There are probably a million different things I’ve done for my kids over the years that I ended up enjoying more than they did. Quite often, however, parenting involves doing things you don’t particularly want to do that turn out to be even more unpleasant than you imagined. Like the time I finally agreed to tell my kids the real reason why we never take them to The Candy Store.
The unfortunately named “gentleman’s club” sits just a little over a mile from our house and taunts them almost daily as we drive past it on our way to almost anywhere, its flashy sign promising a veritable wonderland of sumptuous treats.
In the past they always seemed satisfied with my explanation that it was an adults-only bar, but that all fell apart when they started hearing scandalous rumors at school and demanded to know the real truth. That was an awkward conversation.
There was also the time I agreed to watch “Frozen” with my daughter three times in a row. It wasn’t so bad the first time around, but eventually the obnoxious and over-the-top music became embedded in my brain to an extent that seems completely beyond my control.
Sometimes I find myself randomly breaking into theatrical Disney songs without even realizing it, much to the embarrassment of some of my much hipper, childless pals. It’s so annoying I don’t even like hanging out with myself anymore.
When I’m lucky I’ll catch myself pretty quickly and try to play it off like it never happened, perhaps camouflaging the outburst with a fake coughing fit. I follow-up by breaking into some Tupac or Slayer lyrics so I can try to convince myself I’m still hardcore. (Are those guys still cool? I have no clue.)
Parenthood is full of ups and downs for sure, but there are times when you just don’t quite know how to feel about the things your kids drag you into. Such is the case with Minecraft.
Many of you, and especially those with school-aged kids, have probably heard of the enormously popular video game that’s become an obsession to millions across the world. It’s been a huge sensation for quite a few years now but it’s only been in the last year that my kids have really gotten wind of it. It would be fair to say they were hooked from the first play.
Minecraft is a “sandbox” or “open world” type game which allows players to roam freely through a virtual world, modifying it at will and choosing their activities as they go. The basic concept involves mining resources, usually shaped as textured cubes, and crafting them into various tools and constructions.
Of the two primary modes of play, survival mode requires players to explore their world acquiring resources necessary for staying alive, including building shelter, finding food and fighting off various nocturnal creatures. Creative mode offers players unlimited resources, the ability to fly and no concerns about health or hunger.
The possibilities are pretty much endless in creative mode, allowing players to design and build just about anything they can imagine. Almost as important as playing the game itself is interacting with other players and poring over YouTube videos to see what other people have accomplished.
I’ve seen people build everything from intricate Rube Goldberg machines to complex roller coasters and cities, while numerous educators have shown enthusiasm for the game’s potential for inspiring a generation of highly creative young engineers. Just looking at the things my own kids are doing, I’m frequently blown away by the multiple layers of thought and planning that go into their creations.
It’s become pretty common lately to walk in and find them in the living room with guidebooks and handwritten notes sprawled out around them, intensely focused on three different screens at the same time. They’ll have Minecraft playing on the Xbox in front of them with two different handheld devices off to the side with YouTube videos offering tips and strategies and building diagrams.
Honestly it looks more like they’re planning the invasion of a small country and it’s insane watching how much energy and enthusiasm they put into the game. Can you imagine what they could accomplish if they put that much effort into cleaning their rooms and doing their homework? (Okay, I’ve officially turned into my mother now.)
They don’t necessarily spend an excessive amount of time playing simply because we won’t allow it, forcing them to get exercise and spend time on other activities. But they think about it all the time and reference it all day long.
I haven’t really played a video game since I beat Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo, way back when game controllers (and telephones) still had wires. But I finally downloaded the PC version to my laptop and started dabbling a little, mostly just so I could understand what the hell they’re always talking about.
Oh. My. God. What have I done?
I don’t have time to sit around playing it all day, but I can’t stop thinking about it! Everywhere I look I see potentially valuable resources I feel like I should be collecting. I can’t even pass a cow minding its own business on the side of the road anymore without fighting the urge to approach it and bash it with a sword.
I even have a Minecraft keychain now, which is the first time I’ve purchased a keychain in over a decade and I’m currently coveting an adorable T-shirt with one of my favorite characters. WTF? I’ve turned into some sort of obsessed teenage fangirl. Who am I?
I don’t know what sort of crack they put in that game, but it’s a cold and dirty trick. Oh well. (Turns and walks away with a sassy glance over the shoulder).
“The cold never bothered me anyway.”
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