Page after page of charges from Google, more specifically, BACKFLIPSTUDIO and MOBIGAME. What the fudge* was going on? Had some astronaut* stolen my credit card information again?
(* see endnotes)
The charges ranged from a low of $4.97 to a high of $24.97; frequently, there were four or five transactions the same day. I tallied them up on my trusty calculator.
805 fudging* dollars??????
Let's just revisit that staggering number again -
805 fudging* dollars
Seeing red here...
805 FUDGING* DOLLARS!!!!!!!!
I was pretty certain I knew who was responsible, but I needed confirmation so I googled "Backflip".
I had spawned a kid criminal. What's that saying about the apple not falling far from the tree?
Nathanimal, that little astronaut*, had been using again. Let me rephrase. Nathanimal, that asinine astronaut*, had been using his father's credit card for a virtual spending spree.
Why, you wonder, was he using his father's card?
BECAUSE I WOULD NEVER BE DENSE ENOUGH TO PROVIDE AN ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD ACCESS TO MY CREDIT CARD.
In fact, - if you're reading this, dear husband, I am not sorry for what I am about to say, and you've already heard it anyway - I believe I busted several veins in my forehead in 2013 when the dynamic duo engaged in their first online debacle.
But now, I seethed as only a true DRAGON LADY could, aggravated by my child, irritated by my husband and peeved by the inane Jabba and Oscar mashup in the centre of the Dragonvale logo:
I was feeling like I was about to go Jabba on Nath.
You wouldn't even believe what just happened while I was writing this. The child came into my office and asked me to google Blue Spawn Godslayer.
I had no words. I stared him down using my best mean face - take that, sucka! -
and he backed away, hangdog look on his face.
But then I was curious about the BSG (sounds like a new offering from Roald Dahl, but it's not). What the eff is it? I googled "Blue Spawn Godslayer", and was directed to the D & D website, where I read this excerpt from the Monster Manual:
An enormous blue-scaled creature lumbers into view bearing a huge sword and bearing a dragon skull as a shield. Its head looks something like that of a blue dragon, and as it gnashes its teeth and bangs its sword against its shield, electricity sparks from its mouth and weapon.
Bluespawn Godslayer CR 10
Usually LE Huge monstrous humanoid (dragonblood)
Init -2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +2, Spot +3
AC 23, touch 6, flat-footed 23
(-2 size, -2 Dex, +2 shield, +15 natural)
hp 138 (12 HD); DR 10/chaotic
Immune electricity, paralysis, sleepSR 20
Fort +11, Ref +6, Will +8
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee +2 bastard sword +23/+18/+13 (3d8+12/17-20 plus 2d6 electricity) and
bite +15 (2d6+5 plus 2d6 electricity)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Base Atk +12; Grp +30
Atk Options Awesome Blow, Improved Bull Rush, Power Attack, dragon slayer, outsider slayer
Abilities Str 30, Dex 6, Con 25, Int 8, Wis 11, Cha 10
Feats Awesome Blow, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Critical (bastard sword), Power Attack, Weapon Focus (bastard sword)
Bluespawn godslayers live for one purpose: to slay Tiamat's enemies. They delight in combat and take pride in their expertise with weapons. Godslayers guard the lairs of blue dragons and seek out and slaughter good dragons.
Oh of course. How could I be so stupid? The BSG is an enormous, blue-scaled, dragon-slaying beast. The child has no shame. I am laughing at the BSG's bastard sword though. I've gotta get myself one of those, stat.
Let me get back to my post proper.
When my darling, dragon-obsessed boy arrived home from school that day, and I presented him with the pernicious credit card statement, Nathoon-baboon suffered a complete and utter breakdown: "DAD'S GONNA KILL ME! DAD'S GONNA KILL ME! DAD'S GONNA KILL ME!," this litany of anxiety accompanied by hysterical bawling and sputtering.
I am not going to lie. I enjoyed this little scene. :-)
Payback's hell, kid.
Nath wasn't the only one who was up shingle* creek. My husband was the enabler; he might as well have given Nath his very own Mastercard. I showed my brilliant husband the credit card bill (while smiling a bit of a smug smile). My husband might have looked a bit like this:
(That still is from a Twisted Sister video, in case you were wondering).
I will not tell you about the caterwauling, cursing, and begging and pleading that transpired. I will also not tell you about the ensuing battle between:
1) my husband and I versus Nathaniel (What the hell were you thinking? Don't lie to me! You knew EXACTLY what you were doing!)
2) me versus my husband (Are you retarded? Who gives an eleven-year-old a credit card?)
3) me versus my husband and my child (You're both morons!)
To make a long, heinous story short, I grounded the kid criminal from screens for two months, and withdrew all the money from his bank account.
Because Nath was vid-addled, he suffered from withdrawal symptoms. This meant that I also suffered mightily. There may have been some rocking in the fetal position from both of us.
Here are Nathaniel's five stages of (not being allowed to play video games) grief, à la Elisabeth Kubler Ross:
1) DENIAL - laughing interspersed with wailing. Hahahahaahahh!! I don't need Mindcraft. Hahahahah. I don't care. Waaaaaaaaaahhh! Two months? waaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!! Are you crazy?
