Like many moms, I worry that my sons spend too much time playing video games. One son in particular loooooves his Xbox 360. If he had free reign, he could easily spend an entire day and night with his hands wrapped around the controller and his thumbs depressing various buttons. Not only do I worry that his mind will turn to mush, I worry about the lack of exercise that occurs with the whole gaming lifestyle.
I wanted to take the boys to a pumpkin patch this weekend so they could run around in the wide, open spaces. But one activity lead to another and by the time we were all home again it was too late. In the midst of all the activities, Gaming Son spent a better part of the afternoon on the Xbox, flying airplanes, dropping bombs and generally destroying anything within his field of gaming vision. After about an hour of constant shoot ’em up and blow ’em up scenarios, I knew I had to kick into creative gear to get all four boys out of the house to do something active.
Enter Scavenger Hunt in the ‘Hood. It wasn’t the most exciting search on the planet, nor was it the most organized; but when the word “prize” was mentioned, all boys stood at attention. Well, not really, but I did get their somewhat divided attention. Being the little skeptics they can be sometimes, they wanted to know what kind of prize I was talking about. None of them were willing to waste their precious time with piddly prizes. It had to be worth their time and effort if they were going to buy into this whole scavenger hunt idea. I wouldn’t tell them what the prize would be, partly because I wasn’t quite sure even when the game started, and partly because telling them would have taken the fun and spontaneity out of the game.
We began the game with the first clue inside the house.
First clue: Where you might ask “who’s the fairest of them all….” Once they FINALLY looked by the only mirror they hadn’t checked, they found a piece of paper sticking out of the bottom with the next clue.
“You’ll find me in a pile, fresh from the trees.” Of all the leaf piles around our yard, they went straight to the one in which I had hidden the next clue – which made me think someone was a cheater pants and saw me hide it there.
Next clue: “I’m sitting close to Lucy. And I don’t mean the human one.” (That was a clue that the next piece of paper was near the neighbor dog named Lucy, not to be confused with our neighbor GIRL named Lucy.) So they ran to the neighbor’s house and found the clue on the fence post.
Then it was off to the local theater, followed by a neighbor’s garden, a realtor’s “for sale” sign, a neighbor’s flag pole and then the high school where I work. Somewhere in all of this clue finding, I was able to come up with the last clue AND the coveted prize. The end of the scavenger hunt took them to the high school where I work. Little did they know that I hid the last clue while they were looking elsewhere outside the building. I gave them a few clues to get them to the correct location of the clue, and once they found it under a plaque, they were told the prize was only a block away. They were to go to the place where they could pick out their sweet surprise which could be consumed during the showing of IronMan 2 on Pay Per View that night. Off they ran to Walgreens to buy their movie candy and popcorn.
Call it manipulation, if you must, but it worked. I got Gaming Boy off his rear end and had him running all over the neighborhood in search of the next clue. To use one of the cheesiest phrases I know: it turned my frown upside down. I smiled as I watched my boys work together to find clues and to see them enjoy life in the context of a game so simple and so… thrown together. HEre are a few of the moments I captured on camera. I love to look at these because it reminds me of the truly sweet moments we spend as a family. And it helps ground me when I want to fly away, like I did the very next day.
Stay tuned for the candy-hangover stories coming soon.