Whatever your favorite hobby is– music, hiking, travel, cooking, etc– if you become a parent, you probably hope your kids will share it with you, or at least be interested in it. Perhaps you dream of practicing instruments together for their orchestra or band class, or dancing together to get ready for that upcoming talent show. Maybe you long for them to be old enough to help you get dinner ready, or to go on bike rides with them, or to shoot some hoops after school.
As a young(ish) mom with a newly minted two year old, I have many hopes and dreams for BabyGMR. One’s inherent in the nickname, isn’t it? I hope she’s a gamer. I want to play a bunch of the classic video games with her, I want to see what sorts of games she likes when she gets older. I want to sit around a table and help her write her first D&D character. I’m not a huge board game person, but I’m even looking forward to Monopoly!
I want to teach her how to play games, how to be a gracious winner (or loser), how to make sure the game, whatever it is, is fun for everyone. I’ll probably discourage trash talk, especially when she’s young, but I’m sure I’ll do that parent thing where I’m trying not to laugh my ass off the first time she tries, because it’s awesome but I’m not supposed to encourage it.
I imagine most people would warn you that gaming is one of those habits that you should be careful with. That is to say, limit. After all, video games are typically rather sedentary, and if you’re the sort of person who tends to snack in front of the TV or computer, that could also be a problem. It is, after all, easy to eat more than you intended or food that is not so much healthy as fast or convenient if you’re absorbed by what you’re doing or watching.
We don’t really watch TV in our house, but computer time is common, and my husband and I aren’t really the hiking/soccer/family camping trips sort. So unless we’re vigilant . . . well, I hear people complain about their kids getting too much screen time more often than I hear them say their kids’ time is reasonably balanced.
I played sports as a kid, but only as much as was required of me, my preferred hobbies were always more cerebral than athletic. Although I played a lot of video games as a child, I am happy to report that my brain never rotted, despite the common concern. For me, video games were a springboard for imagination, and good hand-eye coordination practice to boot, as well as exercises in problem-solving, critical thinking, and even good sportsmanship.
Also, I logged plenty of outdoor play hours, and schoolwork hours too, enough to be a great student. The sorts of video games I preferred– mostly RPGs and story-heavy action/adventure– encouraged me to try my hand at drawing, writing stories, and lots of fiction reading. Too much screen time was never a problem for me growing up, and I don’t ever remember my mother telling me I had to stop playing my video game, unless it was for something like bedtime. I never got the “you’re neglecting your studies” or the “you don’t play outside enough” speeches. I got my work done. I played outside. And I played video games. The balance was natural for me.
But now I’m the mom, and the world is a much different place than it was when I was a kid. Social media wasn’t a thing. Google didn’t exist until I was almost done with high school. Computer work in school was something that happened maybe a couple of hours a week, if that much. It is way easier to get too much screen time now.
BabyGMR only just turned two, and I love to watch the way her personality is growing, what she’s interested in. She got a play kitchen for her birthday and she loves to combine her plastic foods into crazy little meals and present them to me for pretend consumption. She gathers all her stuffed animals, by name, onto her Hello Kitty couch-bed in my office and asks me to tuck them all in, carefully informing me which blanket I am to use.
And she plays video games with me.
She points to the screen and says “Mommy’s character.” Sometimes she calls my Final Fantasy XIV character by name, Micah. She is especially interested in which mount I am using to get around. I worked through many of the beast quests and meticulously gathered all the elemental horses so I could have lots of pretty mounts for her to choose from: a kirin with golden wings of light that erupt from its back when you ascend, a white bird that leaves a trail of bubbles as you fly, a red one that trails rose petals, a giant, whimsical white dandelion . . . and her favorite is the “sanuwa,” a big scaly snake-looking thing with a corkscrew tail and large maw full of sharp teeth. Huh.
I delighted my sister on a Skype call the other day when I pulled BabyGMR into my lap and asked her what my chocobo’s name was (for those who aren’t Final Fantasy fans, a chocobo is a giant bird that you can ride instead of a horse), and she correctly answered “Firion,” which is a Final Fantasy II reference, by the way. When I asked what chocobos say, she answered, “Wark, wark!” BabyGMR makes me hug every Moogle in the game I see, and knows they say, “Kupo kupo!”
If it’s weird that I feel like I’m doing well as a parent when she knows all that already, I don’t care. Final Fantasy is something I’ve always loved, and I’m ecstatic to see that BabyGMR cares about it. When she’s bored, she’ll say– quite clearly, she’s a great talker– “I don’t want to watch Micah anymore,” and then we go make a pretend mustard and lettuce sandwich or something, as she sings “glug glug” in a wobbly rising scale, pouring me an imaginary glass of chocolate milk.
I can hardly wait to play Dungeons and Dragons with her! I hope she wants to, someday. But I’ll try to be patient. It’s surprisingly fun to change my in-game mount every time I land it, or use the in-game emotes to hug the Moogles, something I’d never have thought to do without BabyGMR. She even likes to watch The Cartographers Guild stream, delighting over seeing Mommy and her aunties and uncles on the screen. Even if she doesn’t grow up to be a gamer, I’ll find all sorts of things to share with her that delight me, and enjoy her interest as long as it lasts.
Oh, and so far in my gaming adventures, it turns out that people are surprisingly tolerant of “baby aggro,” which is what you type to say your kid suddenly requires your attention. I don’t play dungeons or content with other people while she’s awake unless my husband is home– instead I solo quest, which I can walk away from at a moment’s notice– but the other day I needed a few minutes to soothe BabyGMR back to sleep when the gardeners came and started mowing the lawn during nap time because of course they’d show up during the only me-time I get during the day. My fellows were quite supportive and patient with me, which I quite appreciated.
Picture credit: Might need this shirt from TeePublic: https://www.teepublic.com/t-shirt/1526297-gamer-mom-d20-roll-initiative