Good Parenting Series: Kids and Video Games

My wonderful 16-year old video game-playing son is mad at me. He’ll probably be mad at me for a while. Ha! I don’t care. Shit happens and he’ll get over it. I’m sure he’s mad at his mom too. Why? Because of some damn popular video game that went on sale this morning [Tuesday, November 13] at 12:01/00:01 midnight; about an hour ago. The video game? Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

According to news reports, this game, “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” is expected to be “the biggest video game release of the year”. My son, and “all his friends” (he says), along with “hundreds of thousands of other gamers”, (news reports say) were expected to line up at thousands of stores, including, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and GameStop, to get this game at midnight. I’ve heard news reports telling the public that gamers – that is, kids, college students, and adults who play this game, will be late to school and/or take the day off from school or work due to them playing this game all night long and perhaps all day today (Tuesday). Well, MY son will NOT be standing in such a line at midnight, hours before he has to get up at 6:30 am to go to a school where the first class period bell rings at 7:40 am. He already hates getting up! Good thing he drives now and most of the responsibility for getting to school on time rests with him. (Depending on whose house he’s staying over, either me or his mom will often add that extra kick in his butt to make sure he is up and out the door on time.)

Twice this past weekend, my son called to ask me to take him to Game Stop at midnight so he could get the new Call of Duty video game. Twice I told him that he should wait to get the game after school on Tuesday. The boy practically begged me to take him.  Of course, like most kids his age who try to play one parent against the other in order to get their way (especially parents who live apart), my son intentionally withheld some vital information.  Until I spoke to his mom, I had no idea that he had already pre-purchased the game last Friday to ensure that his copy would be reserved. I did not know that his mother had already told him to wait until later, the following Tuesday, when she would pick up the game for him after she got off work. I also did not know that she had denied his request to take him to the store late Monday night – before midnight – and hours before he was due to be up to get ready for school. Of course, like most ex’s, she told our son, “If your father is willing to take you to the store, she would be fine with it.” In all fairness to my ex, I believe she knew me well enough to already know that I too, would never agree to take our son anywhere at that time of night  – especially for some video game on a school night. She was right.

I am not an asshole of a parent; well, perhaps my teenage son would beg to differ at this point. I like to pride myself on an ability to keep tabs and awareness of most new technology, particular new electronic toys and games played today (even though I don’t play them). I am neither out-of-touch with the world or the generation of kids today. I understand the intrigue behind video gaming, particularly this game, Call of Duty and other games of action. I’ve watched my son play and enjoy earlier releases of Call of Duty. I’ve always enjoyed the graphics and storyline of animated games. I’ve witnessed the evolution of video games over the past 25 to 30 years. I’ve also been more than aware of the competition of popular high-graphic gaming systems like Xbox and PlayStation but have come to loathe the allure of the attention span caused by video games of hundreds of kids – my son included – from the occurrences of the REAL world around them.

I don’t always like it but I understand gaming is the “pied piper” of today’s kids and many young adults (and those of fully grown men and women, too). What a strange, yet vast difference from the days of my childhood when it was the great OUTDOORS – regardless of the weather, that always called my name.  I’m sure other parents – married or single feel my pain when we would often have to tell our kids to “shut it down” (“it” meaning the video game) because they had school the next day. Of course, most of us would come back to our kids’ room ten minutes later and have to repeat ourselves, often getting a bit nasty just so our kids would follow our instructions. Kids would always have some rationale for wanting to “finish the game or operation first”. We’d repeat our demand; then, as we walked away, we’d overhear them say to their other friends playing on-line, “I gotta go; Dad (or Mom) is on my case…” LOL! Kids today; they all seem to act as though we parents were not defiant to our own parents when we were their age. The more things change, the more they stay the same – particularly in parenting.

Like everything else in the world, video games also have their time and place.  I never understood the rationale for any merchant to participate in the debacle of putting some item on sale at midnight any more than I understood the logic of those who just had to have the first and the “latest-n-greatest” of anything at that time of night or the moment a new item hit the store shelves. I’ve seen and heard stories of people lined up at stores when the computer operating system, Windows 95 first came on the market some 17 years ago. This nonsense would repeat for every “major” release of some high-tech gadget, like an Apple computer, a software program, or some gaming system or video game that followed. People would stand, sit or pitch a damn tent in long lines in all kinds to weather just so they could get the “hottest things since sliced bread” …and get it before anyone else got it!

