As a parent, I know that it is risky to say the word "never." Never is undeniably a long time from now. When I say "never" now, I mean "never" now. But somehow, "now" has a way of changing into "then" and with "then" comes a time when "never" doesn't mean "never," but instead means, "I was wrong."
It's a word I try to avoid. But last weekend, while hiking with friends in the Sawtooth Range of Southwestern Colorado, I said, "never." And, just to back me up, my husband said "never," too. The topic? An Xbox. While hiking down the trail from the summit of Courthouse Mountain (look for a post on this amazing family trail later this month), our 12 year-old son looked at us and said, "If I save the money, can I buy an Xbox?" To which we answered, "No, not now, never." Or, something to that effect.
To lessen the sting, I pointed out to him that all of his friends, including his hiking partner Tommy, have an Xbox (or the equivalent) that he can play whenever he goes to their homes. He was beginning to object, to develop an alternative line of argument, when Tommy piped up, "Yeah, you can play at my house, but the Xbox really makes me grumpy." Precisely. Point made, point taken.
There wasn't much left to say. For two years, we have told our son that video games, even when played on the tiny screen of his iPod Touch, make him grumpy. The perfect example would be going skiing. We would leave in the morning, everyone feeling bright and excited, only to arrive at the mountain with one of our party now in a dark, exhausted and apathetic mood from playing games on his Touch. At first we thought it was car sickness. The road is windy, he's been staring at a screen and now he feels lousy, we told ourselves. Then we noticed it happening at home. He'd play. He'd be grumpy. It didn't really matter if he was playing a war game or Fruit Ninja. He'd be grumpy.
But It's My Money...
Still, while I didn't have any problem telling our son "never" on the acquisition of an Xbox, part of me did feel bad telling him he couldn't save his money for the purchase of his choosing. Saving money and having goals are good things. I love it when our boys have a goal in mind, because suddenly they want to do all of the extra chores around the house: Cleaning the patio, mowing the grass, pulling weeds, shining shoes. They do these things and more enthusiastically when they've got a payoff in mind. And really, I am generally pretty lax about what they can buy.
Here are some examples of purchases they've made in the past year: Lots of gum? No problem. Fat powder skis? Now we're talking. An airsoft gun? Well, that one gave me pause for a moment, but unlike the Xbox didn't elicit an immediate "never." But the Xbox? No way. Stay inside, burn out your eyes, and be grumpy?
Sorry, this mom isn't signing up for that punishment. Not now. Not then.
Kristen Lummis is the owner, writer and head ski tech at www.braveskimom.com. The mom of two boys in a busy outdoor family, Kristen writes about skiing all year round, tossing in some biking, hiking, parenting and even a bit of reflection during the off-season. While her recreational passion is for all things snow, her real passion is for her family.