Manhattan’s latest parental punishment


I have seldom been as relieved to read an article as one that appeared last week by New York Times writer Andrew Das. It began: “In the moments after I felt the pop in my left shoulder, the sensation I felt was not pain. It was panic. How exactly does a 40-year-old man explain to his wife that he might have torn his rotator cuff during a midnight game of Wii tennis?”

I had often wondered, since we gave our twin six-year-old sons a Nintendo Wii at Christmas, why it is not just the children but my husband who looks utterly wiped out on a Sunday morning?

The answer I discovered recently, late on a Saturday night, way past the boys’ bedtime: both children and father were all involved in a furtive golf marathon which had lasted for hours as they played all 18 holes.

They stood in their pyjamas, eyeing up their shots. The amount of yelling and jumping up and down that accompanied a triumphant putt was disturbing. I wondered if they thought they really were playing the Masters in Augusta, rather than making pretend gestures before a TV screen in a small bedroom in Manhattan.

This suspension of belief is only part of the intoxicating power of the Nintendo Wii, by far the bestselling computer game on the market. (Last year more than 10 million Wiis were sold in the US.) The rest of its appeal lies in the fact that it requires participants to move as they hit virtual balls, and it engages all ages.

So far, so good. Except doctors have seen an alarming rise in Wii-related injuries, either because players play too often, causing the equivalent of repetitive strain injury, or in a space too restricted for the movements they need to make. Doctors now diagnose ailments called “Wii shoulder” or “Wii knee”.

What to do to ensure one’s spouse and children do not join this epidemic? I was considering this when I got an email from one child’s teacher.

He had misbehaved on the school bus and as punishment, she had warned him, she would enter his bedroom and confiscate his Nintendo Wii.

Seldom has a child returned home more penitent. Seldom has a father been so shocked by the proposed punishment.

The result? Limits have been set as to when and how the Wii should be used. And no one gets to play it after the children’s bedtime – father included. V

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