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The story of how I got my first Xbox, and the story behind it

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by Surat Lozowick

            I was raised by the wisdom of my parents — but not conventional wisdom. It was the wisdom of trading convention and tradition for respect and inclusiveness, trading harsh rigidity for the tenderness of authentic relationship.

            In contrast to society’s emphasis on restrictions and punishment, I was allowed to find my own way — and make my own mistakes. My parents offered guidance, invoked clear boundaries and limits, and were resolute in their principles, but they also adapted to the fluidity and unpredictability of my development. They supported me in becoming myself instead of mandating I become a younger version of them.

            Some of the decisions my parents made frustrated me — being required to attend every meal, not getting my own computer (and an Internet connection at home) until I needed it for school, and being one of the last of my friends to get a video game system and a television. I didn’t like being denied indulgences my friends enjoyed, like Saturday morning cartoons and cereal-shaped sugar for breakfast.

            But the more I think about the way my parents raised me, and the more I learn why they made the choices they did, the more I realize how insightful they were and how fortunate I am to have had such a unique yet powerful upbringing. As I realize how each choice they made shaped who I am today, I’m grateful.

            I didn’t get my first video game system until I was almost 14, when I got an original Xbox as a present from my parents (14’s young, sure, but to a 14-year-old... well, I’d already been 13 for almost a year!). I would play games somewhat regularly at a friend’s house already, but that wasn’t the same as having my own system with my own games at my own home.

            So, I finally got an Xbox. I was ecstatic. I immediately hooked it up to the family TV (I got one in my room shortly after), and a friend came over to play. The first game I got was The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, a turn-based RPG; the next one was Halo 2.

            But it was an unexpected gift (one I’d been requesting for a while), because my parents had always been against video games. I figured they finally decided I was old enough, that video games were an unavoidable aspect of growing up in this modern age, and that was that.

            Recently I found out the real reason — another reminder that despite their expansiveness and flexibility in raising me, nothing about my upbringing was accidental.

            My mom was recounting how they would generally buy the food my sisters and I wanted (within reason; my parents would find the healthiest version of whatever we asked for), because then we’d hang around the house and we’d bring our friends over to hang around the house. And then they’d get to see us more. They wanted “home” to be homey, to be inviting. They wanted home to be a place we’d want to be; they wanted all, including our friends, to feel welcome, cared for, and respected.

            Then we’d be held in the “field of influence” of their principles, balanced so as not to be so rigid that we wouldn’t want to be there. It was an idea my dad picked up reading Frank Zappa’s autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book.

            And then Mom mentioned the Xbox I got as a gift.

            She explained that sometime earlier, my dad had said to her, “We have a choice. We can either hold a strict line about no video games, and Surat’s going to spend the next few years playing video games at his friends’ houses, and basically we will hardly see him. Or we can let him play video games here, and have him and his friends hanging out here, so that this is the place the kids want to come. Then we get to be with them and provide the matrix in which they are growing up. So I want to get him a video game system.”

            This whole time I figured I got an Xbox because I was old enough or mature enough or it was just time. But no: I got an Xbox so I’d spend more time at our house instead of a friend’s house, and my dad and mom would get to see me more in my capricious teenage years. As my mom put it, “we chose actual relationship with you, as you were at age 14, over the purity of our ideals.”

            Now that’s smart parenting.

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Guest Wednesday, 22 November 2017