Thinkin' Out Loud

They Won’t Remember The Wii

I once asked my mom what she remembered most from my childhood.

She said she remembered always feeling badly that we were so poor. She said she always wished that she were able to do more for us kids, that she always longed to give us more.

Her answer surprised me because that’s not what I remember at all.

I remember that she rode bikes with us all over the neighborhood, that she let me pull all the stuff out of her cabinets and play in them, that she taught me how to play jacks and how to make a necklace out of clover, that in the winter she and dad would load up the car with all the kids they could find in the neighborhood and take us ice skating, that she was the den mother for my brother’s cub scout troop, that she worked in the school office, that she once made an abusive nun stand down, that she never sent me back to my own bed when I was scared. That’s what I remember.

If there is a lesson here, it is this:ย  Skip the Wii (whatever that is) and the expensive electronics and hang out with your kid.

Because that’s what they will remember.


Disclaimer: This post is not really about the Wii.

55 thoughts on “They Won’t Remember The Wii

  1. It’s funny what you remember about your childhood and what your parents remember. I love spending time with my boys. I am trying hard to remember that is what they will remember me spending time with them not how clean the house was or that they had a clean bathroom. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Thanks for encouraging words this morning! I struggled with the same feelings this Christmas. Everywhere I turned there was another kid with a Nintendo DS or American Girl doll. This year’s budget required that I find presents for all three of our kids for less than the cost of one American Girl doll.

    I watched my daughter and a friend at the Christmas Eve church service. The friend had received her American Girl doll – and showed it proudly to my 4-year-old daughter – who smiled politely and said, “That’s nice.” My daughter is still unaware of what’s ‘cool’ and what’s ‘not’. She doesn’t yet want things because ‘everyone has one.’ I smiled, enjoying the moment, knowing that it will not always be this way.

    Thanks for the reminder that the expensive gifts don’t necessarily produce happy memories!

  3. So true.

    I took our daughter to the American Girl shop when she was eight. What she talked about the most afterward (and still) were the conversation cards sitting on the tables in the restaurant. We took turns asking each other questions and discussing answers. It’s always made my heart smile that those little cards that sparked conversation were her favorite part of that big day.

  4. So true, I’ve always had the same thoughts. Kid want to be WITH their parents, not a toy. Now, maybe the Wii, which is actually really fun, would be a great idea if it’s something you plan on doing with them.

    Nice post. Thank you!

  5. Oh so true! I’m afraid our kids buy into the “stuff” because parents do too. Parents will always wish they could give their kids “more”….the hardest part is discerning exactly what we should be giving “more” of.

    It seems to me your mama knew the answer. Thanks for the reminder:-)

  6. We do have a Wii — but it’s more for my hubby than our children (Seth is only 1). But at the moment, I’m watching Seth pull all the Wii games (in DVD-like packaging) off the shelf, chew on the boxes, and play with the (not on) controllers. And he’s having a blast. I pray that we will be able to find the right balance between toys and imagination, and that we (hubby and I) are always RIGHT in the mix of our childrens play time. Thanks for the post.

  7. I don’t have anything against Wii’s. I hear they are very cool. I’m just saying that in 10 or 20 years when your kid looks back and surveys the whole of their childhood, it won’t be the Wii that stands out. It will be you. Hopefully. If you’re doing it right.

  8. I asked my mother that very same question,what she remembered most from my childhood, she didn’t stop to think about an answer, she answered “I missed it.” She was always there, we had a whole family, but she was always busy with cleaning, cooking & laundry and all the other must dos, she worked outside the home and never did learn to drive. I was able to have a different life and thanks to her answer to that question, I didn’t miss much in the last 30 years, I wish I would have written pieces of those years like you do but it’s not to late to start writing what I remember of those days not so long ago, they went by in a flash!!

