Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Parenting, Minecraft Style

After handing the Kindle Fires over to Tommy and Charlotte, I settle down with the novel I have been nursing all summer.  We get comfortable in the Speech and Language Lab's waiting room, knowing it will be an hour and a half before Danny finishes with his group therapy.  Not for the first time this summer, I silently thank the powers that be for Minecraft, the only thing that will keep my two youngest quietly occupied for hours at a time.

I read only a page before a voice interrupts my blissful peace.

"How's your summer going?  We're keeping so busy," says Sara, mother to a boy in Danny's group. " In fact, I wanted to ask you: do you think our summer work schedule is too grueling for my 1st grader?  We do 15 minutes of phonics every day, 30 minutes of computation, 45 minutes of composition....."

Honestly, she lost me after, "phonics."  I'm sure my eyes are glazed over when she asks me, "What are you doing this summer?"

I think about all the things I could tell her, but quickly dismiss them as being the type of thing Sara would look down on.

Instead, I improvise, perhaps even embellish:  "We are working on reading (translation: I make the kids pick up a book when they are done playing Minecraft so I don't feel so guilty about the screen time), social skills (read: the kids are making a lot of new friends this summer--on Autcraft, this awesome Minecraft server for kids with autism and their siblings), and math and computation (in other words, the kids have to keep track of all their inventory in their Minecraft worlds, as well as figure out how to build things)."

As we speak, Tommy wanders up to Sara and squeals to her, "Check out my Minecraft world.  I build things!  Look! Look!  Minecraft, build! MINECRAFT!!!"

Sara looks at me in disdain and said, "He's playing Minecraft?!?!?  Really?  You let your kids play Minecraft?"

Charlotte pipes up (completely oblivious to my discomfort) from her seat across the row, "Oh yeah, we all play Minecraft!  Even my dad!  We play all the time!  It's so much fun!"

Sara says,  "My son wants to play that, but I won't let him.  I told him he has to be at least 10. How OLD is your son, anyway?"

"Four,"  I answer sheepishly.

"Well, I don't want my son to start playing because it's so addictive.  Once they start, they only ever want to play Minecraft.  I just don't want him getting addicted," she repeats pointedly.

"My kids aren't addicted!"  I am emphatic.  Who I am trying to convince is not entirely clear to me.

Sure, they listen to Minecraft parody songs in the car non-stop, they refer to being hungry as having a low health bar, spend hours discussing the relative merits of coal versus red stone, and call each other by their Minecraft user names.  Still, I think "addicted" is kind of strong, don't you? I mean, it's not as if they have to play every.....  Ahem.  Okay, yeah, they play every single day, but they could stop if they wanted to.  If it really mattered, they could quit cold turkey no problem.

"Anyway," I continue to Sara, "I don't let them play all the time.  I don't let them play nearly as much as they would prefer."

In fact, Danny just told me recently that I was ruining his life because I wouldn't let him play Minecraft all day while the babysitter was here.

Sara, realizing she's hit a nerve, says, "Oh, I didn't mean to insinuate anything.  I'm just very old-fashioned.  Minecraft makes me nervous.  I mean, isn't it really violent?"

Defensively, I retort, "No!  Not at all!  Players spend time building things and growing food and working together.  There's no violence at all......"

My preschooler chooses this time to interrupt with, "Look at me!  I kill zombies!  I kill zombies!  Die, zombies!  Die, die, DIEEEEEE!  Yay!  Zombies all dead!"

Sara shoots me a smugly contemptuous look as she walks out of the room.
I feel her disdain from across the room, but I can't help thinking that my family will be much better prepared for the upcoming apocalypse than Sara's.  Sure, her son may kick ass in phonics and read like a little genius, but my kids? 

They can make a cake without a recipe, mine for diamonds, and build portals to the Nether. And most important, they have mad zombie killing skills. Who would you rather have on your side when the world goes all Walking Dead on us? 

Yeah, that's what I thought.

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