Last week my baby turned ten. As hard as it was for me to accept that he’s double digits, the fact that he didn’t want any toys was even harder. Though he’s interested in things most 10-year-olds are, like Minecraft and superheroes, the Xbox and television versions get much more play than the action figures and play sets he got at Christmas. So, while it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when he informed me that he wanted Xbox games for his birthday instead of toys, it did.
Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the days when children really played. Sure, as a child I loved to watch TV, but the options were so limited, both in variety and air time, that doing so was an event to be scheduled and highly anticipated. I’d watch my few shows after school on the weekdays and then wake up early on Saturday mornings because that was the only time cartoons were on. All of my other time was spent doing homework, reading, playing outside and with my toys.
And that’s the kind of childhood I envisioned for my children. But I didn’t factor in 24-hour programming and all of the other screens sucking my children in to the degree that the activities I’d prefer them to love often lose to screen time.
On Levi’s actual birthday, I did take my children to the book store on a quest for comic books, which he’d gotten interested in at Christmas. After debating with Levi on the age-appropriateness of some comics, we landed on a few old classics and some new ones that feature his beloved TV and Xbox characters. As we wandered through the toy section, I felt a pang that several piqued his interest, but not enough for him to ask for them. The fact that it was his first birthday with no toys really does mean he’s growing up.
Later that night I tucked him in and told him I’d miss 9-year-old Levi, but knew I’d love 10-year-old Levi just as much—or more. Still concerned that I’d somehow cheated him because he hadn’t unwrapped any gifts, I asked if he’d had a good birthday. When he answered affirmatively, I probed about the best part. And his response?
“Just being with you.”
Though playing outside may not always trump playing Xbox, my presence in my child’s life trumps presents every time.