  9. We do have a Wii, but in addition to our son playing alone, we spend family time playing together. So, hopefully, ONE of the things he will remember will be that his parents were cool and played video games with him. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. You are so right. My parents have always gone overboard at Christmas–they still do–and I try to convince them there is NOTHING WE NEED. I just want to be with them.

    What I remember from my childhood is baking with my mom, putting everything from the cupboards on the piano bench and playing “grocery store,” making mudpies and playing pretend with my sister, my dad making the time to help me with flashcards nearly every night in high school, and them being there for me no matter what. All my mom can say is that she wished she had been on antidepressants so she would have been more fun when we were growing up.

  11. We got my dad a Wii for Fathers Day and it has turned into a huge family activity. At Thanksgiving we had 4 generations playing at the same time You are right, it’s definitely NOT the Wii that will be remembered though, it’s the family doing something together, no matter what the activity.

  12. I have to agree with that. We were poor growing up, but I remember very warm and happy memories of using my imagination and found materials for making my own play situations. I spent a lot of time outside, running around the yard, climbing the trees and such.

    As for the Wii — so far, when it gets used, it gets used in a group setting. My wife and I play it WITH the kids, so we can all have fun together.

  13. Hmm… I remember my dad reading to us and such, but I also remember our Apple IIe…

    But, yes: Spend time with your kids, even if that is playing with them on the Wii [smile].


  14. “Poor Sean. Looks like heโ€™ll be the only kid in America without a Wii. Pity.”

    No he won’t. And no it isn’t. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. I know what you mean by your disclaimer. We did get a Wii this year, and we do spend time playing together, but today my kids are out of school because it’s too cold here and we’ve put the Wii away for a while. Instead, we’re baking together. We parents just have to be more intentional–whatever we’re doing with our kids.

  16. What about just hanging out with your kid, with nothing electronic between you. How much richer and deeper might that be? I’m thinking of the times in my life when I was just hanging out with my mom or my dad in the kitchen or the garage or the backyard in a clover patch and how much I treasure those “nothing” times. Popping back in to add: Don’t underestimate the value of giving your children and those you love your complete and undivided attention. It’s hard sometimes as there are so many electronic things vying for our attention.

  17. Oh, you are so right. I don’t think my son that’s still home actually has a Wii but he does have some other electronic device. That he spends an awful lot of time playing. Between working and TV, that is. But I hope he also has some good memories of growing up other than the video games. I’ll ask him when he allows me to have enough of his time. That said, I’m glad you spend so much time with Sean. You WILL. NOT. regret it.

  18. I agree with your sentiment. I really do.

    But unfortunately, we live in an electronic and technological age. When they’re get a little older, it becomes a cultural issue, a peer issue, an inclusion issue. It really SUCKS being the odd man out just when being the same as everybody else is becoming really, really, really important.

    And though we may not like that they want to follow the crowd, it is what it is. Every teenager since the beginning of time has lived in dread of being the different one. The one without that thing that everyone else has.

    And also, when they’re 14, they really don’t want to hang around with their parents. I try not to take it personally, and I try not to lay blame for that at my own feet. We’ve always been an extremely closeknit family. But adolescence is a time for breaking away, and again, it is what it is.

    You can’t FORCE them to spend time with you. Believe me, I’ve tried.

    I take solace and pleasure in the fact that I did spend a LOT of time with my kids when they were younger. My choice to be a stay at home Mom was the right one for us. And I think that over the years, we’ve made some lasting memories.

    But now…my oldest prefers to play Rock Band with his friends. IM and PM and Text instead of playing board games and making puppets out of paper bags.

    Parenting pre-teens and teens is an entirely different ballgame and the same rules don’t really apply. It’s almost like starting over with a different kid.

    When Sean gets to be that age, you will have to throw everything you know out the window and redefine parenting.

    It becomes more about being a constant presence than a constant companion. They want to know you’re there, and they can count on you when they need you, but to be otherwise invisible.

    It hurts, but it’s normal.

    Sorry for the epic comment. ((sheepish grin)).

