Heard around the house this week:

“Mommy, can I go on the computer?”

“Mommy, when can I go on the computer?”

“Mommy, can I go on the computer when I’ve finished my homework?”

“Mommy! Daniel got half an hour on the computer and he’s hogging it and won’t let me have my turn!”

“Mommy, can I get a membership for Legoland?”

“Mommy, can I get a “Hero Up” account? I’ll pay for it out of my allowance money!”

“Mommy, I practiced piano for fifteen minutes and finished my homework. Can I go on the computer now?”

“Mommy, how come he gets to go on the computer? I never get to go on the computer!”

“Mommy, can I go on the computer now?” (pause)

“Ok, how about now?” (longer pause).

“Now, right?”

“Mommy, if I stand here watching my brother, does it count as computer time?”

“That’s not fair! What do you mean, I can’t go on the computer because it’s too late? We just got home! It’s not my fault I had to eat dinner.”

“Mommy, if I finish my homework early, can I go on the computer tomorrow?”

Is it any wonder I’m ready to chuck this laptop out the window? This hunk of silicon and plastic on which I’m typing this blog post rules my life and the lives of my children. To say they’re obsessed is an understatement. There is nothing of greater importance, it would seem, than convincing their parents that it is crucial that they spend every possible waking minute playing a computer game. Or watching their brother play a game.

Or talking about a computer game. Or reading books about games they can play online.

Or, for that matter, playing chess. Or singing, playing ball hockey, playing piano, having playdates with friends, playing with lego, and very occasionally, watching TV.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it? From my perspective, it would be foolish of us to act as if that the computer won’t be a defining force in their lives. They’ll use them in school, in the workplace, and from day-to-day, so there’s no use pretending otherwise. But when you have two boys whose lives revolve around the computer, it feels unhealthy to indulge their desire to spend every waking moment playing games, especially because we know they also have other interests that they want (and need) to indulge, too.

Do you limit the amount of time your children use the computer? I admit, I don’t know what the right amount of time on the computer is. Whatever it is, it always feels like it should be less than the amount of time that they’ve most recently tried to convince us is reasonable. We have placed limits on their computer time: no computer during the week, unless you’ve completed your homework, at which point you’re allowed a half-hour on a school night. One hour per day on the weekends, to be broken up into half-hour segments. But even within those (seemingly clear) rules, there seems room for debate, pleading, begging, and outright rebellion, which leads us to be obstinate and punitive (“Ask me just ONE more time if you can use that computer, and you lose computer time for the weekend!”).

Their love for the computer is wearing me out.

So, suggestions are welcomed. I’ve heard of programs that you can install on the computer, which time how long the user has been at the computer and then automatically shut it off when a certain preset usage has been reached. Maybe that’s the answer. But in the meantime, if you see a laptop go flying, it’s probably because someone around here asked to use the computer one too many times.