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‘My Son’
A 34-Year-Old Father Worries about His Role

My son’s nine. His mother and I have been separated for five years. I do everything for my son and my daughter—all activities, but she has custody. I shouldn’t have left.

My in-laws are great. I love my father-in-law. They know what she [his ex-wife] is [unspecified] and I still have a great relationship with the man.

She could care less about the kids, so I get all the time with them I want. But something has happened in their minds, positive for my daughter and negative for my son.

I played developmental soccer and college baseball—short stop. I know how much that developmental sport activity has done for me, how much more successful I am as a man having learned those life lessons on the field. So I encourage my children to play and I coach my daughter’s teams. But my son wants nothing to do with sports or physical activity of any kind.

He just wants to play video games.

I’m wrestling with this in my mind so much I want to cry.

I don’t know what’s happened to him.

I don’t know how to reach him.

I look at him and can see that he is my son…

…I speak to him and my son is not there. I don’t know where he went.

My daughter is seven and I have more in common with her as a man than my son who is nine.

How do I bridge that gap past that video game?—that’s the world he lives in when he’s at home and he wants to sink back into it as soon as possible, doesn’t have any of the eagerness about life that I had at his age. Why should he?

I drive through the neighborhood and never see a boy outside playing, doing anything physical, least of all a whole bunch of them playing a game.

[Shakes head as he looks toward the floor.]

I shouldn’t have left no matter how bad it was. I learned that lesson.

I have no clue how to reach him. Making a living is the easy part. Raising a son who lives inside a TV screen, in a world I don’t recognize from my childhood unless I’m on the field…I’m totally unprepared for that.


Son of a Lesser God



Add Comment
SidVicMarch 26, 2018 12:00 AM UTC

The problem as i read it is the lack of legal custody. You lower the boom- and the kid will play you against the ex. Here you gotta be crafty! Enlist the father-in-law to help you covertly if he still has any influence on the mom. Then tell mother that you want to formalize the custody rules (law). I don't know the character of the principals so not sure of the approach.... maybe reason with her-maybe ultimatum. Get some legally BINDING custody.

Once he knows that he will be with you 3days a week or whatever... then you can nail his little ass. He won't want to come over if you don't have games, but no choice.

Be sly... casually remark about some fat kid "look at the fatass kid-probably only likes to play video revulsion"

Camping is good lets them disconnect. But it an acquired taste so be prepared to put up with a cranky kid until it takes, if ever (same with hunting fishing etc..). Use psychology. I wanted my sissy to wrestle (great sport BTW). I started by telling him that the first year is one miserable ass-kicking-after-the-other and that most wimps wash out early! I also told him that Special Forces recruit heavily from high school programs because the conditioning in wrestling is sooo Badass. Many, not all, boys respond nicely to that macho shit. Find his levers and use them to motivate his ass.

Alas, the white devil must be strategic and cunning in this day and age if he doesn't want his boys to grow up to be pussies.
Nero The PictMarch 22, 2018 12:36 PM UTC

Mannys comments really ring true, especially in light of my own experience as a kid from the 1st big wave of divorce and "me generation" narcissist parenting. Not much has for how immersive technology is now. Atari's and the 1st generation of Nintendo were kings of the castle when I was young. Now little dudes have VR and all manner of xbox contrivances. Until about 10 years ago I would have told Paul to get his son into Scouting. For all of its flaws it saved my little retarded ass from a life spent staring at a screen....Now it sounds like some sort of transsexual grooming cult. It might be worth looking into the Civil Air Patrol. They accept relatively young members and is mostly male dominated and does some pretty cool stuff like search and rescue etc, camping, event security etc.

