Finding Time for Gaming as a Parent

I’m writing this with my almost-four-year-old hanging on my arm. He’s at the age where he wants to spend 100% of his waking hours (and let’s be honest, his sleeping hours as well) with me or his dad. With jobs and other responsibilities, it’s hard to find time to play video games. Gone are the weekends where I used to spend all day in front of the computer, immersed in another world. I still want to play video games, though, and I know I’m not alone. I belong to a Facebook group for parents who like video games. Many of my fellow gaming bloggers happen to be parents as well. We have kids, we want to game, but how do we find the time? I asked the Facebook group for their tips and compiled my own, and the result is this list.

Game With Your Kid

This works best for older kids. Indy is just getting to the age where he’s able to play some basic games with grown-ups. Sometimes we take turns playing fruit ninja on my phone. He spends more time meticulously choosing his blade and background than actually slicing fruit, but that’s fine. He plays Mario Kart with my brother. He’s terrible at it, but he has fun and you have to start somewhere. Nintendo Wii and classic systems and lego games come highly recommended for playing with your kid.

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Not all games are kid-friendly, though. I’ve been playing Witcher 3 and I don’t want to play that with my kid around, much less play it with him. Although, I remember my husband playing Witcher 3 on the xbox while holding our child as a tiny baby.

Game During Nap Time

This works particularly well if you’re a Stay-At-Home-Parent, but there is one important requirement: your kid has to take naps. Indy stopped taking naps at about 2 1/2, and no longer having nap time cut big into gaming time. We miss nap time.

On weekends, we’ve replaced it with…

Game During Screen Time

We give our kid some screen time on weekend afternoons that usually turns into game time for me. The feasibility of this technique depends on your kid’s age, how much screen time you want them to have, and if they’re the sort of kid who will sit happily in front of a screen and not bother you for a few hours. Plop the kid down with some educational games on the tablet and go play some less educational games yourself.

Hire a Babysitter

Babysitters don’t have to just be for going out! Recently my parents took Indy for the weekend and while my husband and I did go out for dinner, we spent most of the following afternoon playing video games. (This might sound like a cute couple bonding experience, but he played City of Heroes in the living room while I played Witcher 3 upstairs.) I played the game straight for about four hours.

Take a Day Off Work

I used to take a day off work whenever Bioware launched a new Dragon Age or Mass Effect game. I know I’m not alone in this technique–a former coworker took a day off for Fallout 4. If Dragon Age 4 ever comes out, I’ll probably do this again. Having a SAHD husband makes me feel a bit guilty about it. This method only works for working parents.

Game While Your Kid’s Sleeping

This technique came up the most in the Facebook group and it’s something we do, too. My husband does group content with his City of Heroes guild Sunday evenings after the kid goes to bed. I don’t game every night, but sometimes I’ll get an hour of playtime after he goes to sleep.

If after bedtime doesn’t work for you, early morning is possible. One person on the Facebook group noted that her husband gets up at 5am to play. I’m definitely not a morning person, but if you are, that’s an option.

Make Gaming a Priority

Before you have kids, it’s easier to find time to game. I remember getting off work for the weekend and having two whole days of nothing to do stretched out before me. Now that I have a kid, I have to be more strategic. If I want to game, I have to keep in mind that it’s something I want to make time to do. After you have kids, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fit all your leisure activities into your now much busier schedule. You might have to drop a thing or two. For me, I don’t binge watch TV anymore. I realized it was very time sucking and not as gratifying as gaming or reading.

Gaming might take precedence over other activities, too. One person in my Facebook group said, “We definitely play instead of, like, cleaning, which isn’t the most adult decision we’ve ever made.”

Take a Break

Maybe none of these ideas will work for you and your family, or maybe you’re just too tired and need to prioritize sleep. That’s understandable. Hopefully one day our kids will be grown, the economy won’t have collapsed so we’ll all have ample money to retire on, and we’ll have all the free time in the world. We can move into a comfy nursing home with great wifi and game the day away until our 5pm dinner.

