January 2011: Your Kids

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 “We’re in a tower right now,” explains Sam Gorman, 15. Sam and his brother Max, 13, are showing me around what their mom, Susan, refers to as their “man cave.” High up in their Nelson County home, the room consists of video game paraphernalia, TV, computer and a funky green velvet couch propped up on stacks of books. 

Max Gorman, 13 (wearing hat), and his 15-year-old brother Sam, share a dedicated media room in an upper story of their house.

A row of vintage vinyl decorates the walls (Sam skimmed from dad Tim’s collection). Someone’s drawn on the wall behind the Mac (“Nostradamus” says the speech bubble above one of the creatures’ heads) and a painting of Sam’s is propped in a window. The painting not only adds to the decor, it also serves to block light. As Max explains, he’s had to rig up a pile of stuff to block the glare produced from the tower’s windows. It disrupts the video game action. 

The cool thing about this setup is that by having a designated place for all of the media-related activities the boys can more consciously decide what to do with their time. Of course, as they both admit, they do spend a lot of time up here in the cave.

Downstairs, Sam shows me his bedroom. Two longboard skate decks are hung like paintings on the green walls. In the opposite corner, three skateboards have been converted into shelves displaying Sam’s collection of Kid Robot figures. A closet affords storage for clothes and board games, a tall shelf houses books and miscellany. Scattered here and there is the requisite pile of (clean? dirty?) clothes and general teenage detritus. 

“I think I’ve got pretty good storage,” says Sam. “I mean, I’ve got too much stuff, is the problem.” 

Still, the bedroom lacks television, computer or stereo. It’s very much unplugged.

Down the hall in Max’s room, I find it difficult to navigate: stuff is everywhere. A space-themed mural, painted by his dad, decorates one of the blue walls and a re-painted Ikea dresser sits partially buried along another. A veritable arsenal of Nerf guns and other weaponry cover his bed. His method of cleaning his room, should he actually do it, is simple. “I normally just [group] stuff and find a bucket to put it in,” he explains. “I cleaned my room a while ago and then it just got out of hand.”

Despite the explosion of Star Wars figures, clothes and who-knows-what, again, electronic media are conspicuously absent.

In an age when keyboards have begun to replace paper and pens, when television shows act as bedtime stories, these teens are afforded the opportunity to retreat from the constant hum and buzz of electronics. With the help of a separate media space, plus two engaged and resourceful parents, these brothers get their screen time, but still have room to explore, play, and just be.

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