    Always love your perspective BA. As you know, I think you are a critical thinker and an excellent writer.

    Of course I have eaten my fair share of crow in the past five years and I’m sure there is more crow casserole in my future. Having said that, I have a hard time accepting the premise that it is impossible to stand against the culture. If there is one goal I have as a parent it is to give Sean the confidence to stand against the culture. As you say, it is not and it will not be easy. Electronics is the least of my worries in that regard. ~ AM

  19. You’re so right! I so wish I could go back to the days when my children were young…I’d definitely be spending much more “quality” time with them…

  20. Mine are still young enough (7 and under) to WANT to spend time with me. I read somewhere that if you don’t give them your time when they are this age, don’t be surprised if they don’t want to spend time with you when they are teens. Maybe it’s inevitable – the teenage separation, I mean – but I’m trying hard to remember that the day will come when I am the one wanting time with them and not vice-versa. Some days (like today) are harder than others. Great post!

  21. AM I’m back again, you have touched the hearts of many yet again. Parenting is a challenge–always was, today parenting isn’t for the weak of heart, and that’s where you are strong. Please stay strong and focused as your child grows. I’m remembering how so many public school teachers have told me that my sons were different.Teachers saw them more then I did on some of those long school days, my sons didn’t want to be home schooled although that was an option for them. Yes sometimes they went with the current but most times they stood for what was right and important. No one could ever make them do what they thought was wrong, nope not even Momma or Daddy. About the clover patch, Mom would visit me/us and love to walk our property, one day she found a four leaf clover, kinda neat that we could do that together as adults, but as I said in a previous entry when I was a child hanging out with mom or dad wasn’t an option. Mom always cried when it was time for her to return to her home.My mom has gone to heaven, she died in her sleep so unexpected but she always said when her number was up she would be ready. So I say enjoy each and every day, hang out when you can and while you can, for you never know what tomorrow will bring, and sometimes it brings distance from our children. On an ending note when I dropped my sons off at school I remember they would run back to the car if ever they forgot to say “I love you momma have a good day.” I doubt that they would remember those type of little things that I remember about those important formative years, but our togetherness, that I know is in their hearts.

  22. we bought Wii for Christmas….I got some good thinking games, some fun fun games, and of course Rock Band…I spend time with my boys making everything from soap and cards to attempting to build a bird house. They are 5 and 4. I have had an absolute blast playing some of the games with them since Christmas, especially since it has been too cold for us to be outside a lot….and my 5 year old thinks he is king of the world because he can make his monkey beat mine in the monkey race game.
    The 4 year old wants nothing more in life than to be a baby animal doctor, or Diego and the Diego game fosters both of those wants and he is learning more about animals and science and counting every time he plays.
    I remember lots of things about growing up, but one thing I remember bothering me especially as I hit around the 4th and 5th grade was that we were always the very last ones to get any electronics…
    serioiusly when nintendo 64 hit, we finally got an atari….
    i dont want my kids to feel that, and i want them to learn better hand/eye coordination than their mama has…

  23. My girls will say, “I remember Mommy being so happy when she beat us playing MarioKart (or tennis, or bowling, or pool, or any other game) on the Wii. We play for hours on cold, rainy days and just before bed almost every night. Does that count as spending time with your kids? Of course, we do other stuff, too, but for now that is our favorite pastime.

    Mandy, I’ll not be the judge of what counts for your family. The point I was trying to make is that I believe it’s a good thing to spend time with your kids without any “thing” electronic or otherwise being the focus, that you might give one another your full attention other than some machine, that it might be okay to just be together, to just goof off together.

    My original point was, and seems to have gotten lost, is that if you are sweating it economically, which many of American’s are, and can’t give your kids a Wii or whatever the next must have item is, it doesn’t really matter.

