virtual children by Scott Warnock

The silence of the Warnocks

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So I come home from work early and my little guy is playing video games again. Again. I go right into the usual bawling about how he plays video games too much and my wife although she states her agreement with me again — again! — comes up with the excuse this time that I only saw the video game-playing because I came home early. That line of logic – if I came home later that would have meant he’d been on it longer! — drives me to rage.

Blah blah blah, I say. Video games are terrible (this two days after I blogged about video games having the possible upside of replacing drug addiction). Argh argh argh. Why doesn’t anyone listen to me? Grr grr grr. How come we never get anywhere around here? You look at Facebook too much. You never finished painting the porch in 2007. It goes like that.

I’m on fire, but I know – I haven’t forgotten the strategies – that it’s not good for me or the whole domestic scene, even though my son hasn’t budged from the couch and is oblivious, sitting there with his head phones on thinking probably what a great life and family he has because he gets to play video games all the time.

Strategies. I have ‘em but can’t think of a great one now so I move from rage to apoplexy and then I go to the other bag of strategic relationship tricks and wrench out the silent treatment.

It’s tough because I like to talk, but that’s the route I’m going and there’s no stopping it now. I click off like a TV, my screen of self collapses inward, and I go upstairs and get changed. I come down and don’t say a word to her. No eye contact to boot. I eat a sullen meal of leftovers and go out to do some coaching.

When I get back I avoid her, and I interact a little too chipperly with the kids and then it’s off to bed. No touching, not even toesies.

The morning comes, and I eat breakfast and go to work. Interesting stuff happens at work, but she’s not getting none of it when I get home. I eat another sullen meal. The kids appear in the kitchen at intervals to drink all the milk, but they’re absorbed in their own thoughts and then she’s out of the kitchen and out in the neighborhood with the dog, which/who she likes better than me anyway.

Another nighttime. Then another breakfast. She’s puttering around making some gourmet breakfast for herself — or maybe the dog! — while I get cereal again but I’m not voicing concerns this time.

The kids bump in and pack up and are out the door, full of waffles and coffee.

Is this unhealthy relationship modeling for the children? Maybe. But they’re all teenagers and don’t notice. The boys pay scant attention to anything, especially in the morning — I feel like I could be literally on fire and they’d grab their backpacks and go — and if it doesn’t jingle like lucre, my daughter’s oblivious.

Seriously, they don’t know what’s going on.

That night, I feel she’s learned her lesson. I offer a few words about the train ride home. That turns into a conversation. We decide a few things…

All is well in the world.

But is it? Nothing is resolved or improved. The next incident looms.

A day later, I overcome reluctance and relationship inertia and decide I want this figured out. I say to her, with gravity, “So, are you ever going to ask me why I was giving you the silent treatment?”

She turns from her self-gourmet dinner preparations and says, “I was wondering when you were going to ask ME why I was giving YOU the silent treatment.”

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.

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8 Responses to “The silence of the Warnocks”

  1. And thus, the secret to a long happy marriage.

    I’d like to hear more about self-gourmet meals and sullen leftovers.

  2. Touché!

  3. Touch’e!!!!!!!!

  4. I like Little Prue better too ?

  5. Coming at this from a slightly different but apparently more intense angle I was googling Carolyn Hax and “the silent treatment” this morning.
    Just the phrase gives me pause now.

  6. Omg you guys crack me up!! I love walking my dog as well!!!

  7. What a great last line!

  8. This coming from a man who for the last 37 years has played a mock super bowl with the old vibrating football game. You know the one, guys spin in circles until another player bumps into them. It’s really a sad game, video games are so intense and make you focus on soo many different gauges, life support and weapons. They are the modern version of chess just much more graphic.

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