just tip the whole board and the game was over.  None of this taking turns and time limits. 

I eventually had to stop staring at my own laptop and deal with the problems face to face.  The oldest was forced to give up his game and was sent to his room for being rude.  My youngest had to go on a time out for mouthing off, and my middle child (the quiet one) took a turn at the computer.  And I cursed the blasted piece of technology as I returned to my laptop and Facebooked about my pain.

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