Friday, January 22, 2016

If you love it so much, why don't you marry it?

It's a common things kids say to each other...or at least, kids from the 80's did. Someone is eating popcorn and says  "I LOVE popcorn!" Another child exclaims

Then everyone laughs.

It's good question, though. Inherent in this "joke" is a question of time and commitment. Are you committed to popcorn?  Willing to eat it every meal for the rest of your life? That kind of thing. It worked on our definitions of "love" even as children.

When it came to picking a mate, the answer to "If you love him so much, why don't you marry him?!" was and continues to be "Okay, I will!"
And I still love my champion like he's a big bowl of buttery popcorn that never gets stale and never gives me a belly-ache.

But can this "stress test" found in a teasing childs question be applied elsewhere?  I tried it today and found the answer to be Yes. Story time.

We have decided to limit our kids to one hour of screen time per day.

My kids have had mixed reactions.

My oldest son being "hit" the hardest by the change led us to have a talk. He kept ping-ponging between understanding our point of view and just -frankly- hating it.

He said he needed a new perspective on gaming.

I suggested that we make a Pro and Con list. With his help, it turned out like this:


* It's fun
* Do things I can't do in real life  (build a house in a day on Minecraft; play with the laws of physics in Portal, etc).
* Play with cousins and friends in other states.
* Way to connect with friends/Dad (something in common)
* I get to win/ feel successful
* Accomplishment (Achievements and rankings)
* Fill the time in a way that is not boring
* Puzzles/ Brain teasers
* Instant Gratification/Fulfillment
* Instant consequences
* Instant Second Chances.


* Bad on the eyes
* False sense of control
* Miss out on real life
* No concept of time/passage of time in real life
* Impatient with others
* False sense of Physical Accomplishment (the brain has the thought "I just climbed a church in Constantinople!" But the body knows you didn't which leads to)
* Physical/Mental disconnect
* Little/no exercise
* Physical weakness
* Fight with siblings over things that don't matter
* "Builds doubt that I can find solutions in real life"
* It's a use of time that is forgettable
* Makes real life seem "too slow"
* Not enough real life rewards - I'm not earning anything in real life.
* Makes it harder to see choices
* Makes it harder to make choices
* Makes real life consequences scarier
* Fewer real life/lasting connections
* Wasted Day
* I build nothing that lasts

He came up with literally 16 of these Cons by himself! Pretty smart kid, I know.

I let him look at the list for a while. He said that the pro's were short-lived and the cons were long. He didn't like that one bit."This makes me feel awful. Gaming makes things worse inside."

 "Well," I said, "If this were a girl, would you want to marry her?"
"If you were in a relationship with a girl who made you feel like this - who's pro/con list looked like this - would you marry her or just be friends?"
It didn't take him long to decide. "I wouldn't marry someone who made me feel like this." he said, clearly wondering where I was going with this weird train of thought.

"You are in a relationship with your electronics." I said.
I let that sink in before going on. "The Xbox is fun to hang out with, but look at the cons of tying your life to it. You can have all the pros with the Xbox in an hour. Managing the time you spend with it will cut at least 10 things off the cons list."
He thought about that, and lifted his chin as it worked in his head.
"So, the question is do you want to marry the Xbox or just be friends?"
He thought about that longer. I think he could see that his answer would be a choice.
Then he smiled.  "I just want to be friends."

"Great. Then you'll have to break up with the Xbox."
My twelve year old son quirked an eyebrow.
"I've broken up with people," I said. "So I know what it's gonna feel like. You'll miss it. That's normal. That's ok.  It's a real loss."
"So it's ok to cry about it?"
I nodded.  "Absolutely. You can still hang out with Xbox sometimes; because Xbox is fun."

"But it makes me feel bad if I hang out with it too much."
"That's why you don't want to marry it."
"Yeah. I get it."

He got tears in his eyes, so I softly told him about the bright future past the loss. "And then, you will fill your life with better relationships. A relationship with nature, with exercise, with making things, with theater; you'll even build up your relationships with people. There will be strength after the struggle."

"Love?" I asked him in our usual way.
"Love." He confirmed.  Then he slammed into me with a big hug. "Love love love."

Later I had this conversation with my daughter and it turned out exactly the same.
So my kids are breaking up with electronics. Which is awesome.  They deserve better.

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