2) ANGER - You are so mean! You never let me have any fun! I am not talking to you anymore!
3) BARGAINING - If I clean my room, Mumma will let me back on!
4) DEPRESSION - There was a lot of laying around on the couch and floor. I'm bored, Mumma. What should I do, Mumma? He also buried his face in pillows and moaned pathetically.
5) ACCEPTANCE - Two months isn't forever**. I don't even like videogames**. **TOTAL LIE. He never actually said this.
He knew better than to bitch about boredom after I snapped at him twice - he was already up shingle's creek and didn't need to dig his paddle in further - but he definitely tried my patience (and I have very little to begin with). What was I going to do with this kid?
On the first p.d. day after the Dragonvale incident, I signed Nath up for a babysitting course. I didn't want to deal with him, and I was still pissed. At $50 for the course, which included pizza lunch and freedom from the hell of entertaining children for 7 hours, it was a no-brainer. Nath returned from his course, certificate in hand, ready to conquer the child-minding world.
His first gig was that weekend. He looked after a neighbour's two sons during daylight hours. He was elated. He had cash in his hand, he had something to do, and he was away from Dragonlady's talons and piercing cry. He was hired to babysit several times that week, and then he found other activities to occupy his time, like Magic The Gathering:
Magic - a complex card game with many rules- is Nathanimal's new obsession. He is constantly sorting his cards, assembling new decks and dreaming of Friday night, which is when he spends his babysitting coin at Magic tournaments. I am thrilled with this pursuit. It gets my boy out of the house and interacting with actual human beings - let's hear it for eye contact! - and the game is an intellectually invigorating pursuit.
When Nathaniel wasn't playing Magic, he was reading. The library became special again. Nathaniel read at an early age, and read voraciously. Once he was exposed to the world of online games, his interest in books waned. I was dismayed. When the screens were no longer available to him, !kapow!, just like that, he picked up books again. I cheered long and loudly.
Besides the rejuvenated interest in Magic and reading, there was something even better that I noticed. The boy actually exited the house - he's going outside? - to shoot hoops and kick the soccer ball around.
Physical activity? YES!
Very sadly, this is something that is missing from the majority of eleven-year-old boys' daily regimens unless they are in organized sports, and it is definitely to their detriment.
I am not pro-fat, so my kids are enrolled in soccer in the summer, and soccer and skiing in the winter. We also keep fit by swimming, cycling, walking the dogs, running, jumping on the trampo, and cleaning our own home (gasp!). I could devote an entire blog entry on why it's vital for kids to have chores and participate in home cleaning, gardening and cooking but I'll write that another day.
While the renewed interest in athletics made me turn cartwheels, the best thing that happened, post-apocalypse, is that my child is a kinder, more peaceful human being to me, to others and to himself. We chat more, we play more board games like we used to, and we certainly have a better connection. Win-win.
Prior to the blackout, Nathaniel was pure evil whenever he played vid, which was most of his waking hours. He would shoot me a look of pure hatred if I dared to interrupt his precious screen time, and I thought that maybe if I increased his time (yes, bad Mum of the year here), he might be more inclined to listen to me. How dumb is that? BIG FAT HA! This increase just made him pissier, and it made our problem even worse.
When Nathaniel wasn't doing homework, eating, sleeping, or shitting (Damn. I failed at not swearing. I can't do it. Those asterisks * at the beginning of the post denote my attempt to clean up my potty mouth by using euphemisms).
As I was saying, when Nathaniel wasn't doing homework, eating, sleeping, or shitting, he would slink into the basement to play horrifically violent games (that he was introduced to at a friend's house - sounding completely judgmental and bitchy here, but so what). I was horrified when I saw him playing this:
I am the first person to rail against conservative, lemming-like Old Boy traditions, and the burbs and Stepford, but even I couldn't bear to see Nath as a first person shooter* mowing down women and children, in addition to his camouflage-clad opponents. It smacked of Columbine.
(from Wikipedia: *First-person shooter (FPS) is a video game genre centered on gun and projectile weapon-based combat through a first-person perspective; that is, the player experiences the action through the eyes of the protagonist).
I was furious with myself. How had I let my child become a snarky, vitriolic reprobate? I removed the game system and all of the violent games from the basement. Problem solved. Of course, Nathaniel is still exposed to such games when he visits some of his friends. I am not sure how to navigate this stormy sea. I think that some of my friends and acquaintances have given up on their children, recognizing technology's steadfast grip and feeling powerless to try to change that, but I refuse to give up on my son. I will set limits, and I will stick to them even if it makes me a killjoy. He'll thank me in the long run. Who am I kidding? No he won't.
Nathaniel, thank you for being a kid criminal and a vid addict. Thank you for spending all that cash on that stupid Dragonvale game. Thank you for using your Dad's card (we got it all the $ back, by the way, but Nathaniel doesn't know that ;-)
It was the best thing that could have happened to our family.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go play Candy Crush.
Optional music pairing Twisted Sister's We're Not Gonna Take It
* in an effort to clean up my potty mouth, I have decided to censor my filthy tongue. Henceforth, fuck, shit and ass shall be referred to as fudge, shingles and astronaut.