Most parents will admit that they learn as much from their kids as they are able to teach. The other day, I had the opportunity to observe my oldest son playing a PvP version of Mindcraft called “Hunger Games” (due to its similarity to the popular book and film series), and a funny thing happened.
Astute readers might have noted that I’ve mentioned several times in passing that my oldest son has been diagnosed with ADHD. It’s something that presented itself at an early age but not recognized by us until we had other children who acted as a behavioral comparison. As a young kid, Locowolf had a very clear sense of right, wrong, fairness, and unfairness. And similar to most people with ADHD, he was also extremely impulsive. Due to this, we suffered though many fits of rage when he perceived unfairness or bias against him, even when it didn’t really exist. He simply didn’t have the ability to control himself, and it manifested itself in physical anger and rage.
I only recall these personal moments in order to bring the main point of this post into perspective. Back to the Minecraft Hunger game. Loco had a decent strategy for this match, I thought. He found the tallest tree on the map and built a one-person platform/fort on the top of the tree, thus gaining the higher ground on any potential foes. However, scouting this location and building the platform came with a price, which was that he was not able (due to time restrictions) to craft a bow or armor for himself before encounters with other players started to occur. So, while climbing down out of his tree to gather additional materials, he was one-shot by an NPC with a bow.
“bleh”, he typed in the chat box.
“you didn’t have any armor, noob” came a reply from someone who wasn’t even involved in the encounter.
“boots is armor!” Loco said.
“10 minutes into the game and all you had was boots lol” came the quick reply.
After that, Loco began to look forward to another match and to plot out his next moves. Let’s just consider the above exchange for a minute. Depending on the context, it can be taken in different ways. If Loco was friends with the person in question, it would be considered good-natured ribbing. In fact, I had verbally said something similar to him prior to his death. Something along the lines of: “Wait, you’ve got the high ground but no ranged weapon? What good is that?” However, this conversation was with a complete stranger, which puts any “good natured” aspect of the replies into serious doubt. In this context, I see it more as an act of bullying, like when I was a kid on the playground and somebody pointed and laughed at my knit Superman cap with the big, bright ball on the top.
Without getting too deep into how our social interaction with other humans is changing, and the influence those changes may have on matters of politeness and mutual respect, nor even mentioning how the generational divide might factor into our respective expectations of these types of interactions, I’ll move right on to the point. I was impressed. My son, who used to “go after” the kid who kicked the soccer ball away from him, or break down in tears when somebody else received a cookie and he didn’t, paid almost no heed to the rudeness exhibited towards him. In fact, he was chuckling to himself the whole time. Somebody who he didn’t know on the internet was trying to get under his skin, and he could have cared less. In fact, it’s probably not a stretch to say that I was even a little proud.
I suppose I could start singing the praises of my own parenting. But wise parents will be the first to tell you: we don’t really have a clue. It’s all guesswork, trial and error, no matter what the kiddie shrinks tell you. We provide a framework, but the kids still have to decide whether to subscribe to that framework or not. No, the credit in this case goes to Loco himself. He lives in a different world than I do, where his brain sends him different signals, and he’s spent his lifetime to this point trying to learn how to reconcile those with the expectations of the world around him. In some ways, I wonder if the cruel world of the anonymous Internet, which I’ve bemoaned from time to time and most parents want to protect their children from, is preparing him to step outside of our walls. He’s already determined that mister lolnoob’s opinion of him doesn’t matter in the slightest. He’s not afraid to try something, fail, laugh at himself, and get back into the match. He knows to ignore non-constructive criticism, and to focus on what really matters: the goal at hand.
Maybe the future is going to be ok, after all.
LOL-NEWB by cylent on Flickr Creative Commons
Wii-rage by Simon Lee on Flickr Creative Commons