When my kid was a newborn, I didn’t game. I was too exhausted. Having a newborn took every ounce of energy out of me. But eventually he got bigger, started sleeping though the night, and taking regularly scheduled naps. Then I could game again.

Several people in the Facebook group commented that they no longer have time to game, but for now enjoy living vicariously through the group and enjoy the memes.

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Cover Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash. This is not my kid and I don’t own a Switch.

Life Update: Early December, 2019

I thought it was past time for a blog post, so here’s what’s been going on with me and my family lately. Since the last update I did was back in September 2018, I have a few things to catch up on.

The biggest change for our family is that my husband Will became a stay at home dad! This is an old update; we’ve been doing this for about a year now. I don’t remember the exact date. Like all things, there’s positives and negatives. We have to make less money go further, but we also have more flexibility. Since I work from home, it means we’re all home most of the time. That’s been a challenge for me working, so I’m on a waiting list for a local coworking space. I hope one opens soon!

In other big news, we got a puppy! Maebel came to live with us last May. She is a lab mix rescue and while I love her, she’s been a lot for this Cat Person to handle. I realize a puppy pic is required here.

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And here she is now (about 9 months old)!

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And I got an iPhone 11, which means a significant phone picture quality upgrade from my old 8.

This summer, Will and I took a trip with my dad, uncle, and some cousins to Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. We camped, canoed, and picked tons of wild blueberries. It was beautiful.

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In September I went to San Francisco for a conference called Calibrate for software engineering leaders. It was amazing, and I’m sad it’s the last one but happy I was able to make it to attend this one. I stayed an extra day and met up with a friend. Her fiance happened to be joining some clients on their belated holiday party on a boat in the bay. We were invited to join. It was a once in a lifetime experience for someone like me, a Michigander who doesn’t get out to the West Coast very often!

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I haven’t spent a ton of time gaming. I briefly dabbled with WoW Classic, but got bored and gave up. I’ve played some Civ 6 (the Gathering Storm expansion is a lot of fun), Sims 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition (for the third time), and I have gotten further in The Witcher 3. I was thinking about how last year I did a game of the year, but I don’t think I have the heart to do that this year. Maybe I need to bite the bullet and buy RimWorld even though it never goes on sale on Steam [rage emoji]. I know I’d love that game. But I did have my question answered in this episode of the Massively OP podcast, so that’s cool (if only I could pick an MMO to actually try and find a guild in). I showed my kid Indy* Fruit Ninja on my phone and we play that together sometimes!

I’m still doing a lot of knitting and yarn dying, but since I can’t knit yarn as fast as I can dye it, I’ve slowed down on the dyeing front. Here’s a recent skein dyed based on early fall colors and I love how it turned out!

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My husband and dad have been working together to build a deck for our house in the backyard. It’s almost done and they just need to add stairs. We live in Michigan, which means they’ve had to do a considerable amount of deck building in cold and even snowy weather. (I don’t have a photo of the deck. Don’t tell my husband.)

I barely won NaNoWriMo! This is my second win. My first was way back in 2012. (If you don’t already know, NaNoWriMo is a yearly challenge in November to write a novel (50,000 words) in one month.) I finished at 50,010 words. The novel is incomplete, and if I’m being honest, I’ll probably rewrite most of it if I decide to continue the project.

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Speaking of challenges, I finished my 50th book for 2019, completing my Goodreads challenge. Book number 50 was Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. I highly recommend it if you like real world magic and secret societies.

And that’s it, sort of an early 2019 recap! Bring on 2020!

Cover image taken by me at LSPP in Canada.

Witcher 3 First Impressions: Is it Really an RPG Though?

I realize it’s been months since I last posted, and here I am ready to talk about a game I recently started playing: The Witcher 3. Yeah, I know, it came out in 2015. I’m a bit behind. I bought it on Steam sale for about $7 and decided to give it a whirl. Even though it’s a narrative heavy RPG (something I like) I’d avoided it because I prefer RPGs where I can customize my character or at the very least play as a woman. In The Witcher 3 you’re stuck playing Geralt, an overly-buff, white-haired sword wielder who has a few minor magical abilities.

