Shadow Parenting

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Over the weekend, my next door neighbor stopped by and asked if Wyatt could come over to his house. Tabitha and I know our neighbor pretty well. Wyatt works for him on the occasion. So we said sure, no problem.

Wyatt went over to the neighbors, sat outside on the front porch, and talked for awhile. Time passed, and he soon came home with a bag of books. Turns out our neighbor had wanted to give him a late Christmas gift. No big, right? Right. It was then that I learned that the entire time Wyatt was at the neighbors, he was being guilted/lectured over the way he spends his money.

Photo by Mathieu Turle on Unsplash

Now imagine an adult that you know from passing conversations. An adult that pays your child to do random tasks for him. Imagine that adult now being critical to your kid over how he spends the money he earns. Telling him that he needs to be more purposeful with his money; telling Wyatt to quit spending his money on smaller things (like LEGOS, video games, etc.) and save just like his son used to.

Wyatt came home upset. When he told us what had happened, I was upset. You see, my kid takes stuff like that to heart… this isn’t the first time our neighbor has had this talk.

Good intentions aside, you never know where criticism, judgement, or even shadow parenting may occur.

 

Understanding Minecraft through Cooperative Play

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Over the weekend, Wyatt and I played Minecraft for a couple of hours. Straight. I’ve never really understood the game. Sure, I get that it is virtual LEGOS. You can dig caves, build forts, the imagination is the limit. But I didn’t understand Minecraft until I played it co-op with my son.

We started our play session separated from one another. I worked on a castle; Wyatt worked on a village/farm. Eventually we figured out that the game has an in-game map. We found each other!

Wyatt begged me to come see his village. So I did. But my castle called to me, come finish me! So I left. Wyatt followed. My castle soon became a joint creation, our castle. Glowing pumpkins, emerald blocks, materials I would never choose, the boy placed with relish.

Playing the game cooperatively, split-screen, allowed us to create our own in-game narrative. Our creations telling the story of a seven-year-old and a thirty-five-year-old living in a block-filled land.

We have built great things together. Cooperatively, through the magic of Minecraft.

I finally understand.

Wyatt (top screen); Me (bottom screen). Built a tower of light.

Sky Bridge

Wyatt (top screen); Me (bottom screen). Built an epic sky road that spans to a distant mountain.

What I’m Learning: As A Dad

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Since my son was old enough to hold a controller, I have shared my love of videogames with him.

We started with Super Mario Bros. on the family NES. Since then, we have progressed from him passively watching to now actively participating in playing games such as  Skylanders and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. At four years old, my son loves videogames and is quite good at them–humble dad brag–.

Screen time, which encompasses the iPad, TV shows, and videogames, has become a hot commodity in our house. If my son had his way, he would never unplug and instead become a digital potato. Not just any potato mind you, a stinky potato.

My struggle as a parent is to balance “screen time” with all of the imaginative play that awaits in my son’s toy box. Hot Wheels, super hero masks, and Legos are but simple gateways to pretend worlds of adventure. Sharing my love of videogames, with my son, has caused him to associate “daddy time” with “time to play videogames”. On the deepest, nerdiest level, I should be proud of this but I’m not. I want more for my son than just virtual worlds. On a selfish level, I want more for myself than to have to spend “precious” game time playing in some sort of G-rated world.

Here is what I am learning though: Videogame time with dad has nothing to do with what videogame is being played or whether or not my son has a controller in his hands. All that matters, ALL THAT MATTERS, is that the two of us are spending time together. If that means that he sits on my lap and watches me play, he is fine with that. He just wants to spend some time with his dad.

Even from the beginning, he has always wanted to spend time with me.

Even from the beginning, he has always wanted to spend time with me. I should be honored.