Last week marked the premature end of an all-too-short era in the Williston house when, after a remarkable temper tantrum by my son, Lincoln, we decided to sell the Wii and Xbox on Craigslist.
It all started, as most family crises do, with a father/son matchup in Mario Super Sluggers, a Mario Brothers-themed Baseball game for Nintendo Wii. After several weeks of play, Lincoln’s skill had increased considerably and we were finally able to have pretty evenly matched games. When his team had a four home-run (including two grand slams!) second inning, I was pretty sure that I was toast. Coming back from a ten run deficit is a tall order but, with some strategic pitching changes and a turn of fortune at the plate, I chipped away at his lead and finally tied it up in the ninth inning. With Donkey Kong at the plate, Lincoln left Luigi at pitcher just one pitch too long. A weak fastball floated over the plate and with one fell swoop of DK’s mighty boxing glove (he doesn’t need a bat because he’s an oversized ape, you see) the walk off home run went sailing out of Bowser Jr.’s Playroom Stadium.
And then came the theatrics.
I didn’t set a stopwatch for official timing purposes but Lincoln didn’t stop screaming in outrage, anger and agony for at least thirty minutes. During that time he levied all sorts of accusations at me. I cheated, he said, or “wanted him to lose.” Grand conspiracy theories were crafted in his six year old mind about how I’d pulled it off. I didn’t try and talk reason into him. He wouldn’t have heard me over the screams anyway.
Finally, the drama died down and I made him come sit with me at the table and apologize for all of the things he said. This wasn’t the first outburst from him but I was holding out hope that I could use our competitive video game sessions to teach him to be gracious in victory or defeat. I asked him a series of questions:
“Lincoln, do you think that when you were screaming and crying that you were being the best version of yourself?”
“What’s Daddy’s most important job in this house?”
“To make sure that we love Jesus and are the best version of ourselves.”
“And do you think video games make you the best version of yourself?”
We talked for a while longer and I explained that video games, like anything else, don’t make you a bad person but, in our case, they certainly don’t bring out the best in us either. They don’t make you smarter, or more creative or even have more fun than you can doing any number of others things, I explained. Believe it or not he actually agreed.
In the end, we struck a grand bargain. I would sell the video game systems online and we would take the proceeds and buy a new swing set in the backyard to replace our recently broken one.
We fill our lives with all kinds of things. Some build us up, others just occupy our time and some, regrettably, bring out anything but the best in us. The best version of ourselves is our most passionate, creative, loving and joyful self. We owe it to ourselves to figure out what in our lives help “tease out” that best person and which lead us in the other direction. Sometimes it takes a thirty minute Mario-induced break with reality to make these things startlingly clear. Sometimes it takes a simple reminder to stop and examine the areas of our lives for them.
Take a moment and think of the way that you’ve spent your time over the last week or month. Look for places, influences and activities (other than household chores) that left you unfulfilled and, simply, didn’t help you be the best version of yourself.
Take stock of these things and eliminate them if possible. Or, if all else fails, replace them with a swing set. Because, really, who was ever anything but their best self on a swing?