    Based on the comments, apparently I’m out of step with the country, but that is not anything new. ~ AM

  24. Oh my goodness! What a great post! I have worked in the field of child development for more than 25 years and this is one thing I know to be true: kids just want to be with their families. In this hard economy, we are struggling and have almost no money for anything but bills, definitely no Wii here. But my son is with me evry minute he’s not sleeping or in school and I hope he will have memories of me like you do of your mom. Actually, I don’t have to hope, I KNOW he will. I’m making sure of that.

  25. What I was trying to say, play and quality time is subjective. The important thing is sitting down with your kids and listening and talking to them and spending time with them. I don’t think it matters if you are playing an expensive electronic game, board game, cards, or taking a walk discovering nature. Like you, I was not caving on the Wii, but I did. It was one of the best decisions we made as a family. It is so much fun. You get up and move and laugh. My girls and I even work out together using the WiiFit. I’m sure your point was “just spend time with your kid doing whatever you all enjoy together, whether you play the Wii or not”.

  26. So, I could have written this post. (Except I would have probably skipped the whole wii controversy and it would not have been as well constructed).
    I don’t have any memories of being poor, but now looking back on it, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together. I was clueless about that. There was just joy, laughter and fun.
    If Sean is the only boy in America without a wii, and is whining about it someday, let him know that there are two little boys in Canada wiiless as well.

  27. “Poor Sean. Looks like heโ€™ll be the only kid in America without a Wii. Pity.”

    ROFL! No. No he’s not. We’d love one, as a family, but we have some other priorities.

    Thanks so much for a great perspective, and a timely reminder to someone like me, with four kids ages 5 to 1, who sometimes wishes they’d just GROW UP.


    Sometimes, I wish I could have the wisdom you’ve earned in your “Antiqueness”. But, I don’t. Yet.

  28. Back again, AM!

    May I say that when I read your post today my first thought was, “oh boy, she’s gonna hear about it!” I don’t know what it is about electronics/video games that makes people get so defensive, but they do. I’ve seen the same reaction when the subject is brought up in other blogs. The most recent one was a personal finance blog I read. I think that blogger got over 300 comments and I’d guess better than 90% were defending or explaining why they have these games. Like you, his post was not criticizing the use of these games. In his case he was explaining about choices he makes in spending money. But for some reason, readers miss the point and start defending their video games.

    I’d also like to say that I believe it’s not true that your children pull away from you once they hit their teens. I wished I’d had a more pleasant home life because I dearly would have loved to spend more time with my parents (yes even as a teenager). My husband has two grown children from a previous marriage and his two children spent a great deal of time at home, even as teenagers. So, I guess I, too, am out of step with everyone else. But that’s working out nicely since it is our intention in raising our son to have him not be in lockstep with this “culture”.

  29. I hope Anja can experience the same freedom–to not feel that she has to have certain “things” to fit in or be liked, that she truly can just be content to hang out with and be loved by her family and friends.

    We never had a gaming system growing up, and I have never felt like I missed out. We played board or card games together (and still do as a family each time we’re together), went on family bike rides, played basketball and tennis together, built forts out of branches or snow in the yard…I have great memories.

  30. Thank you for a wonderful post. I grew up on a farm. We didn’t have much money, but we had things money couldn’t buy-parents who loved us, played with us,read to us, sang to us, took us nutting and mushrooming, fishing…..Mom made us beautiful clothes, we had a huge garden, farm grown meat, homemade birthday cakes in any color you chose, family gatherings, church on Sundays where everyone knew your name….a wonderful childhood. Wii has a place and a time, but it should only be one small part of family life. There is so much to do and experience if we only take the time!

  31. Homeschool. It take the child out of the peer pressure cooker and lets them marinade in family togetherness. I have three boys ages 14, 12 and 8. They love to spend time with each other and their dad and I. We spend a lot of time talking, playing games, building things, maintaining and cleaning our home.
    Here is a book that I think has merit: “Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate.
    Kids of any age just want to be loved, accepted, and heard. If they get what they need at home they won’t wander too far looking for acceptance.

