“While we try to teach our children about life, our children teach us what life is all about”  Angela Schwindt

Trying to get my youngest son away from his video and computer games is excruciating and painful.   Matt will play video games all day and night if you let him.  He starts playing a game and you can see the transformation taking place.  He is like a drug addict on crack and I tell him that all the time.  I get mad when he refuses to stop and I’ll say “you are like a crack addict getting your fix.”  He gets really mad at me and says “I am not, I can leave this game whenever I want.”  I say “then leave the game now, turn it off.”  “Let me just finish this, only five minutes left.”  “No, turn it off now Matt.”  “Let me just finish this” he says with his voice raising.  At this point I demand that he turns it off and then we get into a physical struggle while I grab the controls and he desperately tries to stop me.

Exhausting and I can see why parents just walk away and won’t deal with it because it is a challenge.  Simply put, I see my job as a parent to stop my children from doing things that are bad for them and guiding them to a better life.  Even though I don’t mind them playing video games and computers, I think there should be a limit and when the game takes over their lives to the point that they don’t even want to go outside or do anything else, I stop the game and kick them out of the house.  Matt, especially, will stand outside in the doorway and say “what am I supposed to do?”  It’s like he’s a lost puppy without the controls in his hands.  ” Go exploring, look for spiders, put on your blades and go rollerblading, ride your bike, shoot pucks, play football, lie in the grass and watch the clouds, grab some other kids and play hide-and-seek but whatever you do, do not tell me that you have nothing to do!”  I then slam the door and leave him to himself to figure it out.

Why is it I feel guilty as I walk away from the door and complete housework or whatever task I have to finish?  I hate to use the line to the boys, “when I was young I walked miles to school and back” like my mother did, but when I was young my mother never had to kick me out of the house, I ate breakfast and ran outside to find my friends, stayed out there until lunch and then after lunch I was outside until dinner and then after dinner I was outside until bed.  My feet were constantly black and I can remember being in the bath after a long day of playing and my mother complaining how dirty I was and she couldn’t tell if  she was scrubbing away dirt or my skin as I was very brown and freckled from being in the sun everyday.  I grew up in Montreal and the cold winters did not deter me either.  On weekends and after school I was outside for hours building forts and playing games.   So what have we done to our children with video games and too many conveniences?  We’ve taken the wonder out of our boys and the imagination out of our girls.   The good fight between myself and Matthew is interesting as he always fights like crazy to stay in the house in his addicted, deprived state and slams all kinds of things in anger as he leaves the house and stands outside with his shoulders hunched and his hands in a fist because he is furious with me.  When I check back on him 15 minutes later, he is smiling and happy and either blading, shooting pucks or playing with the other kids.  I then have the difficult task, as my mother did all those years ago, of getting him to come in to eat. I also like him to get out for walks and I force him to come with me and it’s the same never-ending language between us, he is always mad and won’t talk to me for at least  the first 10 minutes of our walks and then something will grab his attention and then my boy wonder comes back and he will talk my ear off asking me about anything and everything.

Once after work I was going for a walk and it was just the two of us at home that day and he was, of course, playing video games.  I said “Matt I’m going for a walk to the park and you’re coming with me.”  No I’m not, I’m staying here while you walk, I don’t want to go for a walk.”  “Nope, you won’t even own a video game if you don’t come with me because if you don’t come with me for a walk, I’ll change the game-plan and pack up all of your videos and games in a plastic garbage bag and drive everything to the nearest Salvation army and donate it all instead of going for a walk.”  He glared at for me a little while and then abruptly got up and grabbed his runners all the while slamming a few things around in a frustrated,  furious motion because he knows I’m good as my word and I would do just as I said.  We get to the park and I love walking there because the trail leads you through a forest and it feels so good to breathe in the woodsy smell and be around so much greenery.

We start out and Matt is not talking to me, walking with his shoulders hunched over looking very unhappy.  About five minutes into the forest Matt’s natural curious nature takes over and he stops at every flower to ask me what kind it is and every tree to look beyond the path and stops to pet every dog that goes by and has a little conversation with the dog owner.  I’m now trying to be patient because my walk is entirely screwed as I’m not walking at a pace consistent with working out. Finally we get to the end of our walk and I’m way ahead of Matt and he stops to look in a grove through the trees and he’s yelling, “mom come here, come here.”  “Matt, what is it, I can’t stop to look at every bloody tree, I want to get my walk in plus I’ve got to get home and cook dinner as your dad and Brendan should be home by now and I don’t want be eating dinner at 8:00 this evening.”  Impatiently, he says “mom just stop and come here now.”   I walk very quickly toward him with the demeanour of a very pissed off impatient woman and I get there and he says “look through the trees mom, do you see it?”  I look through the trees and I see trees and I say to him “no I don’t see it, we’ve got to go.”  “Mom”, he laughs, “I can’t believe you don’t see it.”  “Matt what are you talking about as I stare into the trees and all I can see is trees.”  “Mom are you serious, you really don’t see it, look closely mom and breathe while you are looking, I know you will see it.”  I stop and breathe and look again and then I saw it and I couldn’t stop seeing it.

There in the grove was this magical formation of spider webs, spider webs like I’ve never seen before. There must have been 50 spiders in the middle of every intricate web.  It was like a city scape of beautiful webs and spiders.  There must have been 10 feet of spiders and their webs and as the sun shone down the webs glistened and danced in the light.  My boy wonder saw the whole magnificent sight immediately, I walked right by it and never noticed as a matter of fact if I was walking through the woods I would have crashed right into that spider city.  Boy wonder is standing in the grove staring at the spiders and smiling.  He says “mom don’t they look beautiful in the sunlight and you missed it mom, you missed it because your mind is always far away, you need to be more here now.”

My boy wonder was essentially telling me the same thing I’ve been telling him, stop wasting your life away and notice the nows and let all past and future go and enjoy the moment because this very moment won’t happen again.  The chances of seeing a spider phenomenon like that again is unlikely, so I stood for quite a while with boy wonder while we talked about the webs of nature and how spiders and all creatures are important.  Matt taught me a lesson that day, he taught me not to underestimate my children, he also taught me to get out of my head and enjoy my surroundings all this from my video addicted boy wonder.