I Am the WORST PARENT EVER
I'm pretty sure that's not totally true, but I'm sure my 13 year old stepson believes that today. It's not just me, either. His dad is also the worst parent ever. His mom is only slightly better than the worst parent ever . . . and his step dad ain't no great shakes either.
Why? We don't let him kill people in video games.
I promise you that if you have a teenager or young kid growing up in today's world, you'll find yourself in difficult situations that YOU never experienced as a kid. My parents never worried that my reading of Flowers in the Attic would turn me to a world of murder or incest, but I constantly worry that realistic video games that promote person-on-person violence WILL desensitize my 13 year old to the idea of picking up a gun and shooting someone.
I am pretty agreeable to a good argument, so we talk about this family rule often in my house. My kid is welcome to bring us the arguments for and we do give them consideration (although nothing he has said has swayed us yet).
The latest incident was this weekend when he wanted to play a game that is loosely styled after the Minecraft universe (if you are a parent, I don't need to explain as every kid in the United States plays Minecraft). He wanted to download it on his iPod but there is a parental restriction that would not allow it since he is not 17. He brought the device downstairs and asked if we would override the restriction.
After researching the game he wanted, I found it was a multi-player game where characters try to kill other characters before they get killed.
Now, I will tell you that my kid can kill zombies all day long. He can kill monsters and bugs and whatever . . . but we draw the line at people (live people . . .not the undead).
After we told him the game was not something we considered appropriate, we were once again hit with, "but everyone else gets to play this . . . and you are the ONLY PARENTS IN THE UNIVERSE who don't let kids play these games . . . and ALL MY FRIENDS THINK YOU SUCK." These, as we reminded him, are not really good arguments because I don't care about any of those other kids. I just care that HE knows why we don't let him play.
We also try to explain that our rules are not because we are mean and not because we don't want him to have everything he wants. The rules are there because at 13, no matter how they deny it, a kid just isn't ready to make decisions about possibly taking a human life -- and that decision should never be an easy one.
As a family where 3 of 4 active parents were (or are) in the military and where at least half of the active parents have been asked to carry a gun and defend a position . . . we believe there is never a situation where that can be turned to entertainment and where the lives taken have no value.
Yes, this rule might be singular and it is certainly unpopular in our house and among the circle of friends, but it is the only rule we can consciously live with in our home and while raising our kid.
It's probably never been easy to be a parent, but I can't imagine a time that was fraught with more moral complications than this. In the end, we do the best we can and pray he will understand when he is older. Until then, I can't apologize (at least in this area) for being THE WORST PARENT EVER.