I watch less TV, play fewer games, and choose movies, games and TV shows with purpose instead of "whatever's available." I rationalize that I work all day, I am a busy parent, and I'm too tired to do more than stare at a screen once I'm done with responsibilities. I deserve down time.
But who the hell am I fooling? Well, me. My brain may not be developing at the same rate as my daughter's, but it can still be stimulated to get stronger, with better memory, improved vocabulary, and, frankly, reading is good for writers. So my "I deserve more media time" rationalization is dead. Letting my brain rot is not a reward.
No time? That's total crap as well, because adults have less free time than kids, and we have to portion it carefully. Quit gaming and media? Heh. Well, would I be writing for The Escapist if I thought that was a viable possibility? They'll pry my games from my hands when the revolution comes and the grid is destroyed, and even then I'm packing my dice when I go.
The thing I'm discovering, uncomfortably, is that a lot of the rules that we impose on our kids are forgotten by adults. We tell them to "share" and rarely do it ourselves. (I've seen buffets with blatant "No Sharing" signs. I understand their message, but the five year old inside of me says, "That's not what my mom said!") We say "respect others" and then scream out obscenities in traffic. We think these rules shouldn't apply to us, because we're adults, but, a lot of the time, that thinking is actually six-year-old logic, stamping our feet and saying, "When I grow up, I'm gonna do what I want."
One thing that I see my daughter doing - which I don't do - is plan her media time shrewdly. She knows what she wants, whether it's DS time, TV time, or whatever. She wakes up with a Plan, while I'll just flip the TV on or waffle between PS3 and Netflix, or even wonder how long I should wait after she goes to bed before I can start up Dragon Age (with the gore turned on). When your media time is limited, you make the most of it. I wonder if I'd get more out of my TV and gaming time if I carefully rationed it, enjoying what I have, while taking care not to gorge myself and end the day drooling, with my brain on neutral.
I love gaming and TV; that much, I hope, is obvious. I also think that games, at least, can scratch parts of your brain that don't get a lot of workout otherwise. But countless studies have shown that reading improves your mind, your memory retention, your vocabulary, and calms you down. I'm sure I sleep better after reading than after dueling with Pokémons. Apparently this "reading" stuff is good for more than just kids. And I am becoming aware that if I'm going to impose media restrictions on my daughter, perhaps I ought to figure out why I'm imposing them. If I think they're a good idea for her, then why aren't they a good idea for me, too?
Mur Lafferty is the host of the podcast I Should Be Writing, and editor of Escape Pod magazine. She's the author of Playing For Keeps, and is a proud slayer of the Broodmother in Dragon Age, which her daughter calls "the ugly guy with boobs."