Playing Geralt definitely feels like I’m in a heterosexual male fantasy: he’s muscular, sarcastic, and has plenty of girlfriends. His voice is deep and grizzled, and I wonder how many packs of cigarettes the voice actor had to smoke before completing his scenes. I rebel by making my Geralt the kindest possible version of himself in his dialog options.

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Geralt. So broad-shouldered. So gravely-voiced.

I play this and wonder if you can really call it an RPG? RPG stands for “Role Playing Game” and while technically you’re playing the role of Geralt, the term RPG is taken from the tabletop gaming world where players create their own characters. Can a game be considered an RPG if you’re forced to play a specific character? Or is Witcher 3 more of an adventure game with combat? Most people wouldn’t call Life is Strange a roleplaying game even though you’re playing the role of Max Caulfield. What makes that an adventure game but Witcher 3 an RPG? Is Witcher 3 an RPG because of it’s fantasy setting? is Life is Strange an adventure game because there’s no combat? I really don’t know–let me know what you think in the comments.

On to better topics: cats in the game, and whether or not you can pet them.

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Early in the game I ended up at a tavern and while questioning in the patrons I found a cat. I couldn’t pet the cat and the cat hissed at me. It might have something to do with my cat eyes. Very disappointing.

Despite not being able to pet the cat and Geralt not being my ideal player character (he does have nice hair and the cat eyes are cool), I am interested in the lore. I’ll try to focus on that as I keep playing.

Cover image via this website. I thought I’d finally found one without a person in it, but I was wrong. Cat photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash.

Trying VR at Revery in Atlanta

Early this month I went to Atlanta to do some in-person work with my team. Since I’m remote, I hardly ever get to see my coworkers. After a day of group work, we headed to a place called Revery. It’s a Virtual Reality bar in Atlanta. I know VR’s been a thing for a while, but I hadn’t tried it yet. Being a lifelong fan of VR-based fiction (hello, Holodeck!) it seemed too primitive to warrant dropping $400+ on a device.

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The VR bar turned out to be the perfect place to check it out. The floor was a bit sticky, but the delicious (and reasonably priced) cocktail I had made up for it. I’d recommend not drinking too much if you’re there to play. This activity requires quite a bit of moving around!

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Marilyn dodges bullets like a pro in SUPER HOT.

We tried out several games, many recommended by the staff. My favorite was probably Fruit Ninja–I used to play that game obsessively on my phone. I could see myself getting really into that one in VR. There are a ton of games to choose from, although selecting one or another was a bit tricky. The staff was always around to help so we got the most of our game time.

The bathroom had some cool lighting, so I took a bathroom mirror selfie: something I hadn’t done in a while!

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If you ever make it out to Atlanta, and you want to give VR a try, I recommend checking it out. More cities might have VR bars, too. It’s a great way to try without having to buy your own device.

Cover Image: Another game we played, Beat Saber, which is like Guitar Hero with light sabers in VR. Image via Dual Shockers.

Alli Tries Albion Online

I tried Albion Online. I picked it from my list of MMOs to try first because I was traveling and it would run on my MacBook Pro.

ProTip: Don’t play a game where you do a ton of clicking on a laptop without a mouse.

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I’ve got a mount already, so that’s cool (that’s me, Plixxa, with the yellow text).

I think I have about 30 minutes of game time in, and that’s enough to know this game’s not for me. Here’s why:

  1. While I like the graphic style, everything looks kind of the same. I’d tolerate this for a quirky indie game, but in an MMO I need more variety. This also means the character creator is boring.
  2. If I wanted to play a game where I just clicked a bunch, I’d play Diablo III.
  3. I got lost in the tutorial area.

