You get what you get and you don’t get upset.
The first rule of nursery school isn’t just for kids. It applies to parents as well, especially when it comes to what you ultimately end up with in life’s great grab bag of kids.
Ideally there would be a sort of Match.com application process for having kids, an OKCupid interface bursting with algorithms ensuring a good fit.
“It says here you’re morally opposed to Nerf guns and lean heavily toward the arts but also favor team sports. Our ground-breaking interface indicates you’d best be suited with a language-oriented female with the potential for a minor social handicap which will give her access to experiences needed to enrich a life in the arts. Room 297 down the hall…don’t forget your receipt for tax purposes…”
Despite the genetic lucky dip we parents play, we end up loving the results all the same. Unconditionally, unequivocally, undeniably. But loving your kid and liking the person they are at the moment or are gearing up to become is not always a given, and it’s not always a constant.
Sometimes the kid doesn’t match up with the image you have. Sometimes it’s big, important stuff. Sometimes that big, important stuff is easier to absorb because it triggers the Mama Lion/Papa Tiger instinct. I’m not talking about struggling to love a child who is gay or transgender or a daughter who thinks she’s a cat, (true story). Today I’m talking the fine print stuff. The non-life-threatning or life-changing, the when-you-come-right-down-to-it’s-really-pretty-dumb stuff.
See, I’ve set quite a neat little fine-print trap for myself recently.
I’ve never really imagined my kids to be a certain way. I don’t have careers mapped out for them, or envision them attending a specific college or even going to college at all. For the most part, my images don’t extend much past ten p.m., when I tuck them in and feel guilty over something I did or said then remind myself how lucky I am and how they’re pretty great kids. It’s easy to do that when they’re asleep. The point is, I didn’t think I had pre-conceived notions about who my boys would grow up and in to.
So it’s been a real slap in the face with a bucket of cold water to examine my feelings surrounding my older son’s identification as a ‘gamer’.
Honestly…if he came home and told me he identified transgender I think it would be easier. If he told me he fancied boys, no biggie. Those are the things that trigger the sprouting of wings to protect. It’s not the geeked-out aspect either. If he had a keen interest in science I’d happily buy him a bunsen burner. If he was a music geek I’d gleefully attend the show-choir competitions. But no…it had to be computer games.
I hate computer games. I don’t understand the appeal of them, I think they’re lame and yes, I confess, nerdy. Sheldon and Leonard from the The Big Bang Theory can pull off nerdy because, well, they’re physicists. If my son ends up working with gravitons and those spinning proton things, if he starts making jokes about the Higgs boson particle, I’ll gladly forgive him his tweenage aberrations.
Some of it is justified concern about socialization and the atrophy of life skills. Some of it is my adamant belief that life in front of a computer screen is, indeed, a life more ordinary. And if I am brutally honest with myself, I have a stereotypical view of a gaming life as an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle choice. It makes me think of words like slow and flaccid and pasty and socially awkward. You don’t need to point out the similarities between gaming and sitting down to write a blog or a book or a series of articles, I’m well aware of the irony.
Perhaps it’s because gaming is the first thing my son has shown real interest in that I or his father haven’t introduced him to or suggested, haven’t pre-approved or perpetuated a rule of forced participation in. Maybe it’s just my distrust of computers in general. And if I am even more honest, my (somewhat) biased and (probably) snobbish refusal to understand the appeal of the gaming world surely plays a (rather) large part.
The thing is, all of this is my problem. Not his. As I’ve become increasingly irritated with him for what I see as a narrowing focus of interest, I realized I am actively profiling my own kid based on a series of preconceived stereotypes.
Well, I’ll be damned. Fuckity, fuck, fuck and all the rest.
Contrary to the old adage, this sudden understanding does not make me feel better. Far from it, it makes me feel worse. Because with this recognition comes the sinking realization that it’s not him who has to change. It’s me. And that means I have to do all the work rather than just setting screen time limits and insisting he get some fresh air.
If his interests continue, eventually I won’t be able to dictate how much time he spends in a dark boy cave with a calloused thumb. I won’t be able to stop him spending his allowance and birthday money on ‘gaming’ accessories. And I know, deep down, that I probably shouldn’t be now.
But I am and I do and I’m not perfect.
It seem like such a when-you-come-right-down-to-it’s-really-pretty-dumb thing to think about. But at the end of the day, the things that force you into a warrior pose of self-examination, the things that make you a better person and by default a better parent don’t have to be life-changing. Maybe they’re just the battery-changing things after all.
It will take a while for my emotions to come around to where my brain’s already got to; to look past a label he’s chosen for himself, to see beyond my own out-of-the-box notions and just see him as him. The same kid I tuck into bed every night and think is pretty great.