Several weeks ago, I mentioned that my family (all except me) had become obsessed with Wii. I was the last holdout, having already completed Super Mario Bros. when I was 12 years old. Then, in an impulsive moment, I purchased the game Tetris at a local toy store. No one was safe anymore.
Granted, I did not stoop as low as my young children, who were literally pounding each other on the ground to defend their Wii mastery, but I came close when I called Dustin a “loser” for standing between me and the television screen.
Our family was becoming unglued. Worse, we weren’t getting much done. It all came to an end last Saturday.
I was cooking dinner downstairs, and the noise that erupted one floor above me, where Lindell and Owen were playing Wii, sounded like two cats fighting in the bushes. Lindell was crying like someone had stolen his dinner. Owen was screaming “Liiiinnndeeellll” in the familiar warning-shot tone that means a fight is about to happen. I knew they were on the ground wrestling when the chandelier above the kitchen table shook back and forth and rattled.
What I’m about to describe next is a well-intended parenting tactic gone horribly wrong. I remembered my friend Steph telling me earlier in the day that she had “done away” (wink, wink) with her family’s Wii, and that they had been searching for it ever since. It sounded like such a peaceful resolution.
Before I had time to think it through, however, I was running up the stairs two steps at a time. My heart was beating in my throat. I stepped over the pile of boys rolling across the floor, grabbed the Wii modem and literally yanked it out of the wall. The wires left behind hung from the cabinet like the roots of a dug-up plant. The television screen went black. I don’t think the Wii made a noise when it lost power, so that thud I recall must have been my children’s hearts skipping a beat.
I ran to my bedroom with the Wii tucked under my arm like a football. Then I threw (not “placed”) the modem into my closet and shut the door. When I walked back out, the boys were frozen with disbelief. I went downstairs without saying a word.
Before I got to the kitchen, the crying and moaning began. (News flash: The world technically ended last Saturday.) You would have thought I had given away the family pet. Or thrown away the rest of the Halloween candy. The boys’ reaction only solidified my decision, even as I knew that I had not gone about it in the peaceful way that Steph had.
Dustin came home in the middle of this. Which is to say, he unknowingly walked into World War III. Kids were screaming and kicking walls in their bedrooms. Dinner was boiling over on the kitchen stove. I was sitting at the table with my head in my hands. It only could have been more startling if I had been clutching one of the lifeless chords to my chest.
“I did a bad thing,” I said.
Dustin looked scared.
“I unhooked the Wii.”
“Oh, well, good for you,” Dustin said. “It’s about time our family got rid of that thing.”
Owen came out of his room. “But Dad, she made us lose all of our progress! We will have to do all those worlds again.”
Now Dustin looked like he might cry and kick walls, too. He struggled to get his “Man of the House” face back in order.
“I don’t believe that will be the case,” Dustin told Owen. “I think our progress will be saved. And if it isn’t, we will get there again. But, ahem, well, I support your mother and her decision. This is good for us … I mean, you.”
That night, Dustin, who is reading all the classics to the children for bedtime stories, read a chapter of “Frankenstein” aloud to Owen and Lindell. I overheard him as I cleaned dishes in the next room. Although this version of “Frankenstein” is part of the “Great Illustrated Classics” series and therefore not as intense as the original, it still has some gruesome ideas and descriptions. I was surprised that no one was crying and saying they were scared. Indeed, both of them were riveted.
When Dustin was finished and came back into the kitchen, I asked him, “Do you think that book is a little much for them?”
“Have you ever read ‘Frankenstein’?” He asked. “It has a great message. And it’s a classic.” (They had just finished reading “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” the week before.)
Dustin went to the living room to watch football. I dried the dishes and considered all that had happened, how I had run up the stairs like a monster and pulled the Wii from its life source. How the kids had screamed and cried like their dog had died. How the dinner had almost caught fire on the stove. And I realized that of course the kids can handle “Frankenstein.” After losing their Wii, nothing could ever really be scary again.
Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.