Gay Uncle Brett Berk: I've recently received a number of Wii-based questions from parents, the great majority of them falling into two categories: "How do I get my husband to share the Wii with the kids?" or "How do I keep my children (and husband) from becoming Wii addicts?" Though I'm not personally attracted to the Wii -- my brutal writing schedule leaves me little time for such frivolities; plus, I hate games -- I appreciate the idea that it can make players active, or more active than other video gaming systems, which is to say, not inert. But unlike some people, or school districts, I don't believe this is replacement for teaching your kids (or husband) balance in terms of screen time, or suggesting they enjoy the outdoors. (It's that stuff on the other side of the windows, 90 degrees to the right of the flat screen.) So I was thrilled when I received a note from my friend Ethel that described a viable alternative.
Her boys Lucian, 10 and Gregor, 7 have been requesting a Wii for some time, and while Ethel was leaning toward getting them one, she didn't want the alluring console inside her home. So when she finally broke down and made the purchase, instead of plugging it into her living room, she trekked up to her folks' place -- about an hour outside the city -- and installed it in theirs, telling the boys it was a gift from the grandparents. This solution has had a number of positive repercussions.
1) The kids can't wait to visit their grandparents.
2) The boys get to go Wii-ing with some regularity, but don't have consistent enough access to develop a real habit.
3) The grandparents -- who used to protest that watching the boys was too difficult -- are much more willing to take them for a night or two, because now when the adorable little hellions come to visit, they can just plop them down in front of the Wii. Thus, Ethel and her hubby can garner some alone time.
Being who I am, I asked if the grandparents Wii it up, too. "No, my parents don't play," Ethel wrote. "But they did make Miis of themselves (the avatars), which are hilarious. I think my dad made himself a six foot tall black man." I give Grandpa two months before he's boxing with the boys. But I give Ethel major credit for finding the middle ground. If you can't beat the addiction: export it.