Our kids are refusing to ask Santa for a Nintendo Switch. We’ve made it clear he’d be open to bringing one, but no, they want a fresh stash of plastic toys in the front room on Christmas morning, and there is nothing we can do about it.
This is some turnaround. About two months ago, our seven-year-old said she’d like a games console from Santa because a good few people in her class are getting one this year, and she doesn’t want to feel left out.
I don’t think she was trying to manipulate us. My guess is our five-year-old put her up to it — he’s got terrifying levels of emotional intelligence.
We resisted. Our line was that Santa wouldn’t like to bring a Nintendo Switch into a house with such young kids, so maybe they should wait one more year before popping the question.
The kids would get a bit more time with real toys, and we’d get 12 months feeling smug because we weren’t rotting their brains with violence and screen time.
And then my wife had a think about it. (This isn’t a surprise — over 50% of her sentences start with “I’ve been thinking”.) Her latest thought is that our kids watch a fair bit of TV as it is and a games console would replace this rather than add to it.
She didn’t add that she’d like to play Super Mario when they go to bed, because she didn’t need to. Anyway, she’s right.
We’re not Puritans when it comes to screen time. Like most parents, we under-estimate the amount of TV our kid watch by 59%. (I made that figure up, but I bet you it’s true.) We let the kids play video games on our phones on holidays because it’s a nailed-on way to keep them occupied while we drink a bottle of wine with our lunch.
Denying them a games console is all principle and no practical. It felt like time to let them know that Santa was up for bringing one, to be shared between the two of them.
I couldn’t wait to see the look on their faces, not to mention mine. I’ve never owned a games console of any sort — this could be the start of something big.
Our five-year-old was up for it — like I say, it was his idea all along. But our daughter was a bit lukewarm. She greeted the news with her trademark, “Really?”, which is shorthand for I’ll have a think about that and get back to you.
She got back to her brother first and warned him this meant no giant plastic Transformer for him on Christmas morning.
Then she got back to us and said it was a done deal, they’d hate it if there was only one box in the front room on Christmas morning.
I’d like to say we’re proud of them for thinking this through, but to be honest, I’m devastated, although not as much as my wife, who was pretty much having Super Mario dreams before the kids put a stop to it.
My dream was that we could persuade all the relations to box in and buy a few video games, cutting down on cheap gizmos that would do well to make it into mid-January.
This isn’t as much about the environment as it is about my one-man battle against house clutter.
Anyway, enough of being the Grinch. The truth is I’m impressed by the way our kids surprised us and figured this out for themselves.
My guess is they’ll get a Nintendo Switch next year and say ‘what were we thinking, waiting this long?’.
But then, if this episode has shown me anything, it’s that you can never be sure how your kids are going to react.
For now, I’ll just have to settle for my kids cutting loose with their imagination over Christmas as they find their way around a new bunch of toys.
It’s not so bad when you put it that way.
There will be plenty time for Super Mario next year, if their mother can wait that long.