ME! For Mother of the Month. My friends and I joke about the Bad Mommies Club. We commiserate and console each other when we have done something (or failed to do something) that makes us feel like terrible mothers. The kinds of actions and feelings and thoughts that are OK to share and laugh about now that the kids are in elementary school, but would have been closely-guarded secrets if any of us knew each other when the kids were infants. I don't think new moms can be in the Bad Mommies Club. Fundamentally, women don't trust each other enough to tell the truth. Especially not when you are sinking or swimming in the shark-infested waters of first-time motherhood. Don't shake your head at me and say no. If you think about it, I bet you'll count on only one hand the women in your life who actually know all there is to know about you ... or close to it. You might only get to one or two. Women are tough.
But that's all another post ... back to bad parenting du jour. My son just turned 9. Predictably, he wanted a sports party and Madden 10 as his gift (as if the party shouldn't be enough!). So I dutifully went to Game Stop and purchased the stupid $50 game for Wii. I hate the Wii. I did not want to ever get my kids the Wii. Water under the bridge. Moving on.
Of course, one of my son's good friends bought him Madden 10. I was callously told to return mine (sniffle, sniffle ... he wanted his friend's, not mine) which I did. But now I had the chance to be the big hero and find the Alien Hominid game his friend could not find (despite valiant attempts by his generous mother and the incredibly kind gesture of his friend telling his mom they should give my son theirs).
Welcome to the over-my-head world of "it's a Game Cube game but you can play it on Wii ... blah blah blah." My son never had any other game system or whatever these hateful things are called. I only know from Wii and I know very little about that. Start talking about compatible games and different controllers and a memory card? I am completely lost (and quite horrifed that I am now the parent who just doesn't understand). "Don't worry, Mom, I know what to get," my son reassured me (kindly neglecting to mention that I just didn't get it because I am old).
So three stores later and some birthday money later, my son was the proud owner of Alien Hominid with two remotes and a memory card. Whatever that meant. All I knew was he was happy and that made me happy (in between being furious with him for not being appreciative enough, a thank you would be nice! Grrr...).
He and his sister (yes, the 6 year old) happily played the game. My son had friends over, and they enthusiastically played the game. Never once did it occur to me to look at the game, what it was, how it was played or what it was about. Just bought the game, no questions asked. No research. No previewing. No clue. Just bought the damn game.
So it came as quite a shock when my son casually informed me the other night that the game is rated T for Teen. "No," I countered, "you can't have a game for teens. You are not a teenager as much as you would like to think otherwise. You can only have games rated E for Everyone," I asserted, feeling very pleased with myself that I even knew the games were rated. "Well, Mom," he chortled from the back seat, "the game is rated T." I insisted, "You must be mistaken, we'll check when we get home."
We also were going to look up what "2012" is rated because he had announced that we should see the movie. And, the reasoning went, since he saw "Dark Knight" (borrowed from the library long after its release and after much lobbying by my son, the kids fell asleep watching it and I stayed up to see the end, good flick) he should be able to see anything. What did rated R mean anyway, I can see that in middle school, he boasted. "No you cannot see rated R movies in middle school. You have to be 18 or older." "Well, I saw PG-13 movies, and I'm not 13," he challenged. Ouch. Yes you have. He continued, "And Alien Homid [as the kids call it] is T. What is gore?" This was not going in a good direction.
Sure enough, we get home, I demand to see the case the stupid used game came in, and there is the T glaring up at me like a scarlet A. I was crushed. I could not believe what a lapse in judgment this was. How could I purchase something for my child without fully understanding what it was? How could I be exposing both of my kids to some bloody cartoon that I bought just because he played it at his friend's house and wanted it for his birthday? What kind of awful parent was I? (As it turns out, pretty bad. Seems he has played even worse games at other people's houses. Never occurred to me to ask the play date mom what games she allows her kids to play. Come to think of it, I never asked any play date mom ever if she had guns in the home. Just call CPS already.)
I was really in shock for the rest of the night. I could not believe I never looked up what the game was or what it was rated. I just took for granted it was semi-appropriate; I didn't even give it much thought actually. This from the mother who was ready to go to the mat to prevent my second grader from seeing "Spider Man 3" in the theater for someone else's birthday party. Was this mom kidding me? A PG-13 movie in second grade?!? Maybe that was OK for moms with older kids, but my son is my first, and I will not have him rushing through childhood. Second grade was simply too young for PG-13. I looked it up on my trusty in-the-know parent resources like www.commonsensemedia.org and became even more convinced this was not acceptable. I was going to take a stand and teach a lesson. Just because everyone else is doing something does not mean that we have to. Sorry, you just cannot go to this party. End of story. (Until I was overruled and he went.)
But at least I had tried. I had done my due diligence. Here, I totally dropped the ball. Bad Mommies Club all the way. Well, add it to the list. (I am only slightly vindicated by my belated search for Alien Hominid on Common Sense Media's website ~ it's not even there : )