I gotta ask: What the fuck, people??? Would not the stores have enough of any new item in stock for everyone that wanted to buy one during their regular operating hours?  Could not the stores always order more – even if it required some PATIENCE on the part of the customer? What the fuck is this insane need to out-do other people with being “the first” to own some THING or any THING, particularly those THINGS which could have a factory defect or perhaps need immediate (and often constant!) updates to fix post-release problems of operation? Imagine if people applied the same dedication and patience to other WORTHWHILE things like volunteerism, community clean-up, or some other social contribution that actually pays in huge socially beneficial dividends! I laugh at these people but I also shake my head in disappointment of human vanity.

Yeah, my son may be a bit upset today that he won’t be able to join his buddies online this early morning of the release of this new video game called Call of Duty: Black Ops II . When his mother picks up the game later today or he chooses to get it himself after school, he can play it later. I understand that he has two half-days of school this week so he’ll have time to play the game – and only after school responsibilities like homework and home chores are done. My ex and I do not want our son growing up and going through life having a “want it now” or to develop some impatient attitude of life and what it has to offer. Before our split five years ago we were raising and teaching our son patience and to “try all things first”; meaning, check out the validity, accuracy, truthfulness, and reliability of certain things before jumping into something that might prove itself to be nothing but hype. Separately, we are still doing that. Our son is a good kid. He may be unhappy with his parents right now but knowing him, he’ll quickly get over it. He knows we love him and that we often express that love to him, express why we love him and often why we have to say ‘no’ to many things he wants to do or desire to have.  He knows that when it comes to his well-being, his mother and I will always discuss a matter and usually be on the same page or come to some sort of compromise. We love our son. I’m not concerned about my son in that aspect or with his feelings about this video game situation. I am however, concerned for the kids whose parents are not parenting and who are not setting similar guiding priorities for their kids.

My son will be in class later this morning, where he belongs. Where will YOUR kid be?

Keepin’ It…..REAL!

Don’t Pay Parents to Do Their Job

 We live in a time when issues with the American economy has caused states, cities and other local governments across the country to badly suffer financially due to the lack of its ability to collect its regular income of taxes from its citizens. The reason these governments cannot collect all of its taxes is mainly due to the number of citizens who are out of work – primarily because of the poor economy. There are cities across the U.S. that cannot effectively function financially, not necessarily because of any possible mismanagement or corruption but to a lack of funding from its main source of income – the people living and working there. For example, cities everywhere are struggling to support its school system, social programs, and public services. Over the years, state governments have stepped in to take over the management of those financially troubled cities, displacing the publicly elected officials responsible for running their local governments.  This has happened at least twice here in Michigan where I live.

With all this going on, how is it that in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel can just give away $25.00 Walgreens gift card/vouchers to parents who don’t love their own children enough to care about their own kids’ education?  I doubt Walgreens is just freely giving the city these gift card/vouchers; which can only mean that the city of Chicago has BOUGHT the gift card/vouchers with the hard-earned tax dollars of its already-cash-strapped citizens! What REAL justification is there to give away the hard-working Chicago citizen’s tax dollar to those parents who don’t bother going to the school(s) to pick up a report card and/or meet the teachers and staff who interact with their kids every day?  Picking up a report card or making sure one is sent to the residence (at least quarterly in a school year) is a PARENT’S responsibility; it is NOT that of the city of Chicago or Rahm Emanuel.  No parent worth his or her name ought to EVER be paid or expect to be financially rewarded or inclined to perform the duties expected and required of parenthood.

This $25.00 gift card/voucher incentive seems geared towards parents of color.  In fact, let me be VERY real: it seems designed for people of color – specifically Black parents. I am not saying it’s racist,but c’mon, let’s be real: Just how many White parents are going to partake, or need to partake  in this incentive?  The program feeds into the racial stereotype most in society already has of some Black people when it comes to the interest and caring of their kids and their education. And if it happens to be that in Chicago, the majority of bad/irresponsible parents are Black or some other persons of color, then that alone should send a message to ALL Blacks or persons of color living in Chicago and nationwide. As a Black man and father I am insulted about this story and learning how the mayor has to resort to such an insensitive idea!