  32. As a former youth worker, I can only say “hear, hear!” There is nothing wrong with giving your kids toys and things, but spending time with them is truly the best thing you can give. Even during the teen years when they can’t stand you and don’t want to be with you, there will be a part of them that will benefit from all that time you invested in them. Kids who have lots of stuff, but do not spend time with their parents have a much, MUCH harder time in life than those who are “deprived” of things, but had parents who spent time *knowing* them. Time is so much more important than money and “stuff.”

  33. I was going to mention the “Hold Onto Your Kids…” book, but it looks like Cindy beat me to it. I’ll bet it would resonate with you, AM. It’s not specifically prescriptive, but gives an excellent framework for thinking about choices regarding your kids and family.

  34. So TRUE. Our house is always buzzing with TV/games and I “unplugged” tonight. What happened? 2 played a board game with Dad, 1 read and 1 actually did homework.

    Imagine that!

  35. I totally got it that you weren’t dissing the Wii. And I totally agree with your message! I grew up in a poor family, too (by Western World standards). But my mother was a wonderful artist and one of my favorite memories is of sitting with my mom, watching her draw pictures so I could color them. And she made rag dolls for us with absolutely beautiful faces…truly one-of-a-kind. You have got it absolutely right, AM!

  36. Sounds like you had a great mom! And a bit ahead of her time I think. I don’t think there were many moms in her era that were doing those kinds of things with their kids. What a great example she set for you!

  37. I don’t know why this entry you have written is so captivating, but to me it is. It might be time for me to make a New Years resolution,normally that’s not for me.
    I’ve found a book titled “Simplify Your Life” it is written by Elaine St. James all about “100 ways to slow down and enjoy the things that really matter” I won’t be able to follow all the suggestions but slowing down and enjoying leisure time sounds great.I’ll be able to Take time to rest,time to relax,or create,time to think and imagine.Somehow all this will become a habit.
    Material wealth vs mother child relationships is food for thought.
    My sons are adults and I aim to stay connected that’s my new years resolution,why stop now, and I know I’ll always be remembered,you should hear them now with all their stories.
    Thank you for your pennings.
    I’m looking forward to enjoying this time (2009) of renewal, 30 plus years of parenting and I’m just warming up! I’m sure some of this change will baffel many of the people who know me well, but the only way to succeed is to change, for children grow and with that growth comes change.

  38. We like to do lots of things together too. Having no money doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun! According to The Boy,he likes it when we play board games together, we play dominoes together, shoot marshmallows at each other with our marshmallow guns, take walks together and talk to each other. He also likes it when we watch a movie together as a family too.

    We just got the Wii, but it’s nice knowing that the other things, the not electric things”, already stand out as memories.

  39. The “comparisons” drive me crazy. My youngest who is 11 and in 5th grade was perfectly happy with her Christmas gifts. She’d gotten two large chunks of money from an uncle and a grandparent. And we’d bought her a (used) but it was hers—snow board.

    THEN she went back to school. And that night she was miserable–misbehaving, bad attitude, disobedient, etc. Finally about bedtime she broke down in tears and told me that she’d gotten the worst gifts of anyone in her class and less cash than most of them. She was sobbing hysterically. It made me want to go out and buy her everything—but deep down inside I knew that wasn’t the answer anyway. But it did work, in that I didn’t make her wash her hair right then.

    Other years I just would tell them that we’d given them things that their friends didn’t have—brothers and sisters. (We have 5 adopted kids.) This year I didn’t try that line.

    Hopefully that’s what they will remember over time.


  40. Didn’t have time to read all the comments, but will say this.

    AM – You’re not out of touch with reality, or culture, or anything.

    It is possible to be a teenager and want to spend time with your family. I was one. Loved my brothers and sisters, loved my parents, and wasn’t ashamed if my friends new it.

    I don’t think AM was asking anyone to defend their desire to have a wii or any other technological device. It isn’t about the stuff. Have the stuff, if you want it. But it won’t be the stuff that matters in the end. It’s the time that will matter. So if you’re going to worry about something, worry about the time, not the stuff.