Yup. I really wanted to at least get to the real game before deciding this wasn’t for me, but that’s not going to happen if I get lost before I can even get there. You start off the game, like most MMOs, in the character creator. Playing as a woman, you get to pick from various skin colors, hair colors, and faces. All of the faces look about the same, like Lego faces but with less detail. Then you pick your underwear, from a potato sack style garment to extra-revealing. I went with the potato sack.

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You get in the game and you get quests where you go out and gather materials for new things. You don’t pick a class, but eventually you can pick a skill from a choice of two. Oh, goody. Eventually you get a mule. It’s definitely the fastest I’ve ever gotten to ride a mount in an MMO. After a couple more gathering quests, I had to go to some new mountain area. I couldn’t find it.

Sometimes getting lost is good, if you find interesting things, but I just found this tower full of identical mage-types that were easy to kill. I did not find anything that made me sit up a little straighter or want to play more. And so, I logged off for good.

Cover image from Albion Online. I always go for the quaint medieval village concept art.

Confession: I’m Still Not Playing Anything

It’s time to get honest with all of you. I was going to do Blaugust this year, and try some new MMOs, and try to get back into it. But I’ve been too busy. It’s August 7 and I’ve already gone to Atlanta for work and went camping once. I’m camping again–this time in the Canadian wilderness–later this month.

When I’m free I don’t want to play video games. I want to watch TV with my husband or play with my son. I want to curl up in bed and read until my eyelids get heavy. I want to work on personal projects. I was in my hotel in Atlanta and decided to try out Albion Online and I played it for about 30 minutes before I was bored out of my mind and decided to read some Python blog posts instead. I basically decided to do more work instead of gaming.

Now I don’t know what to do with this blog. It was supposed to be “parenting for nerds” with a gaming/MMO bent, but if I’m barely playing games how does that work? I’ve also been thinking a lot about my nerdiness. Yes, I’m a nerd: I write code and help other people write better code for a living. I love Sci-fi, fantasy, and Marvel movies. But am I nerdy enough to write a nerd parenting blog? I don’t take my kid to nerd conventions, I don’t even go to them myself. I don’t like the idea of dressing up. Costumes are uncomfortable. I don’t even like Halloween.

I don’t think I’m having nerd imposter syndrome. No neckbeards have told me I’m “not a real nerd” for some reason or another. I’m definitely a nerd. But I can’t write blog posts about if you should let your kid play Fortnite because I couldn’t get past the starting screen because I couldn’t figure out how to customize my character. I’ll have an idea for something I want to write and it doesn’t fit here. I’ve posted on Medium, but the platform is terrible for writers unless you want to opt-in to their paywall (I don’t). I wanted to write about my long strange career path so I did that on dev.to. I always have this problem, this I don’t know what to do with my online presence existential crisis.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Cover photo by Christopher Flowers on Unsplash. I searched for “existential crisis” on Unsplash and this was the first result.

Let’s Try Something New

I want to try some new (to me) MMOs.

I’m not playing any MMOs right now and I’d like that to change. I haven’t tried every MMO out there, and I was thinking about finally giving Final Fantasy XIV a try when I thought, why not try a few? I’ve worked on compiling this list of MMOs I haven’t and would like to try. Since Blaugust is happening again, I’m going to take that time to try out some games and write up my thoughts. Maybe I’ll even find a game I want to stick with.

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Each new game will be like a little gift to me from me. Photo by Ekaterina Shevchenko on Unsplash.

What MMOs Shall I Try?

Final Fantasy XIV – This has been at the top of my “maybe I should try this” game list for a while, so I’m definitely going to give it a shot. I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game. Maybe I’ll be hopelessly lost, but that’s why this is a trial, right?

Albion Online – I love isometric games, okay? Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing, but I dig it. I’m concerned about this game being PVP-centric, but I haven’t played much PVP and maybe I’m missing this huge piece of gameplay I’ll actually love. We’ll see.

