We had a bit of A Situation at my house over this holiday weekend. Oliver is obsessed with this children’s site, Club Penguin, which I’m pretty sure is just a gateway drug to Internet addiction, but is nonetheless kind of cute and entertaining.
Anyway, all of his friends at school are on This Club Penguin and they meet at each other’s igloos and collect Puffles (I don’t know, either) and who knows what else. I am generally okay with his obsession, so long as his homework is done first. It’s a heavily moderated site specifically aimed at kids his age, and there are all sorts of parental controls, like time limits, chat settings, that sort of thing.
What I am not okay with is the anger Club Penguin inspired on Sunday, when the site would not load. We are not sure if it was a problem with the site or the computer, but let me tell you how real shit gets when something comes between an eight-year-old and Club Penguin.
Let me back up here: over the summer, we gave Oliver Jeff’s old laptop, which is from 2007 -- so it’s basically ancient in computer years. It’s slow, but it still works reasonably well for basic and important computing functions, like looking at cute animal videos. It has worked well for important Club Penguining on previous occasions, but sadly, not this one.
The kiddo was so angry after several failed attempts to play a game that he slammed the laptop shut really hard, three times.
And the blasted thing won’t turn on now.
Me: “Well, now you don’t have a computer.”
Oliver: “I can just use yours.”
What ensued was a serious discussion about respecting property, and how even if it’s a shitty laptop, it’s still a laptop. And by the way -- he will never get his little hands on my computer if that’s the way he treats electronics.
I did manage to not mention starving children in Africa, but I did want Oliver to know how lucky he is to have a computer, even one so slow that it takes like 10 minutes just to boot up (seriously).
Needless to say, Oliver is totally grounded from Club Penguin and computers.
I was planning on buying Oliver a Chromebook for Christmas this year -- something faster that he can use for homework (and cat videos). And now I’m hesitant to spend $200 on something that he may or may not break just because he cannot play a game on the internet.
I'm trying to teach my son to respect his belongings, but I'm afraid that kind of respect only comes through breaking laptops and losing jackets -- and then not having any jackets or laptops. Experiential learning!
Now I understand why my mom once came into my pit of a room with a garbage bag and threatened to throw away all of my belongings if I didn’t take better care of them. At the time, of course, I thought she was an evil bitch. And now I totally get it. That garbage bag moment is one I think a lot of parents experience: part frustration with our kids’ lack of respect for their stuff, part wanting to teach them a lesson.
When I texted Seth to discuss the incident, he relayed his own garbage bag moment from childhood:
“I remember when I was his age I threw my Atari joystick on the floor and my dad sent it to the Philippines,” Seth said.*
Tell me, readers, do you have a kid who treats their belongings as if (wait for it) money grows on trees? How do you get through to them? Did you have any “garbage bag moments” growing up -- and do you still think your parents were being unreasonable, or do you understand where they were coming from now that you are an adult?
* Seth’s step mother has family in the Philippines, so it went to a cousin, presumably.
Somer is on Twitter: @somersherwood