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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Family

Mama Bear Moxie: Playing the gatekeeper

By Kristina Phelan For The Spokesman-Review

Moms wear a lot of hats. My job description as a mom outdoes the length of any of those university job descriptions in the paper. One of my main jobs, and one that I don’t take lightly, is raising my kids to know how to react to this crazy world.

So when my younger son received $300 from family members at Christmas, I decided to allow him to decide how to spend it. Normally, I would have told him that he had to save some, but I realized that these gifts were from people that wanted him to use it on something that he enjoyed. Since he had quite a large amount of money for a 10 year old, my husband and I tried to get him to understand that he could purchase one big ticket item instead of squandering it all away on trinkets and candy.

He thought about buying a used mini-bike that he could ride around the farm. I thought this was a good idea because he is a very active child and loves to be outdoors. I also liked the idea because he would have to learn how to work on the bike and change the oil with his dad, which would be good learning opportunities.

He then realized that he had enough money to buy a used Xbox and one video game. We have been pretty tight with the boys on technology and don’t allow them to have access to anything other than our TV and computer with parental supervision. They received a Nintendo Wii a few years ago, and that in itself was a huge decision to bring into the home.

So when my spender of a son wanted to blow his money on a video game system, I actually surprised myself in thinking that it would be a good option for him. Not that I want him to spend hours upon hours of playing video games, but that I wanted to see if he would regret spending so much money on his purchase.

My husband and I weren’t keen on the Xbox idea, but we were willing to allow him to make the choice for himself. He was so excited to make the purchase, and I allowed him to buy a video game as well after briefly looking over the cover of the game. I saw that it was rated Teen, but I figured that he was close enough to being a teenager anyway, and he has watched some PG-13 movies already, so what could it hurt?

The new game arrived by mail, and I told him he could play it for a little bit before dinner. Once he turned it on, I knew within 30 seconds that I was not OK with him playing this game. Even though it wasn’t necessarily a war game, it did involve guns and bad guys verses good guys. The realistic sounds of the guns made my skin crawl, and I immediately regretted my decision to let him purchase this game. My daughter came into the room and I realized that she couldn’t be even within ear shot of the game as it was too violent. Once I heard someone say, “Just shoot the guys that don’t look like you,” I knew that I had had enough.

The game was quickly turned off, despite my son’s obvious disappointment, and I had to apologize to him for not previewing the game well enough beforehand. He was upset at me, but realized I wasn’t going to change my mind about bringing such a violent game into our house.

Because as a mom, is I am a gatekeeper. I am in control of what views are brought into my house. Things that many would deem appropriate are deemed inappropriate in our home. If my child wants to play violent games like that when he is an adult, that will be his choice. However, my job while he lives in my home is to filter the outside daggers of society in raising him to be a well-adjusted adult. Knowing where that line is can be tough as I want him to know enough about society to gradually ease into adulthood but not so much that his childhood is robbed of innocence.

We returned the violent game, and he got to purchase a few video games that were rated E for Everyone. The boys have gotten to play a few times and I think that they have enjoyed it. The buyer’s remorse has already set in, which I knew it would, but we aren’t going to allow him to return the gaming system. Sometimes you have to sit and live with a poor decision so that next time you’ll make the right choice.

I guess you can add financial adviser and life coach to my long list of job descriptions as well.

Kristina Phelan is a former Spokane-area resident now living in Illinois who writes about family and faith. Contact her at or visit her website at www.mamabear

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