Maybe it wasn’t as funny as I thought

Rodin's 'The Thinker.' Photo by Andrew Horne at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Rodin’s ‘The Thinker.’ Photo by Andrew Horne at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Earlier in the week I read an amusing story someone was sharing on Tumblr about a parent who found out her kid had tricked her into buying video games she didn’t approve of, and what she did about it. After chuckling, I re-blogged it and got on with my day. It was just a silly story on Tumblr, right? A little later I was reading a news story about some state legislators proposing a law banning so-called reparative therapy (the new code for ex-gay quackery), and I suddenly was thinking about that story I had re-blogged.

Maybe it wasn’t as funny as I thought?

But then I reminded myself that it’s just a silly story on Tumblr, and scores of people have shared it before me, and maybe I was just over thinking it. Right?


A couple days later, it was still nagging at me. I went back and re-read the story: A mother came into gaming store to buy a video game her kid has asked for. She is a little surprised when the clerk says he needs to see her ID because the game is rated for Mature audiences. She asks some questions. The clerk helpfully points her to a web site where she can get details about video games and why they received their ratings. Mom comes back to store later to trade in not just other video games she objects to, but all of the kid’s consoles, as well. And tells the clerk her 13-year-old is in for a very unpleasant surprise when he gets home from school. She even tells the clerk that she feels no guilt over this since she paid for all these things, so technically they’re her property.

So on second reading, I realize that the story absolutely is not funny, and that the parent is not handling this well, at all. There are many problems with the situation.

The first one is simply this: if the story is true, and if the mom really did buy all of those other games, the fault is hers. Seriously, video games have been sold with ratings and parental advisories for more than 20 years (a standard rating system didn’t come into being until 1994, but several of the manufacturers had voluntarily labeled their games before that). It’s one thing to inadvertently buy some games that have content you don’t expect, but if, as the story says, the mother had clearly articulated her content restrictions to her kid several times, she should have known enough to at least look at the packaging before she bought the games, right?

Which isn’t to say that because she didn’t check closely when she bought them, she is now obligated to let her kid keep the games, but she should confront him about him asking her to buy games he knew she wouldn’t approve of. Then, depending on the kid’s response, decide which games to get rid of, how long to ground him from the gaming consoles, or whatever.

Things are also at least a teensy murky on the legal side of things. Giving someone a gift is considered, under the law, as a legal transfer of ownership. Yes, children have limited rights regarding property, but it is not the case that they have no rights to property at all. Not to say that I think the mother could be arrested for theft, but just because the child is a minor doesn’t mean that the child’s property is the parents to do with as they please. Just to help put a perspective on this, what would your reaction be if, instead of a bunch of gaming consoles and games that could easily total more than two thousand dollars retail, we were instead talking about money that had been put into a bank account “for your college fund” for the child by another relative. Would Mom be a hero then if she took the money?

At the very least, taking all the gifts back is a douche move by the mother. Again, I’m not saying she shouldn’t have taken the games away and severely limited his access to the consoles, but to sneakily take everything away and sell it is a problem.

Underlying all of the mother’s actions is the assumption that the child is her property (or chattel) with no rights of his own at all. Yes, he’s her child, but that means he’s her responsibility, not property. And while she has a right to try to instill her kid with her values, she doesn’t have a right to force him to agree with her on them.

I have left out the cruelest details. According to the story, the mother bought an older Wii gaming system and several family friendly games (games that she wanted to play) with the store credit she got for the traded-in consoles and games. And she got, from the store clerk, an empty box that looked like the latest and greatest hardcore console her kid had been asking for. She put the Wii and the games her kid didn’t want in the box. And was going to have the box waiting in plain sight when he got home so her kid would think she’d got him a fantastic present… before she informed him she’d disposed of all his other games and the consoles.

That’s just mean. And needlessly so.

I’m honestly surprised that when I first read the story that part didn’t jump out at me. Because when I read it the second time, when I got to that part, I found myself having flashbacks to the time my Dad made me pile up all of the books he didn’t approve of (most of my science fiction), pour gasoline over the pile, and set it on fire. Please note: my dad wasn’t doing it for religious reasons—my dad’s the kind of atheist who is angry at god for not existing. My dad did it because there had been another bullying incident at school, and he decided that the reason certain kids picked on me was because I deserved it because I wasn’t interested in the things that boys my age ought to be interested in.

Maybe I didn’t have the emotional response the first time because I’ve never been a gamer. I also didn’t think about the fact that most kids his age do a lot of their socializing through gaming. Kids meet up online more often than face-to-face, and it’s usually through accounts on their consoles. So completely dumping all of them, as opposed to grounding him from them for a period of time, is a different level of punishment.

Again, none of this rises to the level of actual child abuse, but it’s bad parenting. The point is to prepare you child to become a responsible adult. Part of being a responsible adult is respecting other people. You can’t teach your kid to respect other people if you completely refuse to respect your kid. That includes respecting your kid’s right to make mistakes, to explain himself, and so on.

Yes, if the kid has been misleading you about the kinds of games he’s playing, there ought to be consequences. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be.

But if you’re so irresponsible as to buy dozens of inappropriate games for your kid without checking them, maybe you should face a few consequences of your own.


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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. I used to publish an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live near Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

2 responses to “Maybe it wasn’t as funny as I thought”

  1. Mercy McCulloch Hasselblad says :

    Yeah, that strikes me as something the parent should have caught. Also, all the times the kid was playing them, not once did the parent catch it? This is a revenge parent move though, done in anger. Those are never the wisest…

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