Much as I hate mention of Christmas outside of December, preparations do have to start a little early when your live in a Muslim country literally devoid of the little touches that make Christmas special. Sure, Carrefour carry a few decorations, and there are toy shops in every mall, but it’s not the same. For one thing, Lego is literally four times the price it is in Ireland, finding anything that’s not moulded plastic nigh on impossible and bookshops here are only masquerading as bookshops for what really is two tables of international bestsellers and Danielle Steele books left out in front of a Starbucks and a toy shop.
Alas, Lego, wooden train sets and books are not on my list this Christmas, because my seven-year-old is going for the juggler, he’s asking Santy for an Xbox, because he knows Mammy would never buy one.
Initially I tinkered with the idea of revealing Santy, but decided that the therapy needed in adulthood to make peace with ‘my mother dismantled my childhood illusion’ would equate to the hours needed to work ‘I spent the best years of my life, gaming’….out of the system so that being equal, I tried speaking to my child about all the other wonderful things he could ask Santa for like an accordion, a good set of watercolours or a collection of Michael Morpurgo books, my suggestions were met with a stoic stare, he was asking Santy for an Xbox and that was that.
I don’t want him to get an Xbox because I don’t see the value in it. I can only see all the things he could be doing instead of standing in front of a TV with a controller in his hand. Cycling a bike, making a catapult out of odds and ends around the house, catching worms, jumping off walls, practising his handwriting. I spoke sternly to myself and argued his case. Do I have the authority, the right, the responsibility to steer his interests? Is it good parenting to make something, that I personally don’t value, available to him? or is it good parenting to withhold it? I couldn’t decide.
Frustrated with my Xbox decision turmoil I suddenly wondered just who is the boss around here? ‘I am’ I tell myself in the mirror. You, mom, are the boss. Not wanting to end up in a lion being afraid of the mouse position, I repeated the mantra ‘I am the boss, I am the boss, I am the boss’. I was still repeating it, while I was making his lunch, packing his schoolbag, wiping the sand off his shoes and blowing his nose. And when I met a few moms at the school gates in the morning, the mantra was going strong. (being repeated internally, not saying it aloud of course) (school gates here to mean the sandy wasteland we call the school car park)
I threw my Xbox conundrum out there between all the mums, in the hope that public opinion would cast some light. I was met with a unanimous ‘sure it comes to us all’ and ‘its inevitable’. Surprisingly they all had rules around Xbox time and all seemed to run tickety boo. I didn’t have the same faith in myself knowing my habit of allowing him 20 mins on the iPad and leaving him for a month as I spent the time gassing on the phone.
I walked away no wiser and more determined to stick to my guns, the mantra started again, ‘I am the boss, I am the boss, I am the boss’. I wasn’t going to succumb to peer pressure, I would not be bullied by society or indeed the other moms into buying an Xbox and thereafter policing use of same for the next ten years.
I was still repeating the mantra when I scrolled sites, as to the difference between a PlayStation and an Xbox, still repeating it, when I clicked on the ‘purchase’ button on the site, beneath Xbox and ‘additional controller’, still repeating it when I keyed in the sixteen digits. Until finally I had to give in and face it, I was not the boss, society was the boss. I am a lion, afraid of a mouse.