SWTOR – Technically I’ve played this game since beta tested it. But since I was actually testing the game and reporting bugs, and that was many years ago, I think it deserves another visit. I mean, it’s Bioware.

Star Trek Online – This is on the list because I loved Star Trek: The Next Generation as a kid. Probably the only game on my list because of the IP. I normally prefer games that are new universes instead of existing IPs, and I can’t think of many IPs that would instantly make me want to play something. Okay, I tried both the Harry Potter mobile games and liked neither of them.

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Riker: one of my first fictional crushes

Black Desert Online – I want to try this game because I think the would looks incredibly pretty and it might be fun to explore. I also heard the character creation is lots of fun. (Is that still available outside the game? It would be great to create a character outside of the Steam two hour reimbursement window.)

Path of Exile – I found this looking at Massively OP’s game column list to see if there was anything on there I hadn’t tried yet. I saw this one. It’s not spectacularly appealing, and if I have to cut a game from my list, this might be the one to go.

Do you play any of these games?

I’d love a tour guide! Hit me up via the contact form, Blaugust Discord (I’m “Alli”), or email (allirense AT gmail) and let me know what you play and you can show me the ropes.

Any Suggestions?

Got an idea for another MMO I should try? My list is getting full, but I don’t want to miss out on something awesome. Here’s a bit about what I’ve already tried and what I look for in games if you have a suggestion.

I’ve previously played World of Warcraft, Secret World Legends, Maplestory, and if you count it–Pokemon Go. I’ve tried Guild Wars 2, Eve Online, ESO, Project Gorgon, Wild Terra Online, and LOTRO. I have no interest in playing City of Heroes, Rift, or any looter-shooters with MMO-like qualities. I tend to be drawn towards games with a more western character style and I like bright colors. I’m fine with isometric and I love stylistic graphics, but I don’t like Minecraft-style voxels.

My main gaming motivators are exploration and story. You can read more about my motivation profile here.

Know something I might like? Let me know in the comments!

Cover image via Black Desert Online. That game is just so gash darn purdy!

I’m Not Playing MMOs, But I’m Still an MMO Fan

I love MMOs. I consider MMOs a hobby. I’m not playing any MMOs right now. Last year I played some WOW and tried out the LOTRO legendary server, but neither stuck. Once in a while I’ll get into Secret World Legends for a bit, but does it really count as an MMO if I never see another player? Here’s why I’m not playing any MMOs, even though I love them.

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Empty like SWL. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’d be starting from behind

ESO looks like a cool game. I know a lot of people who play it. But I feel like I’d be starting from so far behind and have to drop so much money on expansions and content to ever catch up. See also Guild Wars 2.

You log in and see people with amazing costumes and mounts and weapons and think it’s going to take me months and months of playing to even get halfway there. I feel tired just thinking about it.

It wasn’t quite what I wanted

Two games come to mind when I think of MMOs that were almost there but not quite: Wildstar and World’s Adrift. Both of those games start with W. Both of those games no longer exist. (Okay, technically World’s Adrift hasn’t shutdown yet, but it will soon. Don’t @ me.)

Wildstar promised bright graphics, fun raids, and not to take itself too seriously. Then it went too far. The graphics were too cartoonish. I could’ve lived with that. The raids were too serious. I think that’s all that needs to be said. I wanted to like the game so badly. I’d leave and come back and feel the same disappointment all over again.

I was very excited about World’s Adrift when I first hear about it, until I got to the part about the perma-pvp. I like PVP, but I don’t want to be forced to PVP. As a casual player, I can’t play something where the hardcores can just come and kill me. It’s not fun. By the time World’s Adrift announced a PVE server, I’d already as much as dismissed the game. And it hadn’t even launched yet.

It’s not out yet

Honestly, the only MMO that’s really on my radar right now that’s not out yet is Fractured. It looks like they’re trying to have a decent PVP and PVE balance.

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It’s all about the balance. Image via FracturedMMO

I even kickstarted the thing, after I said I wasn’t kickstarting video games anymore unless they’re from Red Thread Games. (Ikenfell, will I ever get to play you?)

