THE SISTERS' SONG coming in January 2018 from Allen and Unwin. Sign up to be the first to know. x Louise

I do. I hate it. I would happily give it away, throw it away, stomp all over it. Actually, I’m tempted to feed it to Gretel, our Golden Retriever pup, who has sunk her teeth into most of our household contents already. She’s chomped her way through multiple school socks and stockings, pens, pencils, erasers, and six thongs — each belonging to a different pair. I drew the line at her gnawing on the kids’ school shoes, especially when she nibbled the toe out of a replacement shoe within 24-hours of its arrival in the house. Worse still, it was the right foot both times, so we now have two left feet and no matching pair. But she didn’t just stop there. She’s also chewed the mat, the arms of the leather couch, and recently she started on the skirting boards. We now need to replace most of our furniture and contents, and renovate. And I haven’t even started on what she’s done to the garden … I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s a termite disguised as a dog.

aka 'The Termite'

aka ‘The Termite’

Getting back to the X-box, I have an extreme distaste for computer games. I find them purposeless and inane and a waste of time. I’m showing my age, I know. These things weren’t around when I was a young kid, and by the time they became popular, I was in my early teens and maybe I was too old to get into them. Although, I do remember my father playing Space Invaders into the wee hours trying to improve his score.

I don’t mind playing games at all; in fact, I quite like them. But I like proper games, like the ones we used to play. Cards or Draughts or Monopoly on grey days in winter. Even Lego was better in the old days, with its primary-coloured bricks and doors and windows so you could build a house, and wheels so you could make a car. Meanwhile, your brother played alongside and made his house and car, and the little people with moving arms and legs visited each other. Those were the days, before it was Disney or Star Wars themed and when it didn’t matter if you lost a piece. When you broke it all up at the end of the day so you could make something new the next.

And who could forget handstands and hopscotch and elastics and knuckles? What skills we had in those days. I could stand on my hands with my legs in the air executing a ‘Pretty Ballerina’, and not notice that my head was purple with pooling blood or that I was flashing my pants. In hopscotch, I was able to leap over the squares numbered one to seven without touching any of them, and land on number eight on one leg. I could toss four knuckles into the air, snatch one from the floor, and catch the four that I’d tossed before they fell. With one hand. And with elastic at waist height, I was able to perform some sort of jumping-criss-crossing-scissoring-of-legs routine that allowed me to escape the taut thread cutting into my crotch.

I couldn't find a photo of me playing hopscotch or elastics or doing a handstand, so here's one of me on a swing.

I don’t have a photo of me playing hopscotch or elastics or doing a handstand, so here’s one of me on a swing.

Our games seemed more imaginative. I played schools with pens and paper and a blackboard and chalk. I had about ten pupils in my class — all imaginary, of course. I cut paper and stapled it together so they each had their own booklets. I set tests for them to do, which I had to complete for them, each in different hand-writing. Then, as the teacher, I marked them and gave the best students a stamp.

With our friends down the street we played ‘Traffic Lights’ on our roller skates. Don’t ask me why we named it that because there were no lights involved. Someone was the policeman, and we skated on the cement in their backyard, down the side path to the front, and back up the mud path on the other side. Around and around we went, obeying the traffic rules at the cement path intersections. The policeman would stop us if we didn’t. We each had a ‘shop’ – someone ran the post office, and we made sheets of stamps. With scissors, we dotted lines for the perforations. Someone else ran the grocery store from the cubby. We used empty tin cans and jars for its wares. We always had plenty of ‘cash’: each time we visited the local swimming pool, we plunged our arms into the deep wooden bin inside the turnstile entry where everyone threw their used entry tickets. We returned home with handfuls of the used tickets as our ‘cash’.

It brings a smile to my face when I remember these times, but gosh, it makes me feel old …

Getting back to the X-box again, it was my husband who approached me about it in the end. My son had been asking for a good twelve months and I was resisting. My husband explained to me how he had sat down with the boys and negotiated the rules of its use. These included that it would not be played on weekdays during school term, that homework and music practice had to be completed first, and that it would be banned if the rules were broken.

I still wasn’t convinced.

‘They really want one,’ he said. ‘They feel left out when everyone’s talking about it at school.’

He knew my soft spot … Still, I was not buckling because of peer pressure.

Then, he launched the clincher, ‘Besides, I, um, wouldn’t mind playing it myself.’

Boys' games way back when ...

Boys’ games in the good old days …

So, an X-box now sits below our TV – it’s still unwelcome as far as I’m concerned and I’ll never consider it part of the furniture, let alone the family.

It arrived for the last week of school term. I stayed upstairs while they set it up — I want no part of it. I know it’s an ill wind…

It wasn’t so bad for the first week, while school was still in. But since the holidays began it’s been constantly flickering on the screen.

The boys sit next to each other for hours on end, controllers in hand, eyes glued to the TV, as they stalk a dragon or slay a wolf, and watch its blood spatter over the screen. I look away — not because of the blood or the gratuitous violence, but because I can’t stand seeing my sons hooked on it.

I hear them talking to each other, suggesting what next to collect for their man — some magic or a potion — or one of them warns the  other that a giant is about to kill him.

The Giant

A Giant on a blood-spattered screen

The boys have not fought once since it arrived. The house has been quiet and there is no mess. Their beds are made. Everything I’ve asked them to do, they’ve done, and immediately — collect kindling for the fire, have their showers, do their music practice.

It’s a conspiracy, you see. The game, the kids, my husband, they’re all trying to seduce me into allowing this garbage to taint our home. So, they’re acting like they’re happy, getting along with each other, and doing their jobs. The X-box is even in on it — one of the games plays classical music.

A medieval soldier frolicking

A medieval soldier frolicking

But, I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. I’m aware of what they’re trying to do, and it won’t work. I might have been outvoted for the moment, but I’m biding my time. I’ve got my eyes on my boys, waiting for the first sign of square eyes or square bums, or savagery or misbehaviour, or indeed any excuse at all to ban it. And ban it I will, first chance I get.

Then, I’m waiting for the holidays to be over so I can pack it away. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe it will accidentally get tossed. And land on the dog’s bed. Coated in gravy.

There’s a long way to go before they win over this old girl.

***

You’ll be pleased to know that we did manage to drag the boys away from their Box a few times during the holidays, and did things that I like doing (see below).

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