herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

Selling the PlayStation is a very small price to pay if it gives me back my family

It was all my fault - I was the one who bought the PlayStation.

I had it in my mind that the children would play it together. I was sold the idea that the autistic boy would love the Skylanders game.

They'd all sit around the PlayStation like families used to sit around the wind-up wireless on Sunday evenings.

And so I stumped up for a PlayStation 4 for my son's birthday, about €400 by the time I was finished.

Mad money. Mad Mammy.

The autistic boy played it about twice. One of the Skylanders' figures got wings and flew.

The son who owned the PlayStation gradually took over the sitting-room and played on his own.

Every time I came home I'd find the blinds down and the PlayStation hot. When I was at home, permission to play PlayStation was always what he wanted, the question hovering over every weekend morning, afternoon, evening.

"Not in the morning". "Not till your homework's done". "Not until dinner's finished."

It went on and on, this negotiation. Meanwhile, the sitting-room had turned into enemy territory. If we dared to come in, the PlayStation player would snarl at us to leave him alone.

No-one watched TV anymore. The truth was I didn't know how to turn it on, what with all the wires spilling out of the PlayStation.

There were even one or two occasions when we had friends over and had a stand-up row over turning the PlayStation off before they arrived.

I couldn't stand the sight of those wires. If someone was visiting I'd unplug the whole lot and bundle them into the cupboard.

Then there'd be war. He'd say I'd wrecked the whole thing.

So we booted the old telly into the garage along with the PlayStation and bought a new telly for ourselves.

I imagined us snuggled up on the couch, realxing and watching black and white movies.

But somehow a wire got lost and our son announced that the telly in the garage wasn't working with the PlayStation, and that, in fact, the new telly was made for it and for him.

I was standing there, speechless, when suddenly the realisation dawned that the entire atmosphere of the house was being destroyed by this effin' machine.

Then fate intervened. My son asked me to take the thing away for a few weeks before the Junior Cert and I bundled it into a bag and stuck it into the spare tyre in the boot.

He quickly regretted what he'd said but I wouldn't budge.

They had the place torn apart looking for the thing and let comments slip like: "Normally when Mam hides something it's easy to find but we just can't find the PlayStation..."

I was asked for it back at all sorts of emotional moments: on Saturday nights, when the special friend was over, when it was lashing rain.

I stuck to my guns. And when the Junior Cert was over, I panicked. I didn't want it back.

Having it in the house means one son is having an intense, exclusive relationship with someone else and he doesn't want his family around. But I want us to work as a family.

I don't want the younger ones excluded and I don't want them to watch violence and hyper-reality.

The experts who say console games make kids better at science, technology, engineering and maths may be right, but they certainly don't make you better at being a family.

And I'd actually rather my son be his funny, laughing, lovable self than a wizard mathematician who can cast an array of spells but can't talk to anyone.

So, in desperation, I offered to buy the PlayStation back. He said no.

But I again refused to allow the thing into the sitting-room and he doesn't fancy the garage.

He needed money and he buckled. It's going on eBay and I'm paying him the difference.

It's a small price to pay if it gives me back my family.

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