Only if you knew my husband and me very well would you understand how much that would bother us. Tim is a detail man who hates messes. I have snarky housekeeping tendencies which cause me a bit of stress when it comes to game pieces left under the couch or Hardy Boys books being re-shelved with Nancy Drew.
So when I see that the Monopoly box lid is coming apart in a big way, my blood pressure goes up TO THERE. For about 3 minutes. Until I remember the reason for that.
Later I ask my husband, "Did you see that the Monopoly box is broken now?" I try to make it a casual question, but he stops his studying, pushes his chair back from his desk, and eyes me carefully.
"Yes," he says. And then he sighs. "I noticed it a couple of days ago." At times it is a bit trying for two micro-managers to have 6 active children.
"But," he says, drawing out the word for about 5 seconds, "We can be thankful that they are playing games together."
I smile at him. We are on the same page.
This is the one of the benefits of a messy game closet: while many kids their age are playing video games or surfing the internet on their cell phones, ours are holed up in their bedroom for hours on end, conquering the world through Monopoly, Stratego, or Risk.
I am not completely opposed to computer games. My kids used to play them. They were even used as rewards for good behavior. In our house, we favored educational games like Oregon Trail and Brain Play. But sometime about two years ago I took them all away.
- I was convinced it was building bad habits. The computer is a necessary nuisance, but my 4 year old doesn't need to be under its power. How many grown adults are addicted to gaming? How much more easily a young child?
- I was tired of being asked all day if they could play. . . and then monitoring 30 minute intervals for each child to have a turn. . . and then deciding the order of each child's turn. . .and then making sure the other children didn't spend all afternoon watching their siblings play.
- My first two children were avid readers before age 7, tearing into any book they could get their hands on. But my third child was more interested in computer games than books. And, well, in a house with 13 overflowing bookshelves, we just can't have that!
- This world is full of beautiful music, but who wants to practice piano when there is a computer game to be played?
- I wanted them to play games, not in self-centered solitude in front of a screen, but together, where they could learn life skills like compromise and negotiation.
Thus, the Monopoly box is broken.
And, in spite of my snarky housekeeping tendencies, I am thrilled. Here's why:
- My kids now understand that computers are for work, not games.
- My ten year old can do almost a thousand bounces on a pogo stick.
- My eleven year old loves to sew.
- My number three child who didn't care much for reading before now leaves books strewn all over the house.
- I cook dinner to the lovely melodies of Fur Elise and Canon in D being played by my very own children.
- Instead of refereeing the computer game usage, now I am refereeing the political overtaking strategies of countries at war in Europe.
Okay, so the whole "life skills of compromise and negotiation" thing is still in progress. But the political practices of Putin proves that these are things better learned when you are a child. So we will keep working at it.
And in the meanwhile, I am reminding myself to smile when I find Risk pieces under the table or the piano is piled high with music books or another game box needs to be taped. Because I am nurturing gifted children, not growing a crop of computer game addicts. I will pay the price.
I am a mom with a mission.
Are you scrutinizing your lifestyle choices for ways to redeem the time in the lives of your children? What difficult decisions have you made on their behalf?