Boys are beyond the range of anybody’s sure understanding, at least when they are between the ages of 18 months and 90 years.
I have a son. I am a mother. My son is now 13. There is much debate and discourse on mental illness, gun control and video game violence breeding the mentality of said violence. This reminds me of the age old adage, ” what came first the chicken or the Egg?”
When our son was born, my husband and I vowed to never partake in the evil world of Video gaming. In the famous words of Cathy Bates character, ‘Mama’, in the Water Boy, video games were, “the Devil” We held fast to our vow until one fateful day when I was slyly conned into buying our son; whom I will call Jacob, a computer game. It was educational. It was age appropriated; he was the age of three. The game was a Reader Rabbit game designed for a preschooler. What was the harm? Well, like any “gateway drug” to an addictive personality, it got him hooked. Before I knew it, he was playing non stop. I was grateful as he was learning and he was amusing himself. However, his Lincoln logs and his Lego worlds collected dust.
By Kindergarten he had graduated to on line games like Pop Tropica; a fantastic on line game by Jeff Kinney, again nothing wrong. Right? WRONG!!! He never wanted to go out doors or play with a bat and ball or throw a foot ball. He wanted to play computer games.
Some how by age 10, our vow to never allow video gaming was about as valid as a five-time married stripper- call girl’s vows to a poor unsuspecting client. We bought him an X-Box. I wanted him to be “normal” like all the other American boys his age. It as okay though because I had vowed only rated E or T games, ( Everyone or Teen.) This “vow” lasted all of a year. with in two years so many rated “M” games made it into our house we may as well have been a college dorm instead of a decent house hold. The scary part was I found my self amused by some of these super violent games like Saint’s Row and Call of Duty.( A female President in Call of Duty so that was cool and made the violence forgivable). I tried to hold onto elements of the vow to detrimental failure.
Jacob is now 13 and has been exposed to so many violent video games I began to worry about his concept of right and wrong. So I tested him. I told him a gruesome story of a Hitler Youth camp.” I wanted to see his reaction. He was appalled and felt the brain washing was evil. Yet he played games like Grand Theft Auto and killed people without emotion. I then told him about the Stanford experiment, wherein college students were asked to act like prisoners or guards, the experiment was canceled after only a few days,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZwfNs1pqG0&noredirect=1
He was again appalled. And, when asked what he would have done, he said he would have tried to free the prisoners and beat up the guards for being so cruel. This was an aggressive answer but expected since he was used to beating up cops in Saints Row. He meant well and I did not think he would go around hurting people… BUT… I began to see that my son indeed had developed aggressive tendencies. But, how long have boys been aggressors? There is that old Rhyme for a reason:”What are little boys made of? Sluggs and Snails and puppy dog tails…”Puppy dog tails meaning that boys are pretty aggressive and can be down right mean. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Are_Little_Boys_Made_Of%3F
We have in many ways infantalized and feminized our boys. We expect them to be in line, to be respectful and not HOPEFULLY not labeled as mentally ill yet we expose them to so much violence From video games to poorly acted horror films. We do not expect them to do such things as hard labor, like yard work or help out on a ranch or farm; The kinds of activities that they are genetically programmed to do. There are studies that show We, as a society often do not academically challenge them the way we do our female students. There is a fantastic book titled, The Case Against Adolescence by Robert Epstein.http://www.amazon.com/The-Case-Against-Adolescence-Rediscovering/dp/188495670X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368341408&sr=8-1&keywords=case+against+adolescents. This book changed my whole perception on how I viewed my own son. I began to realize I was still in charge and still the mother but if I gave him actual work to do, crated an accountability within him, he would excel far beyond my expectations.
He may be a boy, he may drive me batty, I may not understand his need to play violent games, but like the James Thurber quote states, “Boys are beyond the range of anybody’s sure understanding, at least when they are between the ages of 18 months and 90 years.”
This is true for a mother to a boy whom grew up with only sisters and a mother who was very anti violence and war. However, once I gave him work, once I gave him a reward system to work for, the need to play violent games became less. NOT NON-EXISTENT. But less. He does have angry out bursts. But am I worried that he will go find a weapon and pull a tragic stunt like what happened at Sandy Hook or Aurora? No. I have faith that my son understands the repercussions of such impulsive and irreversible actions. Does he go on ruthless killing sprees in Saints Row? Yes. He tells me that it is okay because they come back to life and the creators make the poor victims say and do such comical things post death and reincarnation that I feared Jacob had no clue about the idea of actual permanent death. He was so far removed from the reality. Then he had the opportunity to say good bye to his grand father who passed away of a heart attack at age 86. His grand father passed while Jacob was holding his hand. My son cried and mourned his passing for a long while. He talked through this grief with his father and was ever present for his grand mother. He has empathy and he has love. I realized my son knew that the games were fantasy. He understood death and he understood right from wrong AND he had a strong moral ideology, though misplaced in regards to the Stanford experiment.
I had reason to believe he would be okay. As my son is now 13 and this Blog is about raising a teenage boy in the 21st Century, I will stick to relevant topics and I will open all topics up for discussion. I welcome any comment that will start polite discourse.