About this time every year my children begin to suffer from a seasonal disorder I will affectionately refer to as Video Game Overload – or VGO.  VGO lies in the center of the perfect storm of ennui, between holiday gifts, cold weather, and Y chromosomes.  Tween and teen boys are especially at risk for infection.  There is currently no vaccination; and it is proven by 13.3 years of research that children are unable to protect themselves.  This leaves parents in the position to do what we do best – nag care for our beloved.

As far as parental health directives go, I would put video game limitation somewhere in between giving your child nose drops and taking their temperature rectally.  The process is simple enough – but the ability of the patient to thwart your best efforts is a force with which to be reckoned.  Eventually, even the most skilled, strong-willed mother or father considers surrender.   How many times have you actually pondered just letting them play until their eyes fall out of their head because it’s easier?

The act of declaring a time limit or moratorium on video games is easy enough.  It’s the aftermath that becomes unbearable.  You know your child has been infected with VGO when the following exchange ensues:

You:  No more Modern Warfare XII for the rest of the day.  You have already played for four hours and your are starting to twitch.
Them:  But Mom – there is NOTHING else to do.

You then proceed to name dozens of things that the child can do, all which are boring, stupid, or (the latest) meh.  There is virtually no defense against these responses because making the child read a book is even more painful than listening to them bitch and moan that there is nothing to do.

So they skulk around the house, watching you putter away at more productive activities.  They invoke the carpet shuffle, the super sigh and the eye roll.  Sometimes, they just lay down in the middle of hallway and roll back and forth, waiting to be noticed.  Do not notice them.  It does not help.

In the midst of our winter 2011 VGO epidemic, I began to think that perhaps I wasn’t working hard enough to come up with the antidote.  I knew that my suggestions of other indoor activities were lame-o.  I had been told as much.  So I tried to come up with a few kick-ass awesome reasonably acceptable alternatives to playing the Dumb Box 360.  As a total experiment service to MoB readers, here are my best ideas, waiting to be explored in the coming week:

Cook or Bake Something – The downside to this idea is the level of supervision required.  I put my guys at Def Con 4 (on a 5 point scale)in the kitchen.  I’m not as fearful of them blowing up the kitchen as I am of them blowing up cheese in the microwave.  That is one nasty mess to clean.  Still,  I have found that my boys generally like to cook – and this activity could take a few hours depending on the recipe.

Create an Autobiographical Comic Strip– Recently, Noah was inspired by Calvin and Hobbes to create his own comic strip starring two brothers.   Remarkably, there was the responsible older brother and the pain-in-the ass little brother.  Hmm.  Imagine that.  Let’s just say the kid earned his poetic license during this activity as he spent several hours in a cathartic download, creating misadventures for these two characters.

Play with Cards – I’m not talking poker here.  Rather challenge your child to build a gigantic house of cards.  Give them the largest room in the house, collect every last Pokemon, Yugi-O, Baseball, BakuGan and Star Wars trading card and send them on their way.  Bonus motivator:   Anytime I suggest that Chase “try to break a world record”, the activity takes on a new level of seriousness.  Your kid too smart to fall for the world record kicker?   Dare them to establish a “household record”.  Then see if his brother can beat it.  Hours of fun and even more hours of arguing who holds the new record.

Trade Spaces – I am not a martyr.  I would never suggest that the brothers re-arrange each others rooms.  However, re-arranging your own room can be rather fun.  I used to spendhours planning and re-arranging my bedroom furniture.  My mom – to her credit – always let the new configurations remain, even when I turned the dresser backwards.

Candid Camera – Give them each the digital camera and ask them to take two dozen pictures around the house at close range.  Once they are finished, switch cameras and guess  what /where the picture is located.  Keep  score.  No, wait, don’t keep score.  Add up the two scores and if they COLLECTIVELY get to 18 without cheating, take them out for more video games hot chocolate and brownies.

It should be noted for the Moms of Daughters (MoD Squad) that these activities are actually gender neutral.  I’m not sure what the female VGO equivalent is – but I do know that little girls are just as jaded as little boys when they think there is nothing to do.

So there you have it – and I’m now asking you MoB readers:  What else should be on our to do list?  What works?  If you are not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.   Do share.

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