Borderline Genius thought of the day: Video games are fun until someone loses an eye
Ok so no one has lost an eye. At least not yet, but what I AM losing is much more than that. Its become a joke at the ballpark lately amongst us baseball moms that Fornite ruins lives. It was meant as a funny joke but ended up becoming a topic of serious discussion. I found that there was so much truth to that in other households other than my own. Both of my boys have enjoyed playing this game and it was literally all fun and games until it started to affect all aspects of our lives. When I mean all I mean all! This has mostly impacted my 10 year old at an alarming rate. Let’s run down the list of things that seem to be impossible for him to do anymore:
- Eating a balanced meal. He has turned into the most picky eater. My once broccoli chomping, salad eating, cucumber loving boy craves nothing but junk now. Not only that but it needs to be quick and easy because he’s rushed down for only a minute to refuel and get back to playing Fortnite.
- Losing interest in things he use to love. Playing basketball, riding his scooter, watching movies with the family, playing outside just in general like he used to do, and leaving the house altogether. He use to enjoy going to the grocery store with me, just running around town to get out of the house, going to the beach, going to the park, and having a coffee date with me. Well, coffee for me, chocolate milk for him. Nonetheless it was good quality time that we are struggling to get these days.
- Emotional overload. I didn’t think much of it at first. It started out small. Borderline emotional breakdown over what he considered “not having food in the house”, and what he meant by that was there was nothing quick and convenient for him to grab (refer back to Eating a balanced meal). There were plenty of options and prior to Fortnite he would willingly make himself a sandwich, or a bowl of cereal, or mix up a salad. He used to be much more independent. Now something as simple as pouring a bowl of cereal has become a challenge. Emotions run high on a daily basis. As time and his advancement in Fortnite progressed a new and endless battle in my house started with eating as a family, which has always been a big deal to me that we sit down and eat together. No matter how much I offer he continually tells me he’s not hungry right now. Then when the hunger really hits him hard he starts fussing and dramatically complains that “I’m starving”. Cleaning up after himself posed yet another new challenge. When asked to rinse his dishes off in the sink he would whine and complain that he didn’t know how. He has also become extra sensitive over learning new lessons in school, coming down hard on himself during baseball games when he didn’t make a good play rather than learning and moving on like he use to do, saying mean things to his brother, getting agitated over normal parenting, and struggling to follow day-to-day rules. Now I realize some of these things don’t seem like big issues to some and sounds like typical kid stuff. However, when there is a noticeable difference in a child that was once level headed, easy-going, respected the rules and never told his brother to shut-up, and received excellent reports from his teachers all in the matter of a few months it’s hard not to reflect back and wonder what has changed. Have you ever had your child break out in a rash and you take them to the doctor to find out what it is? What’s the first thing the doctor asks…..”have you changed your laundry detergent, changed your shampoo or soap, tried new lotions, added any new foods to their diets”?My thought process is just that; WHAT HAS CHANGED? My boy has a massive rash and it’s called Fortnite! All jokes aside, I won’t be surprised when medical professionals peg this as a new epidemic called Fortniteosis
- Sleeping is a struggle. He was my good sleeper. Super easy as a baby. Also went to bed with ease, slept through the night, and woke up on average around 9am. My first born had the complete opposite sleep pattern so I welcomed this new experience. Enter Fortnite. I don’t think his brain shuts off now and I’m convinced that if he even sleeps hard enough to dream he’s dreaming of Fortnite. He wakes anywhere from 5:30-6:30 am now and goes straight to Fornite. Prior to all this the routine was wakeup, eat breakfast, and get ready for the day. I’m lucky if he eats breakfast before noon now, or changes his clothes and brushes his teeth without me telling him to. All things he would initiate on his own without me having to remind him. We are hanging on by a thread with him going to sleep with ease. Luckily I still see a glimmer of hope with him somewhat following the rules as he WILL go to sleep when it’s bedtime.
My biggest struggle is finding the right approach to ending this madness. After many attempts at giving him the information and options he needs to make the right choice his ability to disconnect from the game seems impossible. I see his once strong problem solving skills diminishing. Rather than having a desire to make others around him happy he now only cares about following the Fortnite treasure map with hotdogg747 and yelling at people to quit “camping”!
At one point in time I think I was doing something right as a mom. I would give him the option to make the right choice and in turn 9 out of 10 times he was choosing to do the right thing. Now I find myself needing to find different and more effective ways of parenting. His laptop has been taken away countless times, and restrictions on screen time have been enforced. I started with giving him a time limit and made it his responsibility to keep track of it. The new rule was he only got to play Fortnite for 3 hours. I showed him how to use the timer on his phone. I tracked the time on my phone as well and reminded him when his time was about up. He corrected me and informed me that I was wrong and he still had 2 hours left. I showed him the timer on my phone and he showed me his. He told me “you said that I can play Fortnite for 3 hours so when I’m waiting for my friends to join or not playing I hit pause on the timer.” Insert the sound of crickets here. Well played son, well played. It was hard to be mad at him though because that was honestly the most creative thing he’s done lately. Needless to say I needed to step up my game on new and stricter rules. I’m becoming a new type of parent called the Fortniteinator.
Even though I have never played a single game of Fortnite I’m noticing that it’s still, in a freaky sort of way, brain washing me. Everywhere I go I think I see Fortnite references. Just the other day I was driving to a friends house and one of the crossroads was named Fordham but I thought it said Fortnite. Another time when my son sent me a text about getting a good score on a test I wanted to send back a celebratory reply. I accessed my App Drawer and settled on a scene from Seinfeld where the entire Seinfeld cast were doing a jubilation dance. It seemed fitting and expressed my excitement for his accomplishment without having to use words. My son responded with “that’s a Fortnite dance.” I was stunned with his reply but at the same time I think he must’ve thought I was totally hip on the scene. Coolest mom ever by accident, but I’ll take those little victories.
The reference to Seinfeld intrigued me. Little by little I started asking him more questions about these dance moves, and he showed me the Fortnite dances. I couldn’t help but find it crazy that something as historical as Seinfeld had a cross-reference to Fortnite, and I wonder if the creators and cast of Seinfeld were equally as surprised that 20 years later they would be relevant in the gaming world today. I told my son that they were not doing the Fortnite dance, but Fortnite was doing the Seinfeld dance.
This whole experience is a new one for me. Having grown up in a time where things did not revolve around technology makes things hard because I don’t have the experience of what my parents did when I was a kid. There are many things I can relate to with my kids, but gaming is not one of them. I’ve had to get creative and find new ways to connect with my son but the only common ground I was finding was allowing him to teach me how to floss like a boss. I’ve tried going back to basics and have had to be very candid with my son about new studies that are being done on how too much exposure to technology is affecting kids today. Every time I hear a new headline on the news about it I feel compelled to share it with him. Slowing but surely we are gaining control back. Taking the approach of openly talking about the concerns and the impact Fortnite is having on him seems to be sinking in.
Yesterday he picked up an old Percy Jackson book and started reading, and this morning he made banana pancakes for everyone for breakfast. He even did well cleaning up after himself. He has come to find me multiple times today while I’m writing this blog and was interested in what I was writing about. He rested his head on my shoulder and snuggled up to me. In that moment my heart was full and the memories of my sweet boy came flooding back. When I told him it was about him playing Fortnite he asked me to read some of what I wrote then started offering suggestions on what I should add or how I should word the Fortnite references. We laughed and spent time together all because of Fortnite. Now a blog that started off with frustration and borderline hatred for this game has me sitting here talking Fornite lingo with my baby boy and I will enjoy every last minute of it.