The 10 year old is an avid member of Club Penguin. Think Runescape or The Sims for kids. They make up a name and personality and walk around the Club Penguin landscape with an avatar in the shape of, well, a penguin. This is fine with me — I get a car or two washed each month in payment for the monthly membership fee, and he gets to play games online in a safe environment. I use it as part of a reward system for finishing chores and homework, as well.
According to the site, he has had his account for over 1400 days. Being a homeschooler, I may assign him a math problem on Monday and have him convert that to years for us, then come back and update this post, but at the moment I’m suffering from a That-Wasn’t-Decaf-After-All-Last-Night hangover, so I’m not going to attempt it myself.
It’s been a while, though, I do know that. The reason I know this is that when we set it up, we set his “chat” capability to “Ultimate Safe,” which means that he has only been able to choose from a list of canned phrases when chatting with other penguins on the site. When he was 7, this was a great idea, if only for the reason that his mother has a reputation as a Spelling Cop. The temptation to read over his shoulder and correct his spelling would have been too great. At any rate, that’s how the account was set up, and although he has become perfectly capable of handling a chat session in a safe environment like Club Penguin, that’s how it has stayed, for the simple reason that I haven’t been able to figure out how to change it.
Today he bumped into one of his best friends on Club Penguin and was once again frustrated that he couldn’t chat. This friend lives in another country and the boys only see each other when his family comes to LA to visit a couple of times a year. It was one of those “so close and yet so far” scenarios, and hit enough of a chord with my own heart, missing the boy’s mother, that I became determined to figure out the ever-elusive Changing of The Account Settings.
At last I was successful, and the 10 year old logged into the site, cackling with glee and excitement. I know this because he was sitting on my lap at the time. Now, he’s only an inch away from passing me up in height, well past the lap-sitting size, so you must understand that this wasn’t a precious mother/son moment. It was simply the result of the fact that he was so impatient to get on, he didn’t wait for me to vacate the chair.
I gently convinced him to use another computer (read: catapulted him off my lap into the couch and glared at him until he left the room) and let him have some fun exploring the site with his newfound voice, pleased that I was finally able to provide him with an expanded experience to go with his maturing years, confident that he would comport himself with appropriate behavior.
An hour later, I went in to tell him it was time to get off the computer, only to hear him reply,
“I can’t right now, Mom. I’m right in the middle of a date.”
They went to the Club Penguin virtual pizza parlor, they went to a virtual movie, and when I walked in the room, they were sitting on a virtual rock on an iceberg, looking at the virtual moon.
His older sisters are trolling Club Penguin as we speak, trying to track this penguin down so they can scare her away. His older brother responded with a fist-bump.
His father and I are responding with an appropriate level of parental affection. We’re changing that puppy back to Ultimate Safe so fast his head is going to spin. Pretty sure we’re going to keep it that way until he’s 21.