Gouda's School of Good Parentage

When I had my first child, I think it's safe to say I went pretty nutty on rules and guidelines. They would NOT have any food that wasn't organic or that contained ingredients such as partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils and high-fructose cornsyrup. They would NOT watch more than an hour of television per day. They would NEVER be spanked, and they would engage only in healthy, brain-stimulating activities that ensured they would become wholesome little geniuses, bred to change the world and make their parents rich.

Judging by these guidelines alone and my ability to adhere to them, it could be said that as a parent, I have failed horrendously. My daughter has a lust for Coca-Cola (although she doesn't get it in large amounts), and they both watch more than their fair share of television and DVDs (although I do attempt to limit their exposure to commercials), and my hand has made contact with their asses on more than one occasion. A combination of factors have caused me to relax my stringent parental guidelines over the years, but it basically boils down to my ability to evaluate my children as they are and act accordingly. In defiance of my genes, they happen to be great kids. Smart, funny, healthy, imaginative, and for the most part -- well-behaved. As a result, I have allowed the infiltration of Nick Toons, sugar, and the occasional bit of corporal punishment into their lives and have noticed no terribly averse side-effects.

But one thing I really, REALLY love about my kids right now is their insistence that I do this one thing to make them happy. It's unconventional, perhaps controversial, but it has allowed me to engage again in a once-loved pastime that I thought would be forever abandoned once I took up the post of parenthood: video games.

I know how it sounds. I'm manipulating them. I'm making them THINK that they want me to play video games for them, right? But no. They actually BEG me to do it. They clamor every morning for me to play Mario Sunshine, Zelda, or Luigi's Mansion so they can watch. "Mommy! I want you to play the ghost game for us!" So what am I supposed to do? "Oh no kids. Mommy HATES video games! They're bad! BAD!"

Shyeah! Right!

They even know how to switch the TV over and put the discs into the Gamecube. I'm so proud of my burgeoning little nerds!

I'm grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to delve back into the world of electronic entertainment. But not only that, they really get involved in the storylines. Natalie is constantly asking what happens to Princess Peach after she gets taken by Wario in Mario Sunshine. Elias is always begging me to save Link's sister in Zelda: Legend of the Wind Waker. He even occasionally refers to himself as Link, on the days when he's not going by the names of either Harry Potter or Ang (the kid from the Avatar series). As a parent who simply revels in the happiness of her spawn, I could not POSSIBLY deny them this sort of storyline resolution!

Now keep in mind that the games I've mentioned are of the wholesome variety. They are not quite ready for me to break out Goldeneye or Medal of Honor. Some think that videogames are harbingers of violence and obesity for today's youth. I say that's bullshit. Parents are much too willing to point the fingers at anything but themselves or a child's unfortunate genetic propensity toward certain negative outcomes. Besides, if the kids want to kill an hour in front of the tube, their minds are much more engaged by watching Mario's adventures unfold before their watchful, excited eyes rather than a stretch of Jimmy Neutron or Spongebob reruns. It's even more fun when the whole family can get involved in a multiplayer game. Big hits around here are Mario Kart Double Dash and Donkey Konga -- this game that uses bongos to play along with familiar musical hits.

But whether we're all playing together, or I'm manipulating the avatar on my own for the kid's enjoyment, I sure do love being reunited with my Gamecube again.
Thanks kids!


  1. '... it basically boils down to my ability to evaluate my children as they are and act accordingly.'

    That's the secret. Guidelines are helpful, but they need to be flexible. No one knows your children better than you. To put it in football parlance: when the goalposts get moved (and they'll keep moving until your kids are adults) -- you three will always be able to find the uprights.

    You are a good mom, Allie. And your children are adorable.


  2. I agree with doctorboogaloo, but you shouldn't argue strongly about genetics. My psychology prof. told me that how you react to these genetic tendencies can mold their future behaviours. So you can turn an innately shy boy into an extrovert if done with a lot of effort, of course.

    I am glad that you are playing video games with your kids. sharing as many experiences possible is a great to bond with others. It's also a great teaching experience where you or your kids can teach on gaming strategies and insights. When your boy will eventually and inevitably want violent video game, play it with him and see if he's reacting what you expect.

  3. That's a funny looking wishbone they've got there! Did that come from a turkey?

  4. Doc -- thank you very much. I love the goalpost analogy you used to. It's very apt!

    Janarius -- Personally I think people give too much weight to environmental influences. It is true that in some cases the one's upbringing can sway their personality traits, it's been shown in countless studies (particularly in twin studies) that genetic influences play a very strong role. Personality disorders, such as the tendency to be antisocial, are usually present from the beginning. But let's say that if someone played a game like Grand Theft Auto and then went on a shooting spree. The person was very likely already exhibiting violent tendencies that the video game merely exacerbated, but didn't cause. :)

    Ken -- My only hope is they don't attempt to break it in half.

  5. I used to play games and watch whatever I wanted, etc. But my parents were always there to help me figure out right from wrong and to answer any questions I might have. And I turned out pretty OK.