Friday, December 29, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Being Smart, Fun Facts about Teddy Roosevelt, and Some Thoughts on Video Games

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?


Our 19-year-old daughter is home from college for Christmas! We're having such a good time with her. Whenever someone wants to play catch or do some activity where they need a partner, she is the go-to around here.

One funny thing I overheard was when the 17-year-old was expressing some uncertainty about life after high school. The 19-year-old told her, "Look, literally the only good thing about being a teenager is that your parents cook for you. That's it. Everything else about being an adult is way better."

I'm happy that she's happy with adulthood, but having been in charge of making dinner for 20+ years, I think she's understating what a huge deal it is to never have to worry about what's in your fridge or how it's going to turn into a meal every day. 


Christmas Eve and Christmas were basically perfect. It started out a little rocky, because my alarm didn't go off in the morning and getting 8 people ready for church in 20 minutes looks like a scene from Home Alone.

But other than that, it was great. We delivered cookies to the neighbors. We drove around looking at Christmas lights. That night we drank egg nog and watched a video about the Nativity.

On Christmas morning, Phillip surprised me with a vacuum so powerful that it sucked one of the ornaments off the tree and I got him a wedge pillow for his acid reflux. (Tell me you've been married for 20 years without telling me you've been married for 20 years.)

That night we taped glow sticks to the two youngest kids and blasted dance music through the window.

All in all, it was a great two days.


Each of the kids gets one Santa present, in addition to what's in their stockings. My 7-year-old got this game called {affiliate link} Flipslide, which is kind of like a cross between Simon and a Rubix cube. He was obsessed with it and played it all day long.

"He seems like he'll be good at chess," my 17-year-old remarked. Then she turned to me and said, "Why are we not smart? We're the only two dumb ones in this house!"

I wasn't offended, though, I actually know exactly what she means. She and I both have a great deal of emotional intelligence and creative vision, but our brains just don't seem to be wired for STEM applications.


The day after Christmas was beautiful, so we went for a hike.

This idyllic scene was completely candid. It only lasted for a moment, but it did happen spontaneously.

A few years ago, we stopped giving physical presents to our kids and do experience gifts for Christmas instead, so we had planned to go indoor mini golfing afterward. But the hike took longer than we expected and we ended up postponing it.


We've spent the rest of the week working through more experience gifts. On Wednesday Phillip took the boys to an American Ninja Warrior-type course, and today he took the teenagers axe throwing. 

Thursday was an indoor ropes course. I was standing in line, watching 6-year-olds run up there and thinking I was going to be too old for this, but when I got up there I stayed on the lower level and was still scared out of my mind.

Phillip hides it well, but he really hates heights. If I look at the selfie my daughter took of the two of them just afterward, I can zoom in and see in his eyes that his soul had temporarily left his body. 

But at least 4 out of the 6 kids really seemed to enjoy it.


Phillip has been reading this book about Theodore Roosevelt and sharing what he's learned with us. 

While we were taking a hike, he told us about how Roosevelt used to take his kids on "point-to-point scrambles" to toughen them up. They had to reach a point off in the distance in a straight line, and weren't allowed to go around any obstacles: if there was a tree they had to climb it, if there was mud they had to go through it, and if there was a pond they had to swim it.

"Ugh," my 17-year-old said, "What about their poor mother who had to wash their clothes afterward?"

The conversation moved on after that, but a few days later when someone couldn't find the Christmas candy from their stocking, I heard someone else say, "Sorry, I was on a point-to-point scramble and it was in my way." 


My 15-year-old loves computer games, which is kind of a problem because the gameplay of most popular teen boy games is so violent. He's not into that, and even if he was I wouldn't allow it in the house.

Recently, he found a game called Teardown. In this game, you go on various assignments to either destroy things or steal them, demolishing whatever's in your way (like a point-to-point scramble, Teddy Roosevelt would approve!) But no one ever gets hurt, because you're the only human in the game. 

So it's got that masculine energy that appeals to boys. But instead of funneling it into violence, it's almost creative: like a reverse Minecraft.

Okay, fine.

Then on the way to see The Nutcracker on Wednesday, I pointed out a big fancy glass sculpture suspended from the ceiling in the lobby of one of the buildings we passed on the street, and my 12-year-old exclaimed, "Woaaaaaah... if that was in Teardown, I would"

Yes, because of that game her first thought was how cool it would be to destroy the amazing sculpture, rather than appreciating the art and skill that went into making it. Tell me again how video games are not causing us to devolve as a species??

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Chaun said...

I can totally relate to your kiddo who obviously had no other choice but to get through that darn christmas candy blocking the way!

Video game question for you: how do you manage play time & ownership of game systems? My little kids (9 & 7) are constantly begging for their own nintendo switches, smart watches with games, game consoles, etc. I'm a stickler on that kids need a hands-on childhood and tech is for sharing with the family. But I don't know how to help my kids understand this family rule, especially when their friends & cousins of the same age have their very own consoles, tablets, etc! Have you had similar conversations with your kids? Or found a good way to balance their personal tech and living "real" life?

Thanks in advance!

Jenny Evans said...

Chaun: It's crazy how many of my kid's friends have multiple expensive personal devices--sometimes their friends even bring them over to playdates and after 10 minutes start getting "bored" and ask to play on their tablet. It makes me so sad!

We don't have any gaming consoles, but if we did it would definitely be a shared family device. I hate video games and the only way I can stomach them is by making it a social experience where they're either watching/playing with their siblings (I still remember playing Nintendo with my cousins in the basement when we went over there) or interacting with their real-life friends via an online game.

I regularly pull my hair out over balancing screens and real life. The best I feel like we can do is encourage real-life activities as often as possible, and occasionally have days, weeks, or months where everyone in the family gives up devices just because. We also talk a lot about dopamine and how screens are a high-dopamine (i.e: addictive) but low-value activity.

The kids don't really ask for personal devices, probably because they intuitively know it would never happen. If they asked, I'd probably say it was expensive and not something that would be worth the amount of money we paid for it.