    What I remember about my youth is that my parents seemed happiest when we were all together as a family. My Mom loved being with her kids… I hope that’s what my kids remember when they are grown as well. I had someone stop me and my four young children in the grocery store and say, “Don’t worry… they’ll all grow up one day and then real life can begin.” I was so resentful… I replied that I was loving every minute with my small children and I hoped they didn’t grow up too fast, because I dind’t want to miss a second of it.

    It’s about the attitude you have as a parent. Not about what you can or can’t buy. I think perhaps THAT was the point of the original post.

  41. It’s true! IT’S TRUE! You got that right! That’s IT!

    Oh…*sigh* how I’ve been trying to figure out why I can’t remember much of anything from my childhood–not even a conversation of any depth with my parents…about *anything*.

    And now I realize that it’s not only my poor memory at work. It’s that they worked tag-team shifts to buy us things. Good things. Necessary things. But boy, did that *stuff* come at a high price.

    Time is definitely what they’ll remember. Simple time. Quiet time. Slow time.

    Great post! Thanks for writing this.

  42. We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, either, and my Mom made all of my clothes, when everyone else had store-bought clothes. But that never bothered me, because my Mom was such an
    excellent seamstress and so I had beautiful outfits that no one else had and I was proud to wear them.
    I also loved the fact that my Mom was a stay-at-home Mom and was always very involved in my school and was always home when I got home from school. I had a great childhood!!

  43. Do not waste a moment to spend time with your children, because you never know, circumstances might rob you of the opportunity. My husband was diagnosed with cancer when our daughters were very young. He spent a lot of energy just trying to work and stay alive so that he could be with them as long as possible. Sadly, he was tired , grumpy, and ill almost all the time. I hope that they will forget that part and remember that he was always willing to play endless games of UNO and that he spent months planning vacations our family could enjoy together.
    I am so sad that my husband is not here now to spend time with his girls. I treasure and appreciate that I can spend so much time talking, and listening, and being with them. Whether, it’s going out to Panera’s for lunch, watching TV, or going to Target for toliet paper, it doesn’t matter. The companionship is what it’s all about.
    For eight days in September we lived without any power, after Hurricane Ike blew through Ohio. Yes, it’s true. Every sweet electronic that we relied upon to supply us with constant entertaiment stared back blankly. I wonder if my girls will remember the time we spent together that week, searching for open places to eat, playing Scrabble, and snuggled together at night, each quietly reading by ever dimming flashlights. I hope that they forget how much they missed the computers and TV.

  44. I had a sales clerk at Sam’s Club ask me in Dec. if I was having a good holiday. I said “If I could just figure out what to get my 15 year old daughter, I’d be great.” He said I should get her a Wii. I laughed and said, “We have 2 girls in college and the 15 year old is facing her 6th hip surgery. There will not be any Wii under the tree. I think it will be a socks and underwear Christmas.” Gifts were practical with at least one fun thing thrown in – a gun that shoots mini marshmellows was a huge hit with the 15 year old!

  45. My mom always said the Very Same Thing (with a great amount of guilt). I never understood it either! It must have been some kind of generational thing b/c holy smokes, I can’t imagine myself EVER saying that to MY kids. I fend the “stuff” off like a crazy person, but it still flies in through the door.

    Might have something to do with my mom growing up w/ a “Depression era” mom, thus rendering HER growing up years as “deprived.” Man, have the tables turned or what?

    And I realize this post is not about the Wii (and I doubt you have anything against the Wii; neither do I). But hello, did EVERY family in the country (except us) get one for Christmas? Yes?

    My wise old owl husband, in response to my 7YO begging for that toy asked him, “What would you gain by having a Wii…and what would you lose?”

    I would have loved the Depression. All that making do and resourcefulness and forced simplicity. ๐Ÿ™‚

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