I am keeping an eye on Crowfall, but it’s not looking casual-friendly enough for me.

I’m just sick of it

And finally we get to WoW. After playing for about a month it started to feel like a chore again, likely due to their lackluster latest expansion. The Vanilla server doesn’t appeal either–I’ve already done all that stuff.

Pokemon Go was my only MMO-like game for a long time until they added so many features it became a chore and wasn’t fun anymore. Wizards Unite just launched and is already bloated, so I’m passing on that one.

I’ve thought about making an effort to try some lesser-known MMOs, but I’m not sure where to start. I think many of them have the same PVP issues as World’s Adrift. The games would have to be, at least, free-to-try so I can see if they float my boat before I invest my hard-earned cash. (Or on Steam so I can get a refund, like I did with Project Gorgon.)

But for now, I think I’ll continue playing vicariously through the Massively OP Podcast, which I’ve been listening to in some iteration for over five years now.

By the way I wrote a post on Medium a while back about working from home. Check it out!

Cover image via World’s Adrift. Their island creator was so cool, I hope other games pick up that idea in the future.

Game of Thrones Parents: Ranked

Being a parent makes me see television parents in a new light: a very judgmental one. I try not to judge parents I know in real life, we’re all going through our own stuff, but fake ones on television are fair game.

Here they are in order, from worst to best. This list contains spoilers from all seven seasons of Game of Thrones.

12. Craster

He “marries” his daughter (they’re North of the wall, so guess it’s technically legal) and then has more daughters. Not a great life for the girls, but that’s not as bad as what happens to his baby boys. Or maybe the boys are the lucky ones. Either way, he’s the worst.

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This list is full of terrible people and you’re the worst, Craster. How does that make you feel?

11. Stannis and Selyse

It was hard for me to not put them in the most terrible parent slot because Shireen was awesome: kind, smart, and probably the only 100% decent human in all of Westeros. And then Stannis burns him to death because he’s power hungry and thinks that her death will allow him to sit in the iron throne.

It’s okay to be ambitious, but not okay to sacrifice your children for that ambition, and Stannis does that literally. Most people I know with kids want to achieve their goals to make a better life for their children. But Stannis wants to be king because–I’m not sure, it’s not explained well–but it’s not to make a better life for Shireen.

He’s terrible. And Selyse has her creepy collection of jar babies, so she doesn’t get a pass, either.

10. Tywin Lannister

There’s a special place in Hell for parents overly concerned about their “family legacy” and not the actual well-being of their kids. Tywin went straight there after his son shot him with a crossbow on the potty. Face it, Tywin, two of your kids are in an incestuous relationship. The other one is a drunk until he finds something he’s actually good at–and then instead of supporting him, you sentence him to death. That’s some terrible parenting.

9. Danearys Targarean

The “Mother of Dragons” may be her title, but she’s not the best mom. Sure, she loves her dragons, but she doesn’t show it very well by selling them for slaves and chaining them up in a dungeon. I know, the scene where Danearys trades her dragon for the slaves but then gets her dragon back and frees the slaves is epic. But what if it hadn’t worked? What if the slaver had managed to keep the dragon? That’s a huge risk to take with your child.

As for the chaining: obviously you can’t let your kids burn other kids to cinders, but couldn’t she at least chain them up outside? We later learn that it was chaining dragons that caused them to die out. Way to go, mom.

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She might be the Mother of Dragons but that doesn’t mean she’s a very good one.

8. Randyll Tarly

Tarly is the classic example of a parent who wants a jock and gets a nerd. Actually, he gets both, so you’d think he’d at least be content to let Sam go study to be a Maester while keeping his jock son Dickon around, but no. He threatens Sam and sends him to the Wall–definitely not the ideal place for a nerd.

You could argue that Tarly at least one son he treats well, but he named that son Dickon.

