Confession: I’m not a very patient person and I can be a very poor listener. Parenting often takes copious amounts of patience and the listening skills of the most seasoned therapist. Beyond the simple maintenance issues of keeping a family fed, clothed, clean, groomed, organized, well rested, prepared, not sword fighting in the kitchen, etc. is the ceaseless demands of “watch me”- “play with me”- “listen to me”.
It requires attention. I can hardly believe how many hours I have devoted to just paying attention. And I want to be a patient listener…I want to be mentally present and a lot of times these are the best parenting moments. Just listening. But then there are all the things I’m forced to listen to including:
10. …and Minecraft.
Minecraft has become a bit of a problem. Between IKEA purchases and having Minecraft on a PC, handheld device, Xbox…not to mention Minecraft posters, books, t-shirts, magnets and a MINECRAFT nightlight that was gifted to us! we are very big supporters of Swedish exports.
A lot of the sharing from my daughter takes on the flavor of “So then she said this and then I said that and then he said that and then I said this and then she said that…can you even believe it?” I’m paraphrasing here but you get the gist. This is what much of the day consists of for her. I get it. (I mean…not always…but middle school is middle school and while I think some things about it has improved, it’s still like doing 3 years of hard time. That part hasn’t really changed in 30 years)
A lot of the sharing my sons do runs along the lines of, “So I was in creative mode and built this house which I could use if I switched it to survival mode because of the walls and I was thinking of buying a skin pack. Can I buy a skin pack? It might not be worth it but if I did, I could change Steve and make him look more like how I imagine him and then it would look so cool in my mod when the zombies come.” Um…what?
“Mom, come down here and watch me play Minecraft!”
I go. I go quickly. I mean…my sons are asking me to be part of what they are doing. I’m in. These opportunities seem rare. And so I watch them play this game for a bit with their mouths gaping open and their little fingers flying across the controllers and I really try to pay attention. I watch. I try not to wonder if is this really is training them to code? Or is it really training them to live in this exact basement when they are 35?
And 38 minutes later, they have done it. They have made a pixellated sheep move 10 virtual feet. They have spent 38 minutes of their lives and mine creating what looks to be a pretty sad little monochromatic Lego world. Great. I was present and they seem pleased to have me as their witness to this grand fake sheep accomplishment.
But then (this is the part that hurts me) they want to TALK about it. Oh God, help me…because when they utter more than 10 words on the subject of Minecraft, I feel a wave of exhaustion engulf me. It suddenly feels like 3am and I’ve eaten Thanksgiving dinner and had 3 glasses of wine and I’m wearing cozy pants and it’s a little warm in here and I’m reading the tax code…
Generally speaking, I think my sons are interesting people. One is more “existentialist interesting” and often causes me to ruminate on the bigger questions of life. The other son is more “he might actually join the circus someday” interesting. He is like watching a car crash…I’m often frightened but still can’t tear my attention away.
But they both talk “Minecraft” and my eyes glaze over and my heart rate slows and I have to fight to stay engaged. I have pinched my own leg HARD while they were talking about it to remind myself to throw in some “Mmm’s” and “Wow’s” when they looked at me expectantly.
I grew up with video games. I played Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man, Frogger, Donkey Kong, Pong…the classics. We had nearly every gaming system in existence during the 80’s. My brother was (is) an avid gamer. I just don’t remember EVER having a game that we felt was worth discussion. My brother never (to the best of my recollection) talked about Mario’s outfit or the layouts of level 5. When the console was off…it was over.
So what is it? Is it that modern kids spend so much time in virtual worlds that it has taken on more importance? Is it because they feel invested having made the world? How can the very game that has captivated these boys and much of the world be SO BORING to me? Or is it geared toward the male gender? I mean even if it were more relational (for me), I don’t think I care whether or not Steve starts dating Creeper and they move off the farm into the city.
I asked my son what he likes best about it. He paused for a long time and said, “I guess it’s just the excitement of survival.”
And that’s what I’m choosing to like about parenting today.
The excitement of survival.