The thing that saved me and alternatively damned me was the library. My dad didn't have very much money and to put it politely had a bunch of shit going on...Practically every time I saw him he would take me to the library and tell me to check out as many books as I wanted on whatever subjects I was into. This was fodder for a good deal of introspection as well as a teaching tool that caused my father and I to have much higher levels of discussion than typical adult child horseshit. This also inculcated an independence as far as learning went...I had the sense from a very young age that academia was bullshit. I knew that I didn't need a teacher or some "authority" figure to tell what was up. Something it would do your son well to learn early—so that his natural inquisitiveness isn't crushed by the hydra of public schooling single mothers and digital heroin....Paul, get to him now before they have set their hooks in. Please.
Jeremy BenthamMarch 22, 2018 11:55 AM UTC

Yes indeed, these are some sad stories! I grew up in the 'Leave it to Beaver' era. A simpler and more straightforward time to be sure. Although at the time we kids didn't think the Leave It to Beaver TV show was an accurate depiction of everyday life, since Beaver's parents were way too calm and collected whenever Beaver transgressed. Not at all like real people. But seriously, parents back in those days didn't feel as compelled to get involved in their children's lives so much as they wanted the children involved in THEIR lives. Especially in a farming community like the one I lived in. If there wasn't work to be done parents were prone to tell their children to go outside and play, and don't come back home until supper time! There was just a lot less trouble for kids to get into in those days too, as far as crime, degeneracy, drugs, porn, sex, multicultural vibrancy and so on went. A lot less need for direct, eyes on, parental supervision. Fewer divorces and broken homes, so less disagreement on child rearing philosophy. Parents were encouraged to be authoritarian; white people believed in corporal punishment back then. There were just a lot fewer people in the community who wanted to lead your children astray and undermine parents’ authority (especially the father's authority as head of household). Fewer bureaucrats and other busybodies (invariably childless themselves) to second guess you and tell you your business as a parent. Consequently children were NOT anywhere near as high maintenance as they are today. Which encouraged people to want to have more. Plus before oral contraceptives became available it was harder, less convenient, to prevent pregnancy in the LITB days. So yeah, I don't see any cookbook solutions to the problems that vex parents today, especially divorced fathers with young children. Whatever you do to remedy an adverse situation it's just going to be a struggle. Unless and until we can all get the SJWs out of our collective hair. The funny thing is that when high graphic video games like XBox and Play Station first came on the scene in the 1990's I actually went and bought some as a rainy day activity for my kids. Then I forced them to play with me. The kids didn't consider me a worthy adversary in 'Streetfighter' (too fumble-fingered), but I held my own in other games.
PRMarch 22, 2018 2:55 AM UTC

Throw out the vidya games.
MannyMarch 21, 2018 2:25 PM UTC

This is a very common problem these days. You can try to find an IRL activity that might dovetail with his video game choices. If he’s into shooting games, maybe take him to a shooting range, gun show, or paintball. If he’s into war or strategy games maybe take him to some real battlefields. Take him to a racetrack or car show if he likes driving games. It is remarkable how little outdoor activities young kids have today as opposed to us old farts. A few years ago I remember seeing these groups of young kids out on their bikes and was really happy until I learned they were playing Pokémon go.
crackerMarch 21, 2018 12:36 PM UTC

Not trying to be mean here but who runs the show, brother, you or a 9 year old BOY? Take him to places you want him to go, don't give him choice, take him. Leave the iphone and video junk at home. Go fishing, hike, hunt, shoot guns and bows, drive gocarts, paddle canoes; do stuff that excites a man. Do physical stuff, do stuff that makes you sweat but leaves you with a feeling of having done something when you finish. Do stuff that makes his muscles hurt but that'll let him know he has muscle and as he grows he'll feel his strength and power increase. At first he may buck you but be tough and wake up the man in him.
Bruno DDiasMarch 20, 2018 9:06 PM UTC

I would love to hear you advice for that James, because, even with 25 years old, i still, some times, struggle with the decision of playing video games, or go out and do physical activities.
responds:March 21, 2018 2:08 PM UTC

throw the video games away. My oldest son still plays the occasional video game and my youngest son tossed them at 16 on his own initiative and he makes more than my oldest son and I combined. So even if you buy into this current civilization built around electronic diversion you are still better off not partaking. Throw your TV in the trash too.
TweetWivMeMarch 20, 2018 1:46 PM UTC

Man this is a sad read.
responds:March 21, 2018 2:11 PM UTC

Indeed. Paul told me this as he sat on the carpet of Megan's apartment as we played with her granddaughter and the ease of engaging tis 2-year-old girl in mini rug sports brought to him the thoughts of his son.

