Wednesday, July 18, 2012

[Weekly Words on Women] Raising Kids in A Gamer Environment

I'm a mom. I've made no bones about it, but I don't talk about the act of raising my kids, or how my home life works much. I'm just not a "mommy blogger" and have no desire to be one.

BLECH. No thank you. 

The main reason is that I exist outside of my kids. I am a whole person, and not just "so-and-so'smommy". I have this crazy idea that someday they will move out and be independent people, and for them to do that, *I* have to be a person for them to learn from.

A few of my readers know that I've been in the gaming community since I was 12.
I was introduced to games and gaming by my dad, who is also a gamer. I've spent pretty much my entire years outside of childhood as a gaming person, and it's definitely influenced me in some very interesting ways.

As much as I love my dad, he really didn't do a lot of raising me. I did a lot of raising myself. Part of that was because I didn't start living with him until later in life, and he didn't know what "made me tick"; and part of it was that I was just wired that way. Being introduced to the local geek community while I was still "raising myself" meant that the guys in the gaming club had a hand in how I turned out.

I learned that just because something is make believe or fantasy doesn't mean you always get what you want. I learned that RPGs are cooperative and that learning to  collaborate is a good idea. I learned a lot about social graces and how to talk in an environment of men. I learned how to properly measure for moving miniatures.

One of these might have been cool.

I met TheDude when I was 12. I met him on the first night I went to the game club, but I wasn't really impressed. I actually didn't like him very much for the first year or so that I knew him. It happened slowly over time that we grew to be good friends. We were friends for several years and then started dating. We were both really young when we got married, and we had 2 kids before I was 24.

When it came to raising our kids, I knew raising them around gamers was going to be a given. I game. TheDude games. My brother and his wife game. My dad games. All our friends game.

Raising kids is tough enough from my perspective as a mom. When you add in the mix of some of the typical gamer traits I've seen at the table, I had a whole different level of things to consider as I taught my children about the world.

Each kid had different considerations, because they are very different people. To me, this is an obvious and important issue to keep in mind. I've seen mothers who lose sight of this in some crazy attempt to make everything "even" and "fair"; but me, I understand far too well that kids need to be treated like people; just people that aren't done growing up yet.

My son had a firm desire to game, and a strong understanding of mechanics from a very early age. Pretty much every game he has laid his hands on, he has figured out. It's the social niceties that he is lacking on at times, with subtleties and conventions moving just outside his peripheral vision.

My daughter is still unsure about gaming; and rules baffle her quite often. However, she adores the social nature of the gaming crowd, and enjoys participating in the ebb and flow of the laughter, conversations and general frivolity that our group generates.

While she's tuned into interactions she's involved in, the ones around her often elude her entirely. As a somewhat naive teenager, she often misses clues that I catch. I've had an occasion or two where someone has shown her just a little too much interest or paid attention to her a little too hard, and I've had to be vigilant on her behalf.

Teaching my kids the ins and outs of how our gaming culture works has been challenging and enlightening. I have worked hard to raise these interesting people to be good additions to any group, all while knowing that they have to do most of the work themselves.

Being a mom is fraught with all kinds of society directed baggage- and I've refused to let my being a parent mold my choices in life. That doesn't mean my moral decisions aren't guided by the influence of children in my life; it just means that like everything I do, I consider what is best for my family at the time and decide accordingly.

Taking kids to conventions, or game stores, or playing games at home- all of these choices are dependent on the parent and the kid involved; and may change according to circumstance or timing. All those choices are a lot to deal with, along with how and when to introduce my kids to the local scene.

Being a mom is uniquely a female endeavor, and being female means a lot of expectations  about motherhood. I've tried not to let too many of them get me down, but some of them are pretty heavy. The only ones that matter are the ones my husband and children set, and working to meet them is a challenge and a privilege. Sometimes being a lady is pretty neat. 


  1. My childhood was similar regarding raising myself and I wouldn't have had it any other way if given the choice. It really gives you a unique perspective on things.

    I'd like to think that if I were a parent I'd would do the same as you, Lo. You seem to be an incredible parent who understands her children, which I honestly find to be quite rare.

    1. It's far too easy and common to lose sight of the fact that these people are not extensions of yourself- they are people; with feelings and interests. I try hard to get to know that and respect that with each of them.

  2. I've got three children, all girls, 3,2, and 9 months. Having children is a game changer, I've never been involved in anything so challenging, exciting and rewarding before.

    Trying to find time to paint, socialise with other gamers, blog and even play games from time to time is a real nightmare!

    What do you mean when you say that some of the expectations can get you down?

  3. I think it's great that you still try to be "you" and not just mommy. You're absolutely right that the kids are using you and TheDude as their role models. It's a balance I hope to find when TheWife and I are finally at that point in our lives.

    But also, I had a lot of "me" time too when I was younger.. hence my interest in the fantastical, creating, painting, but (contradictorily) also the order from computers, programming and such.

    You also seem to be the mom that still lets her kids be who they are... I don't imagine I'd see your family in one of the photos that floats around the 'net at times where the parents are dressed up at a con and their kid, also in costume, looks like he wants to die.

    Funny too, when TheWife and I first met, she too wasn't a fan of my shenanigans... I was the jerk Warlock with the PVP and DPS... but to be fair, she was the Mage who liked to AOE elites and get the party wiped. Things change.

    1. Yes, things do change. My son is a whole lot like TheDude in personality; and there's definitely stark reminders of what he was like when I met him. Sometimes it's a good thing, and other times I have to wonder how I married the man => But I am glad I did.

  4. Lo, in reference to other peoples expectations-don't let the bastards grind you down!
    Everybody has an opinion on everything to do with parenting. The vast majority of these 'opinions' are heavily biased by each persons own ideals and experiences. As long as your kids are alive and healthy come 18, you've done a good job.

    It's interesting how you were surrounded by hobby when you were young. By contrast my dad was a farmer and mechanic and we were always having to do some boring labour or other for him so wargaming became my escape, my 'me' time. Funny how we all end up doing this stuff regardless of our different ways into the scene, innit!

    1. For women, those expectations are exceptionally heavy and it's HARD not to take them seriously. I just keep doing what is right for me and my kids; but there is a butt ton of judgement and crap over those choices.

    2. Hey Lo,
      Well I don't envy you having to take all that on the chin, and without some expensive surgery I'll never be able to know what it's like for mum's to put up with it! (I think this would result in my upcoming marriage being called off though, so I can't envision it happening)
      However,I guess I was just trying to say, well, there's plenty of people who understand that YOU know best when making decisions about your clan but are too quiet n shy to stand up and say it.
      We have a saying in Grimsby (uk)where I come from- 'We. Piss. On Your Fish!'- Hopefully thinking of that might cheer you up!

  5. You exist outside of your kids?! A whole person?! God what a novel concept. I can't tell you how sick i am of the "parenthood is all consuming and all wonderful" archetype i run into with so many other parents. Even people i have known for years suddenly start saying vapid things like "I love everything about being a parent" or "its my life and my hobby". BARF! Grow up. I like being a dad teaching my kid cool things but being a parent to me is all the hard stuff and its really not fun and i do maintain a life outside of my kid too so i don't start to sound like those weird parent type cultists i once knew as people. Also, don't worry we're all screwing our kids up one way or another but they have each other to prey on - uh, lean on i meant lean on....