So, here I am at the beach, trying to catch a few days of vacation before school responsibilities resume and ensconce me in a day of scintillating faculty orientation this Thursday. It’s a three-night “boys’ break,” just me and my son Samuel, and one of his friends.

Did I mention we’re at the beach? In fact, right on the beach?

Do the boys care?

Not so far. While I unpacked the groceries and made the beds on Sunday evening, picked up dinner and later took a nice walk on the beach, they were firmly planted in front of the TV, playing a video game on Samuel’s PS3, which often travels with him.

What good is fresh air and the sunset breeze in your face when you can be shooting bad guys in living color? Why plod through the sand for dull exercise when you can ride a horse through the desert on a great campaign? Why read a book when you can compete to beat your own record?

It’s easy to bemoan the boys’ interest in digital gaming rather than seaside playing, but also a bit unfair. I’m confident that if such a thing as a video game had existed when I was 13-14 years old, and my family could have afforded to own one, there’s no doubt I would have thought it the coolest thing ever, and I’d have been committed to conquering every level of every game that appealed to me. So, I try to be understanding when the only thing the youngsters want to exercise is their thumbs.

Nevertheless, when the Monday sun is high, they’ll be riding the waves on their boogie boards and getting their noses full of salt water, even if I have to appropriate a crucial cable from the game in order to make it happen.

In the meantime … wait, what’s that? The constant racket of the personal shooter game has gone quiet, and I can hear Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars drifting from the TV corner. Hey, boys — can the old man play?

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