The comments from readers on this are so good I'm going to copy them all into the book this is going into, titled Why Grownups Suck.
Utter ContemptMarch 19, 2018 11:24 PM UTC

I too was more active as a kid, was outdoors more with other kids, but even in the upscale area where we live there are now house-casings, car break-ins, a few years back there was a home invasion and just last week some pervert tried to drag a kid walking home from school into a van, the second time this has happened in three years. So inevitably the boys are getting a ton of screen time, and time outdoors is all supervised. All his friends are on the damn X-Box anyhow, so the world is the problem, not the boy himself. Ultimately you have to use the video games as leverage. Don't get huffy or disapproving, just be firm and say, you're going to jiu-jitsu, or soccer, or whatever—-you're going or else no video games the rest of the week. Make the punishments you threaten mild enough that he tries to negotiate instead of withdrawing. And again, don't get upset with him, let him have a tantrum if necessary, but be firm and make clear there are consequences for refusal and rewards for cooperation. The reward will have to be video games, but if he feels he's getting some slack you can set time limits. I make my eldest son (10 years old) read out loud to me, Bible, Marcus Aurelius, D'aulaire's Greek Mythology. When he realized that he had no choice, and that he'd be punished if he got pouty or read poorly, he got into it and started asking questions. Sometimes we do t even finish our reading, he just asks a question and then it leads to conversation and more questions. Every kid has a ton of questions, and that's one way to draw them out.
JoeFourMarch 19, 2018 10:21 PM UTC

..and where is this world's all consuming love of technology leading us? ... is this progress and, therefore, good? ... or is this an ill-considered transforming of humanity into something less ... much less ... than we were initially created to be ...
PRMarch 19, 2018 9:15 PM UTC

Move back in and throw it in the trash. Or tell your wife to throw it in the trash. I highly recommend John Rosemond's parenting books.
JoeFourMarch 19, 2018 5:43 PM UTC

Well...tough situation...but I'd suggest you can't negotiate or reason with a nine year old...take the phone or device away before an extended fishing/camping/hiking trip to the him the real world versus the imaginary fake one he's trapped in now...and...good luck!
ShepMarch 19, 2018 5:20 PM UTC

Paul, this book by Jocko Willink may give you some ideas.

There is a good chance that Mother Nature will help you out around age 12 or 13 when the big adolescent hormone dump arrives. Personally, I did a 180 degree turnaround at that time myself. Until then just try to get him involved at whatever level in workouts and nature hikes with you.

Those video games should not be accessible to kids, for the reasons you expressed. Try to wean him off them, or minimize them as best you can. Again, this book may give you some tips.

This is the most important job of your life.

Tony CoxMarch 19, 2018 3:06 PM UTC

I’m a 40 year old divorced guy with 2 sons. 7 and 9. I had to figure this shit out too. If the mom will let you take the kids whenever you want, take em as much as possible. Ask him about the games he plays. Try to find a real life substitute. I used some old soup cans and three baseballs, started making up carnie games for the kids, mimicking the video game they were playing.

I told my kids that playing too many video games will make them stupid, and adults who play them are losers. I really do believe they cause damage to a devoloping brain. As long as you’re not living in extreme poverty, it shouldn’t be hard to find something else that engages him. Take him to a park, make him go. If he has unlimited access to video games at mom’s house, don’t let him have ANY at your place. Camping. Fishing. Lifting weights. Get some boxing gloves and teach him how to defend himself. My 2 boys lift weights and then box each other for an hour a day. We play chess. Board games. I still give em about an hour a day playing video games, just so I can cook dinner.

The thing is, it’s so easy and lazy to just throw them a tablet or stick em in front of the TV, but that’s the last thing you want to do.

Don’t give up on the kid. Maybe he ain’t suited to sports. Try sittting down and making a comic book. An electric guitar and amp can be had for 100$. Once he’s off the games, he’ll start finding other stuff that interests him.