I hate the Xbox. Really, I do. It is the most violent entertainment for kids, and causes numerous arguments between our youngest, Jack, and me.

Before you say, “Well why’d you buy it?” let me explain: I didn’t. The judge and I got the kids a Wii, as it seemed the nicest, most family-friendly system available. Only our oldest never stopped grumbling about the “baby games” and the “crummy graphics” and how “completely lame” it was. Soon he had his little brother agreeing with him. The issue came to a head when the judge and I were out of town and the boys collected the Wii, and its paraphernalia (including my Jillian Michaels fitness stuff) and had their grandmother drive to the local game place to trade it in.

So that’s how an Xbox came to be the center point of our living room. And while 16 year old Michael plays it occasionally, it is 11 year old Jack who is obsessed. He begs and cries for M-rated games. (“NO”). He borrows them from friends (“Give them back”). He points out that the T-rated game I let him play is way bloodier than the M-game he wants, until I start to ask if maybe I should take away that T-one he has, at which point he’ll launch into some other argument. I hate that Xbox.

As I left in the morning yesterday, I told him he had one hour to play. I took my daughter and a friend to a mall 80 miles away, and around lunchtime, sent the judge a text asking him how things were going. He had come home to eat and found Jack “happily killing people.” When the girls and I got home around 3:00, he was on again/still. A little yelling ensued: …I can’t trust you… blah blah, …need a baby sitter…blah, blah. My heart wasn’t really into it.

As I lay down for a few minutes (I was shopping with 13 year old girls, you know), Jack came in and gave me a hug. “I’m sorry for playing so much, Mom.” He was contrite. What a sweet little fella. With that thought, I fell asleep.

Imagine my surprise when I emerged about a half hour later only to find Jack on the Xbox! My heart was into it now.

“Well I was bored… there was nothing to do!” he tried to reason. I didn’t even buy into the argument. Little liar.

Today, when I headed to work, I took the Xbox with me.

Yes! I know! What took me so long? I am a bit thrilled with myself! Apparently, unplugging it has messed up our phones, which would explain why Jack hasn’t called me asking me about the abduction. But who really needs landlines anyway? Take that, Xbox! I’m takin’ back my boy!

Remember that Veruca girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

“I want an Oompa-Loompa and I WANT IT NOW!”

You can’t help but dislike her conceited, demanding, snotty little self. For me, it’s not so much the wanting that bothers me, it’s the refusal to wait, to delay gratification.

I’ve ranted a bit about this before. In an effort to make sure our kids feel loved and are well-liked and that no one is better than them—it seems that many of us parents buy our children way too much stuff, way before they need/want it.

You know what I mean. You’re shopping with your 12 year old daughter and she spies the cutest scarf and there are only two left and it’s on sale.

“Oh, Mama! Please?” she begs.

Attempting to teach responsibility you reply, “Well, do you have money?”

“Well, no. But I’ll clean my room as soon as we get home. And you can give me some now, then not pay me my allowance. And I will clean the cat box and empty the little garbage cans in everyone’s room too!” (Because those are her chores, and she hasn’t done them).

Oh, and did I mention there are only two left and they’re on sale? Tears ensue…”I promise, promise promise…”

I cave.

I remember—bear with me now—when I was a kid and we had to wait for stuff. We waited a long time for big things…like until Christmas or a birthday. Or, if we really wanted something badly enough, we worked and saved up to buy the coveted item ourselves.

When I was about 12, I wanted an English saddle. It was nearly $200, an unattainable amount for a 12 year old making three or four dollars a week. So my dad, bless him, said he’s go “halfers” with me. He figured if I really wanted something bad enough I’d be willing to work for it, and he would match me.

Well, halfers made the saddle seem attainable, and in about three or four months, we drove to Seattle and got the thing. I was flat out broke afterwards, but I had something I’d really wanted and I’d worked for it.

I think all children have a little bit of the burning pocket syndrome when they’ve got a little cash, but my 10 year old Jack is a prime example. He will get a card from an auntie in the mail with a nice crisp $20 in it. “Can we go to the store?” he’ll ask as it flutters to the floor.

“Why? What do you want to buy? I query.

“Oh, I don’t know. I need to look around and decide.”

This is typical. We’ve had the discussions about saving for a rainy day. His brother, and even his sister have shared about the great things they’ve bought after saving a while.

No go for Jack. “Well there is something I’ve been wanting…” he’ll tell us and then think of something he’s passed in a store at sometime. That money’s not just a burning in his pocket…it’s a real torch!

Anyway, we’ve been trying to address this issue, making Jack pay for things on occasion, which he does cheerfully if he happens to have money. So the other day, when Jack announced that his xbox mic was broken and he needed a ride to the store to get a new one, I asked if he had any money.

Instantly, he was on the verge of tears. “Well no! But I NEED it! I can’t play with my friends without it!”

I suggested he do some yard work with me. I figured two hours would be fair for a $20 reward. I outlined up the tasks needing to be done.

“All that?” he looked incredulous.

It wasn’t that much, and I figured if he really wanted the xbox thing, he could work for it, right?

Well, long story short, it took about 48 hours to get those two hours out of him. I didn’t nag, I just kept pointing at unfinished tasks when he’d come up and ask, “Am I done yet?”

There were tears… and stomping… and milk breaks and rests. Eventually, I figured he’d done his two hours. We had another nice chat about saving for times like these when something breaks.

This weekend, he asked to go to the game store.
“Do you have money?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” he said, emptying his pockets of about $25 cash.
“Where’d you get that?” Dad asked.

“I’ve been saving,” he proudly replied.

After just one night, as the second evening approached, the camp called. It was the nurse.

“Jack has a stomach ache. Is this normal?”

“Well, maybe?”

Jack is our baby. He’s 11. He’s a mama’s boy. And he’s at sleep away camp.
My heart is aching.

She has me talk to him.

“What is it, Jacko?” I ask.

He’s crying. “My stomach really, really hurts.”

“Did you poop yesterday… today?” I ask.

“No. It just hurts.”

Then he mumbles something.

“What?” I ask.

“Never mind,” he says. “Nothing.”

My heart is breaking. I want to go get him. That would make me feel better. But it’s probably not what’s good for him.

I put on my big girl/big mama panties. “Well, how ‘bout you lay low tonight, and if you still have a stomach ache in the morning, have the nurse call me back.”

“With a wavering voice, he says, “Okay.”

I talk to the nurse again. He has no fever. No tenderness anywhere. She’ll call if needed, in the morning. Otherwise, no news is good news.

Oh, this hurts.