Monthly Archives: November 2009

To Wii or Not To Wii?

Should we buy a Wii for our children for Christmas?

I have deep misgivings about getting one, yet I don’t want my 6-year-old son to be the only one in the neighborhood who can’t throw a football AND who doesn’t get to play video games.

I’m not absolutely opposed to video games — I had an Atari as a kid in the early 80s. I wonder if my parents had the same quandary that I’m having now? My big sister and I played, Space Invaders, Pong and Frogger upstairs on the TV in the sewing room. Then the thing broke, high school came along and we went on with our late 80s lives.

Now that I have children, however, I’m a big fan of making your own fun. In our basement, we have lots of toys and art supplies, and our son has come up with remarkable artistic concoctions ranging from tiny popsicle stick furniture to a gluey, multicolored combination of snipped up construction paper, pompoms and feathers. He and his little sister leave the place looking like a Muppet threw up.

Or when the weather is warmer, I let the children make mud in the back yard. As long as they don’t smear it on the garage. When it’s colder — as long as we don’t hit the trifecta of wet, windy and below freezing — we play outside almost every day. I know that getting a Wii would cut into that unstructured play time.

I thought we’d give Wii a try, and we just got the chance at my brother-in-law’s house. My son swung wildly at the screen as he played golf, “hitting” the ball so many times that the Wii gave up and advanced him to the next hole after six strokes. (He also hit my wife in the head twice in 90 seconds with the controller.) I have no patience to try to get him to swing more carefully (and no skill in actual golf, whether transferrable to a Wii or not), so I stayed in the other room. I tried bowling – it was fun, but I felt like a dork playing air guitar. (Our almost 4-year-old daughter had almost no interest in the thing. She was concerned more with making her Wii player character (a Mii – clever) have red hair like she does.)

If we do get one, we’ll probably adopt a usage policy like our friends down the street with kids the same age as ours. Their 6-year-old can only use Wii on the weekends. I like those limits, but good luck trying to get a word out of their kid on Friday afternoon – he’s too busy rushing home to play Wii. The same friends declared it as a family gift – not the single kid’s present – hopefully cutting down on the fighting over whose toy it is.

And if we buy one, is that it for Christmas? One expensive gift for both kids?

So here are some pros and cons:

1. It will make my kid happy.
2. He could play it with his friends and not make a mess.
3. We could play it together as a family.

1. Cost. Best price I could find was $179 on the Dell computer Web site. Couldn’t I find true happiness and buy an iPhone for that?
2. I’ll have to figure the darn thing out. I got a digital picture frame for Father’s Day, and I love the idea of a rotating slide show of family photos. But as the at-home parent in charge of the laundry, the groceries, the schlepping to and from school, and so on, I’ve not yet learned how to use the thing.
3. Time suckage and whining. “Daaaaaad… Can I pleeeeeeease play the Wiiiiiii???” “Daaaaaad…. I can’t make this work. I’m no good at Wii!” And my favorite: But-Dad. “But Daaaaad. I don’t wanna stop and set the table.”

Maybe we should wait and buy one next year?


At-Home Dad Haiku

In my five years as an at-home dad, I’ve found that sometimes writing a good haiku really says how I feel. Here are some of the best:

I will go crazy
if I have to decide one
more time what’s for lunch

I love my wife, but
she is trying to kill me
working late Friday

Ugh. Breakfast madness.
Oatmeal on the computer.
Children, stop hitting!

Bossy 4-year-old
Stop correcting your sister!
When is happy hour?!

Cursed dishwasher
Why must I unload again?
Yet, I’m glad you’re here.

From my buddy Eric, a fellow at-home dad:
Laundry fascist says
Must be an empty basket
To start a new load

Naptime Hardball

My redheaded spitfire of a daughter will turn 4 in January, so I can see it coming: the nap is going to leave us. This is a terrible thing, especially because I am codependent with my children’s sleeping habits. When they sleep well, Daddy is happy; when they don’t, Daddy has a Bad Day.

With our son, now 6-1/2, we were the nap holdouts among his contemporaries, who all shed the nap by age 2. I persisted, forcing him to spend at least an hour of quiet time “on bed” (not “in bed”). And somebody told me that fresh air and exercise are a napless parent’s best friend. So even in February, as long as it’s above freezing or not raining hard, we go outside every day. We rode out the storm with our son foundering on the nap around age 2, and he napped until about age 4.

Our daughter now is nearing 4, and she’s starting to goof off more at naptime. I come in to find barrettes lined up on the floor, neatly sorted by color. Dolls and bears lined up on her bed, as if our daughter were holding court. Books strewn. Outfits tried on and discarded. I’m a big fan of a clearly defined “put-down” routine, where she usually gets three stories and three songs and then drifts off to sleep on her own. Last week, it wasn’t working at all.

Time for Naptime Hardball.

I kept to the three songs – gotta feel like I’m in control, after all. But I picked two church songs that I repeated and repeated as I stroked her hair. For the grand finale, I sang “I’ve Been Workin’ On The Railroad,” because it’s the longest kid song I know. That, too, I sang three times, getting slower and slower each time.

No dice.

Finally I remembered something I used with her brother. I brought his CD player in and picked the sleepiest disc I could find – anything by Elizabeth Mitchell is good. I figured that if our daughter is anything like my Lovely Bride — who can’t shut her brain down for sleep without doing a crossword puzzle, finishing a soduku or playing solitaire on her Blackberry for 20 minutes or so – then this would tie up her 3-year-old imagination long enough to wind down for a nap.

Good news. Victory! The nap is back. Today, at least.

The Burp Challenge

The burping in our house has been getting out of control.

Our six-year-old son says it’s always by accident. But he says it with a grin. And the burps always have that crisp, upward sound, ending with a ‘t.’ You only get it when you push a burp out and try to make it louder.

A couple years ago, my brother-in-law and his wife gave me John Eldridge’s book “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul.” The essence of the book is that Christian men have been emasculated by the responsibilities of modern fatherhood and should instead be more adventurous and bold. The application to parenting was to let boys be boys and stop cutting them off at the knees and demanding perfect manners from a creature that is incapable of providing them. But our son is 6, so there’s no way he can understand that while it might be okay to burp around Dad, it’s not okay around Mom and absolutely forbidden around the grandparents.

Always do we make him say “excuse me” after he burps, but he does it with the same relish he would show after grabbing the last cupcake and making his little sister cry. For weeks, my Lovely Bride and I told him to press his lips together to try to make it come out silently – that way he wouldn’t have to say “excuse me.” No go.

Then on the day after Halloween, when the boy collected his body weight in candy, we found something that worked. Each time he burped, on purpose or not, we would take a piece of candy out of his orange plastic pumpkin. And eat it in front of him. Yesterday, he lost seven pieces of candy. Today, only two. Victory?

Now if only we could do something about the farting.