DEAR AMY: My husband and my father are both video gamers. A new version of their favorite game just came out, and I became aware that it is rated M-Mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
The two men believe it is perfectly acceptable for our 6- and 4-year-old boys to watch and play this game. I equate an M rating as equivalent to watching an R-rated movie and am insistent that the boys cannot watch or play this game. They are arguing that the kids have played previous versions, also rated M (unbeknownst to me), therefore no harm is being done.
I am being accused of overreacting and being controlling. The kids are also now angry at me for pulling the plug.
Am I overreacting? Should I allow "limited" playing?
— Unplugged Mom
DEAR UNPLUGGED: Did your husband and your father start their recreational lives as very young children playing violent video games intended for adults? I'm going to guess not.
I presume that when they were children these older men exercised their imaginations and bodies the old-fashioned way — out in the backyard. And don't they want the same for these kids?
I completely agree with you. Your children are way too young to play (or watch others play) these games. It would be great if your kids had a dad and granddad who cared enough about them to get off the couch and take them outside to engage in play that is truly interactive.
The number of letters I receive from parents of teens and young adults (mostly male, frankly), anguished over the hours, money and effort spent on video gaming would persuade any parent to delay this activity — or at least offer younger children something in the realm of appropriate.
These two grown men basically co-opting the kiddies in order to do battle with you is also an example of adolescent gamesmanship. The kids should be left entirely out of this while the adults hash things out.
For more information on the Entertainment Software Rating Board's rating system (including very helpful tips on how families can discuss this important issue), check ESRB.org.
DEAR AMY: A good friend of mine has been unemployed/underemployed for a couple of years. We've fallen into the pattern where she comes over to my house for dinner and a movie. I'm happy to cook to avoid higher delivery/takeout costs.
The thing is, I've started getting a little annoyed with the situation. She never brings anything or offers to bring anything. She doesn't offer to help cook or help clean up. I'm starting to feel more like a soup kitchen and less like a friend.
How can I turn this pattern around so that I don't feel taken advantage of?
DEAR FORLORN: You are correct to see this as a pattern that could be turned around. And it's best to be optimistic — at least until your friend breaks your spirit by proving otherwise.
She is not stepping up. Stepping up costs nothing, other than a little effort. But you need to make some effort too. Take the leap and lay down some clarity.
Tell her, "I love our dinners at home, but I need you to step up. Can you bring drinks or bread or vegetables for a salad?" After your meal — while she is enjoying her coffee (as you tidy up) say, "I'll get the dishes done faster if you help."
If she doesn't hop up, you can channel Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada": "No, no — that wasn't a question ..."
DEAR AMY: I received an invitation from my stepdaughter's daughter who will be having a party for a "commitment." I guess that means that she and her boyfriend have decided to live together. Do I need to send in a gift?
Please let me know — what is the proper etiquette on this new trend?
DEAR CONFUSED: I think of "commitment parties" as being celebrations for same-sex unions, but this sounds more like a housewarming.
If these two are celebrating making a home together, then it would be thoughtful to send (or bring) a gift. They may even be registered somewhere. It's OK to ask.
Send questions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.