Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Littlest Addict

Today, I'm attempting to teach my youngest son about addiction. Laugh if you will, but he is horribly addicted to video games. I blame myself. I let my kids' Kindle time limits slowly disappear. They are limited to one hour of Xbox 360 each day and recently lost those privileges for a month due to persistent name-calling. That helped me isolate another problem: the Kindles. I started paying close attention to how they act toward one another when the Kindle is in their hands. It wasn't pretty.

I reverted to the original 1-hour Kindle limit. Of course, I decided to do this just before the rain set in, so now I have kids confined to the house and less hope of entertaining them. Cooped up kids are not fun at all.

This morning, I heard David, my 9-year-old, downstairs in the garage. He was giving the punching bag what-for, so I knew something was up. When he made it back upstairs, I asked him to come talk to me. He was angry about his Kindle time limit. In typical mom fashion, I asked him about the kids around the world who don't have Kindles. Or any other video game for that matter. I asked him to think about kids who don't even have enough food to eat. I sent him to his room until he could have a coherent conversation, as he was crying and refusing to do more than grunt at me.

When he came down, we talked about addiction. We talked about how this little box of glass and plastic is controlling his life. He is allowing his entire day, each day, to be ruined over a bit of electronic diversion. I mentioned that he only goes to church a few hours per week, but he has never thrown a tantrum over me limiting his church time. He has never complained he doesn't get enough time to read or play piano or draw pictures. I wasn't yelling. I pointed out that I am not angry. It is my fault for letting it get this bad in the first place. I told him I understand that addiction is too much for a kid to handle on his own, and that's why I am stepping in. Together, we will beat it.

He tried to convince me he was upset because the Kindle was a gift from his granddaddy (who passed away a year ago). Now, tell me my kid isn't smart. It was a good weapon.

If I'd believed him.

Me: So, if I keep the Kindle but let you play Xbox all day, you will still be upset?
Him: (Confused) No.
Me: You'd be happy with the Xbox?
Him: (Hopeful) Yes.
Me: But the Xbox was not a gift from Granddaddy.
Him: (Blank stare)

Good try, bud. Good try.

I see myself in David. I once gave up books for lent. That was the hardest fast of my life. I was so addicted to books, at the time, I would read the crappiest of crappy fiction just to be reading. After Easter that year, things changed. I don't only read heavy theology now, but I also can't stomach fluff on a regular basis. My addiction is broken. I still adore books (obviously), but I don't feel controlled by them. I also broke a food addiction this year. Gah, that was hard.

Too hard for a 9-year-old to manage on his own.

That's what I told David. He's a kid. He can't handle a big physiological issue, like addiction. It is my job to protect him from such things and to help him through when my protection fails. I failed him this time, and it bites. For both of us. I hate seeing my big-hearted boy overcome by this. Where video games are involved, he morphs from this beautiful soul into an angry little demon of a kid. I wish you could see it.

He's still mad. He will be for a while. That's addiction. Withdrawal. The whole shebang. We're both learning some hard lessons in this.

What are you learning today?

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