7. Balon Grayjoy

Balon’s probably tied with Tarly. He’s not as bad as the parents who rape, murder, abandon, chain up, and sell their kids. But he still sucks. His kid Theon comes back to him after having probably a better life in Winterfell than he would have on the Iron Isles. And his dad’s just like, screw you, you’re not Iron Born. If I was separated from my son for so many years I probably wouldn’t want to help the people that had him, but I would’ve given him a big hug and welcomed him back home.

6. Lysa Arron

The internet is full of arguments about breastfeeding and when to stop. I’m not going to get into them here, but I think we can argue that kids should be done by the time they’re ten. (Most of the extended breastfeeders I know stopped because their kids stopped wanting to breastfeed anymore–around 3-4. Which makes me wonder what Lysa was doing to encourage this practice.) Lysa has not done a good job exposing Robin to the world and he’s the opposite of well-adjusted. Marrying Littlefinger might be the best thing she ever did for him.

But she’s still fairly high on this list because she at least seems to love him, and she doesn’t try to kill him, chain him, disown him, or send him to the Wall.

Note: I think Jon Arryn is also responsible, but we don’t get to meet him as his death triggers the whole plot of the show.

5. Roose Bolton

Roose seems like a decent parent. He even legitimizes his bastard son Ramsey, which is legitimate. Unlike parents such as Tywin, Tarly, and Balon, he allows his son to be himself.

Except that Ramsey is an evil serial killer. If your kid is an evil serial killer (and we know Roose knows) you have to put a stop to that. Roose could be said to encourage it, even–notably when he sends him to take Moat Calain.

4. Walder Frey

Walder Frey’s always complaining that he’s forgotten by the greater houses–so of course I forgot him when I was making this list. Thanks to my dad (who is such a good parent he’d surely die in the first five minutes of Game of Thrones) for reminding me that Walder exists.

Walder seems like kind of a lazy parent. He forgets his kids’ names, but he has so many of them can you really blame him?

He seems to want the best for his kids, which for him means marrying them off to the great houses. Here’s the thing: Walder’s not a great parent. He should remember his kid’s names because he’s named nearly all of them Walda or Walder. He’s not the best example of loyalty. But he’s not an actively bad parent. So here he is at number four.

3. Cersei Lannister

There’s no doubt Cersei loves her kids and would do anything to protect them. See the scene with Cersei and Tommen on the Iron Throne during the Battle of Blackwater. I think that’s the scene we all started liking her a tiny bit.

I also think she knew Joffery was terrible, but unlike Roose, actually tried to keep him from doing terrible things, like having Ned beheaded.

In Season 3, episode 4, Tywin says to Cersei, “I don’t mistrust you because you’re a woman, I mistrust you because you’re not as smart as you think you are. You’ve allowed that boy to run roughshod over you and everyone else in this city.”

Cersei replies, “Perhaps you should try stoping him from doing what he likes.”

That said, I don’t think she’s a great parent, she’s just tolerable enough to get fairly far ahead on this list. For all her best efforts, her kids all end up dead.

2. Sam and Gilly

Given, Sam and Gilly haven’t been parents for very long so there’s ample time for them to mess up and scar Little Sam for life. But they seem to be off to a decent start.

Also, this list is lacking in actually good parents and I wanted to at least have a couple.

1. Catelyn and Ned

How many tragedies could the Starks have avoided if they’d just listened to Catelyn? If Bran listened to his mom and stopped climbing the walls, he’d still be able to walk. If Robb listened to his mom and not married Talisa, the Red Wedding he’d be happily married to Roslin.

Arya is interested in sword fighting, which isn’t an approved activity for noble girls, but Ned still gives her a sword and finds her lessons. He approves of who she is as a person and helps her nurture that side of herself. Imagine what kind of woman Arya could have become if she hadn’t lost her father?

Of course, they aren’t perfect. No parents are. You could say that allowing Sansa to be betrothed to Joffery was a huge mistake, but I wonder if Ned’s research and attempting to oust Joffery in favor of Stannis was partly motivated by wanting to protect his daughter.

