Sheltered Islander: Is Fun Changing? Signs of the Times

Father-son catch in the new paradigm
Father-son catch in the new paradigm, Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Thinkstock

A few years ago, a local dad told me he asked his son if he wanted to play baseball. The boy said yes, very excited, and when dad brought the bats and mitts to the living room, he saw his son loading a baseball cartridge into a game machine. He felt surprised and guilty that he took the boy to the field so seldom, he assumed baseball with dad meant plugging in an extra console.

Us Baby Boomers were the first television generation. TV broke up family dinners. My daughter’s generation was the first with computers. But computers weren’t connected except through the very expensive AOL. It was $35 a month for internet access, but there was no Yahoo. If you didn’t already have the address, there was no search engine to help you.

My granddaughter is 5. Hers is the first internet generation. I can launch the space shuttle with my iMac, and so can Sephira with an iPhone. I’m just now getting the hang of the Kindle. When I get stuck, I ask her, and she actually fixes whatever I fouled. I am amazed.

I think the best thing about the internet is the ability to maintain friendships regardless of distance. You can play live Scrabble on the internet with your friends. Kinda neat, but I hope it doesn’t all go tech. People need to see each other, touch each other. You can’t learn to read what’s in people’s eyes unless you’re looking at them. You can’t pick up on their feelings unless you’re sitting with them and know how to read their silences.

I love games for this reason. Games teach us interpersonal skills. Now there’s good sportmanship, win with humility, lose with grace, etc… But there’s so much more to learn. There’s no internet game that replaces diving into a pile of leaves so your boyfriend can catch you, or getting together with another couple to play Scrabble, using a real dictionary. The real dictionary is better than an online one, because you can’t tear out the page and eat the answer when you discover you’re wrong. You can allow dirty words or hip, new concocted words. All the fighting and giggling only happens when you’re together. You’d look damn stupid sitting at your computer laughing and eating Webster’s pages all by yourself.

My granddaughter loves Scrabble. I have the spinning board with a raised grid to hold the tiles. When her mother joins, we teach Sephira how to sing the Jeopardy countdown song, guaranteed to distract any player. She’s learning how to feel the letter squares in the bag and try to get the letters she wants. She has even learned how to carry her letters to the bathroom with her so we don’t switch any. Distrust of parents is the beginning of their desire to move out as soon as possible.

We play Parcheesi too. It’s a strategy and patience game. We’re teaching her how a good boyfriend will let you cheat. And if he doesn’t let you cheat and win, get another boyfriend. If he insists on winning or throws the board across the room in anger, he’s history. If he gets that mad over a game, he’ll kill you if you dent the car fender. A girl needs a husband who understands about rogue curbs. Rogue waves come up out of nowhere and swamp ships, and rogue curbs can jump up and hit cars.

Cards is a great way to teach kids numbers, sets, and such. We play rummy. I’ve taught her three ways to get a sneak peak at someone’s cards. Seems unimportant now, but the day will come when she’s sitting next to a coworker she hates and she leans back and catches a glimpse of the coworker at a Star Trek convention dressed as a girl Chewbacca. These are important job skills.

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