Tag Archives: xbox

The secret of successful sleepovers – just leave them to it . . .

SLEEPOVERS didn’t exist when I was a kid. Well, they probably did, but they were a much more informal affair.

Back then things were fairly spontaneous. I might stay over at my friend’s house up the road at age 11 or 12, topping and tailing in a single bed, whispering about who was our favourite member of Duran Duran, because it had got late and it was just easier to walk home the next morning. In my teens I often stayed at the homes of my two best friends who lived in town, because I came from a village with one bus a week, my dad worked, and my mum didn’t drive. Sleepovers were born of necessity, not organised social events.

Not so today. Anyone with children of school age will probably have been nagged to have their offspring’s pals for a ‘sleepover.’

At first I always said ‘no.’ While I always liked the idea of having an open house where my kids’ friends came and went like members of an extended family, the reality was different. It’s as much as I can do to keep some semblance of health and safety with four kids and Bloke under the same roof. In short, our house is often a tip. Then there’s the added horror of strangers seeing me shuffling around puffy-eyed in a dressing gown.

But when the two eldest got to about age ten the nagging increased. Eventually I made it a birthday event – allowing a couple of boys over for a night so all the kids would watch a video and grind microwave popcorn into the carpets. I’d hastily change all the duvet covers and make up beds on mattresses on the floor. They’d all talk loudly into the night while Bloke and I went up and down the stairs telling them to keep the noise down and go to sleep in a manner than started politely and usually ended crossly. Our boys all share a room so we inevitably had a younger Billy to worry about.

Boys mesmerised by the Xbox

These days the ‘sleepovers’ happen more frequently, mostly thanks to the blinkin’ X-Box. They have school friends over to play computer games (even though technology means they can play each other online with headsets to talk to each other from the comfort of their own homes). I’ve given up worrying about what to feed our visitors. Meals are already an ad-hoc affair usually involving huge batches of pasta or oven chips and if they don’t like the vegetables, they can leave them. I can’t threaten them like I do my own children. Poor Billy now gets hoofed out of his bunk to share his sister’s room and we leave the older boys to take over the living room while we watch TV in the kitchen or go to bed early. It’s usually a weekend, they get sent to bed by 11pm, and lie in the next morning. Apart from the occasional check to see they aren’t doing anything they shouldn’t be, we leave them to it.

I can only guess how frequently this must happen if you have daughters. At the moment Bonnie is only four, but judging by the horrific tales of hair-dying disasters, nail-polish accidents and tearful fallings-out I hear from friends-with-girls, I’ll be putting off her sleepovers as long as possible.

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Taming the tiger

ONE of the most common sources of tellings-off in our house involve computer games. (I think pant and sock retrieval from bedroom floors probably ranks marginally higher).

Our kids have an Xbox and were given a Kinect, which allows you to jump about hands-free in front of the telly, for Christmas.

They aren’t allowed to play computer games at all during the week, so at weekends it’s a bit of a scramble to see who can get gaming first.

There’s also the issue of the games being played on the Family Telly in the front room, as we won’t let them have a TV in their bedroom, which according to our eldest sons, makes us some kind of medieval puritans.

There are rules about the Xbox, mostly to do with taking turns, not letting the on-screen fighting displace to the real-world of the living room and playing age-appropriate games when the smaller siblings are around.

While seven-year-old Billy will usually fight his corner quite well to get his hands on the controller now and then (or threaten to tell Mum), Bonnie is really rather left out. Most times I’ll arrive just in time to see her balancing precariously on-top of the back of the sofa trying to get one of her goggle-eyed, game-hypnotised brothers to pay her some attention.

We bought a game when the Kinect came out specifically for Bonnie and Billy, the impossible-for-a-three-year-old-to-pronounce Kinectimals. This features a band of apparently orphaned and abandoned tiger/lion cubs living it up on a desert island.

Naturally, as it was expensive, Bonnie wasn’t that interested, especially as the Kinect machine thingy didn’t seem to be able to ‘see’ her properly, presumably because she’s little. Her Kinect image always looked like it was kneeling.

This weekend, out of the blue, she decided that she wanted to play “tigers,” much to the disgust of her brothers who would be content to spend an entire weekend shooting aliens and zombies.

This time she seemed to get it. She taught her cub how to copy her, doing spins, star-jumps (she’s still very uncoordinated) and how to lie down with her ‘paws’ in the air. It was hilarious to watch.

She particularly enjoyed endlessly, repetitively kicking a beach-ball back and forth with her cub, and shooting it with a virtual water-pistol. She was frustrated by the fact her brothers had to ‘help’ when the machine wanted the ‘player’ to read instructions, or hold their hand still in a specific place to make the game progress.

Still, she was determined to keep playing, and eventually we had to remind her that she too had to play by the rules and let her brothers have a go. “I not sharing,” she announced. “Boys not share theirs.”

She still needs some more training in gaming etiquette. . .

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For *&$^’s sake, stop swearing . . .

THOSE who know me will snort loudly when they read this, but I hate to hear bad language around kids. Really.

I add the ‘around kids’ disclaimer because, I know you’ll find this hard to believe, I can be prone to a pressure-relieving, potty-mouthed rant at times, (mostly) in adult company. From my experience, journalists rank high among the most frequent users of caustic language on earth.

But I wince when I hear other adults swear with impunity in front of their kids – or any kids for that matter.

My own folks were very strict about us not using bad language, even though they were partial to the odd minor cuss, mostly “bloody,” to emphasise a point. They were allowed to swear, because they were adults. We never really questioned it (and made sure we swore out of earshot).

Imagine my reaction when I overheard one of our older children describing something using a swear word. It wasn’t one of the very, very worst words (rhymes with ‘ditty,’ since you ask), but he got sent to his room and reminded at length about his vocabulary.

A few days later I heard our older boys talking with their friends on Xbox Live, where they have a headset and can talk to each other as they play. I listened in.

The language was shocking, and they didn’t even seem to know the meaning of most of the words they were saying.

“Don’t their parents tell them off for that language?” I asked, only to be told that many of their friends had their games consoles in their bedrooms and their parents didn’t know they were playing, let alone who they were talking to, or what they were saying.

This was further confirmed when I was doing my exercise workouts on the Xbox Kinect, after 10pm, over several nights. Every few minutes I’d get on-screen messages from their friends, imagining that either Jed or Dougie was playing, asking them to connect. This was between 10.30 and midnight on a school night!

We may be aware of the risks our children are exposed to over the internet, and monitor their computer use, but do we have clue what they’re doing on the games consoles in their bedrooms?

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How to get your toilet clean(ish)

AS the dynamics and discussions have changed with the older boys, so the levels of chastisement have had to alter too.

Our younger two hate being separated from the action. But let’s face it, teenage boys don’t mind at all if you send them to their rooms. That’s where their stuff is (mostly on the floor) and where they can text to their hearts’ content.

One thing that all of them dread is being separated from the real love of their lives – various video game consoles. If you really want them to suffer, take away access to the PSPs, the DSIs, ban Xbox and Wii usage and you suddenly see a change of heart. But you have to follow through with the threats.

Last week, for various different misdemeanours, Billy, Dougie and Jed were all barred from the Xbox on Saturday morning (they aren’t allowed on it on school nights). This was so painful for them, they begged to be allowed to ‘earn back’ their Xbox rights throughout the week.

By Friday night, they’d done the dishwasher several times, sorted and folded several loads of washing, swept the kitchen floor, emptied the car of rubbish, and, get this, cleaned the toilets.

It sounds terrible, but I almost want them to misbehave again this week. . .


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