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Honorable Mention: Davos. We don’t get to see much of him with his son, but he’s a better parent to Shireen than the ones she was born with.

Cover photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash. Winter is Coming. The rest of the images are via Game of Thrones and HBO.

Maybe Your Kid Doesn’t Need College

This started off as a follow-up post to Why I Choose Curiosity Over Passion on encouraging kids to follow their curiosity, and turned into this: a discussion of whether or not our kids need to go to college.

Spoiler Alert: No, not all kids need to go to college.

I’m not saying college isn’t useful. A lot of careers require college (or more) for good reasons. And enough companies require their employees to have college degrees even if they aren’t useful for the work being performed. (Companies should stop doing this, but parents and students should recognize that it happens frequently.) For some kids, college is the only way out of a bad situation. College can also act as a stepping stone between being a teenager in high school and being a full-fledged adult.

It’s a really expensive stepping stone. According to Forbes, the average college student graduating in 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt, which is definitely more than my first salary after college. I went to college because it was expected of me, I didn’t know what else to do, and I’d been told that I’d be stuck in a minimum-wage job at McDonalds if I didn’t go. I didn’t go to college because I wanted a specific career and I knew college would get me there. I went because I was told I could “figure it out after I got there.”

It’s true: the first year (or two) of college can be incredibly helpful for giving students a chance to take interesting classes and follow their curiosities for students that can afford it. But if the student doesn’t know what they want to do by the time their Sophomore year is complete, maybe they should drop out. GASP. I know, I just suggested students should drop out of college. But college is so expensive, and there’s no point finishing a degree you don’t even know you want.

I’m also going to suggest the option of not going to college. EGADS! Baby Boomer parents reading this are freaking out right now. The children of Baby Boomers (like me) were encouraged, even expected, to go to college. For me, the question wasn’t would I go to college, it was where would I go to college. Of my graduating class of 299, 4 students did not go to college.* I believe these expectations lead to graduates with huge debt and worthless degrees they felt like they had to get because it was expected of them. Now that we have children of our own, we’re questioning that “you have to go to college” philosophy.

Here’s the thing about Freshman college students: they have no idea about being an adult. Of course they think they do, because they’ve graduated high school. Say a semester of their college of choice cost’s $20k and their parents can’t afford to pay it, but they have the option of taking out loans. That’s $40k a year. When I started college, I had no idea what $40k meant. It was just this abstract number. Now, I could tell you what kind of apartment or house I could afford on $40k in a few American cities. High schools could help by teaching practical skills like budgeting. Kids could learn what kind of jobs might afford them the lifestyles they want.

Student Loans
Me in 50 years. Image via AAEC

College students don’t know what it’s like to spend 40 hours a week doing one thing. High school is broken up into 50-minute chunks, and college students usually have fewer classes plus activities and a part-time job. Then you get your first real job and it’s like, okay, I did that for 8 hours, but now I have to do it again, 5 days a week…forever? I navigated my career by seeing other people in my office doing something and thinking, “Okay, next I want to do that. What do I need to do to get there?”

I’m going to encourage my son not to go straight to college after he graduates. I like the idea of a “gap year” or even a year spent working part-time and earning some money for college (or trade school, or starting a business, or getting an art studio) and following various curiosities until he’s really ready to land on something—or not. Because if has a roof over his head (preferably not mine) and he’s fed and happy, then I don’t need him to have a Capital-C Career.

I want him to figure out what his goals are and do what he needs to do to achieve them. I know that will take some time and a lot of following his curiosities. Maybe that’s college. Maybe it’s something else.

*I went to a private school where most students came from middle or upper class families with parents who were paying for their high school education. I realize this number isn’t normal. It does illustrate how affluent families specifically insist on college for their children.

The cover photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash reminds me of these people on Instagram who take incredibly gorgeous and organized class notes. Check out #studyinspiration for some studious eye candy.