The mayor said “this [gift card/voucher incentive] could help to close the gap between parents, teachers and principals to have a united front investing in our kids’ education.  While I believe Emanuel means well and understand his intentions, his words are sound easy to say, coming from one who is NOT buying the gift card/vouchers with his own money. Funny how people in power always seem to know what to do with OPM—Other Peoples’ Money!

The citizens of Chicago, and Illinoisans as a whole, ought to be a bit irate! The citizens of America ought to be as well, for a portion of her tax dollars also goes into cities/local governments of the States for education purposes. Overall, BLACK PARENTS and other people of color who have kids in the Chicago school system (a system which just got over a nasty teachers strike) who work hard to oversee their kids’ education should be especially furious at this insulting incentive idea .

Finally, one could argue that “the end justifies the means” in this case, meaning that it is the children who will benefit. Okay…true to some extent, provided those bad/irresponsible parents actually come out to the school to pick up the report cards and talk to the teachers.  Is this $25.00 gift card/voucher incentive program going to be a “one-time” thing or will a $25.00 gift card/voucher be given at every report card period to such parents?

I say let’s not reward such parents for doing what is clearly their damn job. If the city has so much tax payer money to give away, why not give it to those parents who are more deserving? Usually when a person is publicly recognized and/or rewarded for doing something exceptionally good and/or unexpected, the very act itself serves as an incentive to others to also do the same so that they too, might be possibly recognized and rewarded.  However, people tend to frown upon those being rewarded or recognized for undeserving acts or for doing that which is clearly a part of their job. People will resent both the person giving the reward and the undeserving person being rewarded.  That is exactly what Mayor Emanuel will be doing with his $25.00 gift card/voucher incentive program.

Parents more deserving of this $25.00 Walgreens gift card/voucher incentive would be those who come out regularly to parent-teacher conferences; who come out to school functions involving their kids, like sports, plays, and special holiday performances.  Parents deserving of this incentive would be the parents who volunteer their free time – or who take time off from work or after a long day at work – to chaperone a dance, a class trip, or even coach some after-school activity. It would be the parents who don’t mind picking up the report cards of their kids and those who will meet with the teachers or principal for ten to fifteen minutes to discuss the educational progress (or lack thereof) of their kids.  These parents are far more deserving of recognition and reward for such GOOD PARENTAL behavior in taking an active interest in their kids’ education. Why the hell would anyone want to reward BAD behavior in this sense is beyond my understanding.

Regardless what the reason is, I simply don’t believe the city ought to be giving away money, gift cards, vouchers or any sort of financial incentive to bad/irresponsible people simply to encourage them to do what is clearly their job as parents. Such parents ought to be ashamed anyway and feel very embarrassed for willing to take such “rewards”. Mayor Rahm Emanuel ought to also be ashamed for even establishing or agreeing to support such an incentive program in the first place.

Keepin’ It…REAL!

Notes of a PROUD Dad

Like most fathers, I enjoy teaching and sharing my knowledge and/or opinions of things to my son. And, like most fathers, I naturally tend to think such efforts go on the wayside. Yet, there are occasions when I’m happy my son (G) proves me wrong in that thinking. For example yesterday, during a visit with me at work, he and I had some very good discussions about the presidential race and BOTH the Republican and the Democratic National Conventions. Can you believe that? We also discussed Iran and its relations with the world and that country’s desire for nuclear capability. We discussed World War II and how the winners of that war (U.S., Russia, and Britain) divided up the spoils of war. We talked about President FDR’s National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) and how THAT idea or portions of it might be useful to help today’s economy. We discussed the Korean War, and even touched on former presidents Carter and Reagan, among other things, which any stranger in the room would find deeply intriguing! At 16 years old, G often reminds me of the way I was at his age!

I suppose I can take some credit in starting him off right many years ago (and up to the present), when I had with him (what probably seemed to be boring) talks about the things that will affect him as a man, as a Black man, and the things that affect everyone in this world.

My son CONTINUES to make me PROUD! You go G!
Keepin’ It…REAL!