From the time the electronic gaming systems hit the market my three boys, Eric, Dean and Adam, bugged me to own one. I was dead set against it. Why? I was a mother. I envisioned our daily routine, "Did you hang up your coat, put away your book bag and change your clothes," or "You've been on that thing long enough, shut it off," or "Have you finished your homework," and still, "Are the cattle fed? You aren't allowed to play that thing until your work is all done." I was pretty sure I knew my boys.
You see, we had auditioned a game system earlier. My brother, Bob, had an Atari with a few games he no longer wanted, and loaned it to us. "Thanks a lot, Bob. I love you, too." Anyway, I allowed it. For the short time it was in our home, the boys were drawn to it like a moth to a flame. They would rush to the controllers after school, get up early on Saturday so they could play and stare at the screen for hours until their eyes were bloodshot and heads ached. There was supposed to be a limit of time per day, which I, of course, tried to patrol.
One Saturday I was called to the field to help Rick. The boys were told to feed the cattle that morning, usually their dad took his turn with the chore in the morning, but that day he had to rush off and the task was given to Eric and Dean. Eric was in 7th grade and was quite capable of the task. I was gone for several hours, as happens when taking repair parts to a farmer in the field.
"What! you are still playing the Atari," I bellowed after glancing around the kitchen/diningroom. The three boys, still in pajamas, were huddled around the television screen with remotes in hand. Their eyes were bloodshot. The gallon of milk sat on the table in the midst of scattered cold cereal, juice glasses and spilled juice and milk. "You haven't fed the cattle, it's after ten," I said in my least quiet voice. "Get dressed, NOW," I scolded as I packed up the gaming system.. "There will never be another system in this house," as stomped to my bedroom to store it until it could be returned.
The begging began shortly afterward. For a year I heard "Please, Mom, we promise to follow the rules," and "All I want for Christmas is a Ninetendo." I began to soften. They were growing up and showing more responsibility.
"Okay, I will make you a deal," I said to my four children. "If all four of you make the honor roll 3 quarters in a row, I will get you one for Christmas. That will show me you know how to manage your time and will be able to handle one in the house. You're all intelligent enough to do it, you just have to put in the effort." And the challenge was thrown to them. I was fairly certain they would take the bait and work harder on their schoolwork.
Many report card came home and many times there was disappointment in our household. One of the four was not taking biting the hook. Six Christmas days came and went and no gaming system was found beneath the tree.
By 2008, the foursome were all in the workforce. Most had completed college, were working on post college or had been employed for many years. Rick and I were proud of the adults they had become. That summer we decided it was time to fulfill the promise made many years ago. The Wii gaming system appeared to be the hot item that year. And so the hunt began. Each Sunday morning I would arise before five and hit the internet. I scoured all the ads for the day for a store that had them advertised. Over the next few months we managed to score five systems, one for me and four for them. We were at the stores when they opened and each would purchase the one allowed. We came home exhilarated as we planned the surprise.
It was finally time for our Christmas gathering. The gifts under the tree looked sparse. We hid the big packages for a better impact. I wrapped identical gifts for each family member: a $4 DVD from the Black Friday sale and a pair of pajamas. The six adults, for by 2008, Eric was married to Trela and Dean was married to Meg, looked at us as if to say, "what's going on. This is not how you usually do Christmas."
"Okay, Eric, Dean, Kathy,Adam, line up on the couch, age order," I instructed them. Rick left the room and returned with a report card he and I created on the computer. "Read it aloud," I said. Eric the oldest read all the categories for grades, fashioned to resemble the report cards produced each quarter when they were in school.
"Straight A's," the four exclaimed as they realized we gave them high marks in all subjects. Adam grabbed the card, "Wait, read the fine print," he shouted. "Dad taught me to always read the fine print on any document."
He squinted and stared,"Wii remember the promise Wii made to you many years ago. Wii decided it was time to fulfill that promise. Wii are proud of you and the people you have become. So Wii purchased these game systems for you. Enjoy. Love, Dad and Mom."
At that point Rick produced four identically wrapped gifts and handed them to Eric, Dean, Kathy and Adam. Paper was shredded as each one opened it simultaneously to reveal the long awaited gaming system. "I can't believe it," "This is so cool," "Thanks," filled the room, along with laughter.
Rick then grabbed four more packages from the hiding place and handed each one another. More paper ripped as the siblings discovered we had also managed to purchase the elusive Wii Fit game for each. "I can't believe this," This is the best Christmas ever," and "Thank you so much." was repeated by all.
Yes, a promise made is a promise kept. It only took fifteen years.