It was a rare evening that my son and husband and I had time to talk. And it was even more unusual that our adolescent son calmly made several requests to reconsider some decisions we had recently made about his phone usage and bed time. He also asked us to consider giving him permission to buy a video game that many of his friends had just received for Christmas, Grand Theft Auto.
Very calmly he explained that in recent weeks since Grand Theft Auto came on the scene most of his friends were playing it. He felt left out since he didn’t have it. When he did play at someone’s house he was clearly not as good because he was unfamiliar with all the intricacies of playing. He shared that when his friends talked about it or played remotely he was uncomfortable because he couldn’t join in.
It all made total sense to us and we asked for time to think about it.
I thought about it for days and understood where he was coming from in his request to want to connect with his friends through a common activity. I also didn’t think that by him playing this violent game he would necessarily become violent or addicted.
What I continued to contemplate was that the violence in this game was an activity for him, but in the real world and in our city, violence and shootings for adolescent boys is actually their real life. That is what I could not shake. What is play for my privileged son, is someone else’s reality.
In the end, I explained my position. He was disappointed and frustrated with me. I understood that too.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about listening to ‘This American Life’ in the car with my children. Over the weekend, I asked my son to choose a program on our way home from soccer.
Ira Glass, the show’s host, talks to Luke Huisenga, a Marine sniper. Luke talks about being on watch for days at a time with a long range rifle monitoring and sometimes shooting people setting up bombs in the streets in Iraq.
The story though isn’t about the stress of their job, instead it is about how this tough platoon of Marine snipers became devoted fans of the ‘Gilmore Girls.’ The drama revolves around the relationship between a thirtysomething single mother and her teen daughter living in Stars Hollow, Connecticut.
This unit of men became loyal fans of this drama that mostly draws women. Why? Well, the answer makes perfect sense to me. Watching Gilmore Girls for them was an escape from the war zone that they were living in. The show, according to Luke, feels warm and idyllic to them and in a way comforting. And in a man’s world in which they lived, the voices and dynamics between mothers and daughters brought some normalcy to their not normal life.
In the end of the show, this unit of 200 tough guys received large boxes of Gilmore Girls shirts and jackets from the show’s creator. It’s a great story.
While my son, even today, is still disappointed with my decision, listening to Luke, the Marine sniper, reminded me that real violence isn’t a game for everyone.
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