Months ago. Many months ago, we bought a Nintendo Switch.
We bought the Switch long before I decided to do Blaugust again, only to fizzle out three entries in and then not post a thing for the entire month of September. I’m not even sure when we bought the Switch, but now’s when I’m finally getting around to writing about it.
We picked up three games with it: Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Odyssey, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. (The Zelda game was for us.) We’ve since purchased Super Smash Bros, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Splatoon 2, and Mario Kart 8. The kid is, well, not particularly good at any of them, but he manages. I’m aware that one day he’ll surpass us and we’ll fondly look back at the time he handed the other parent the controller to get past something particularly difficult, or when we didn’t have to jump off the cliff several times so he could win Smash Brothers at least once.
“Remember when?” We’ll ask each other, when we slip on the banana he left yards ago as a rushes into the finish line in Mario Kart. Remember when he would play upside-down and stop looking at the screen?
I got so fed up at playing Luigi’s Mansion 3 with him I started watching Lego Masters instead. We’re almost finished with season 2 so I’m scrambling to find a show that might actually interest both of us. He’s gotten pretty good at Lego building with instructions and I was hoping the show might inspire some creativity, but so far all we’ve gotten is occasionally making critters with leftover bricks or sticking two instruction-based builds together and calling it a “mash-up.”
This has me thinking though–I bet he’d enjoy the Lego games! Maybe Lego Jurassic World because he likes the show on Netflix. I don’t know if he’s familiar with any of the other IPs. If you have any suggestions for two-player Switch games a 5-year-old might love, leave ’em in the comments. Lego Jurassic World is arriving Saturday.
Cover Image: Why do I love Super Mario 3D World? Because you can turn your character into a kitty. Obviously. Mrow!
We had a Super Nintendo Classic: my husband bought it for me as a gift 3 or 4 years ago, and I barely touched it. After the kid and I finished playing Ikenfell, I remembered it. I thought we could give it a try.
He likes it, but holy cow is he bad at it. I thought I was fairly awful–I am 99% a PC only gamer–but he just has no idea what he’s doing. We play Mario Kart and it’s a blessing if he can get through an entire race without wanting to give up. We’ve used it as a teaching tool for persistence: it doesn’t matter if you win, just finish the race. He seems more interested in trying to pick up goodies and coins than winning, anyway.
He also likes the Mario RPG a lot, but it’s single player, so he watches us play. I’ve decided I don’t want to play that with him anymore, though, because I find the jumping puzzles frustrating. (Maybe I need a lesson in persistence.) My husband has played the game a few times already so he’s taken over on that one.
But, I didn’t expect him to be this bad at it. Maybe 5 is too young, or it takes more practice than I thought. I remember my brother picking it up more easily, but I think he was a bit older when he got his first console (Game Cube). His tablet gaming skill doesn’t seem to translate to console gaming.
I feel like this post should come with a recommendation: do I recommend the Super Nintendo Classic for kids? I’m not sure. I want to wait and see how he does when he’s a bit older and can read. And since all the Super Nintendo games are available free on the Switch, it probably doesn’t make sense to buy both.
Cover image via this Polygon article–I don’t think we’ll be entering any Super Mario Kart competitions anytime soon.
Like Harry Potter, but you’re angry with how J.K. Rowling has hurt the trans community?
If both of those things are true, I have a video game for you: it’s IKENFELL!
In Ikenfell, you play the twin sister of a witch who attends the magic school Ikenfell. You don’t have magic, though, you’re just an Ordinary. But after not hearing from your sister for longer than is reasonable, you head to Ikenfell to make sure she’s okay. While you’re there, something happens and suddenly you have magic, too.
I started playing Ikenfell by myself in the evening, and it was the perfect thing to play thirty minutes of before getting ready for bed. But then I started playing one afternoon, while the baby was napping and my son was playing on his tablet. I had my headphones in, so he must’ve seen something coming from the office. He pulled in a footstool to watch.
Soon I was reading the dialog and explaining the combat mechanics. My kid even helped me get through a tricky puzzle involving frozen floors and switches that moved blocks this way and that.
The games cute pixel art graphics, unique puzzles, diverse characters, and hilarious bosses (ever fight a blob that likes to steal hats? or a star that wants to eat you?) have captivated both me and my kid. One of the best parts for him is that many of the enemies, after being defeated, will help you out. They were just momentarily in a bad mood and wanted to fight you.
My one criticism is that the fights can get a bit long and tedious. I feel that way about most fights in video games though, so take that with a grain of salt.
The best part of the game? It’s how you save and heal.
That’s right–you pet the cat. Ikenfell is available on Steam for PC and for various platforms.
Cover Image: Petronella (bottom right) is my favorite.
In the wee hours of the morning on July 13, 2020 I gave birth to my baby girl. I’d gone through a difficult pregnancy: gestational diabetes on top of the normal discomfort of being pregnant and, of course, a global pandemic. I wasn’t certain I wanted a second child, but the moment I saw her face I was completely besotted.
Almost five months later and we have the world’s smiliest baby. She’s so happy and growing like a weed: 93rd percentile for height! It’s been hard having a baby during a pandemic: we haven’t been able to introduce her properly to family and friends. We’ve had to keep her to ourselves.
She’s mostly content and sleeps great. She loves having her belly “eaten” and when her brother makes silly faces. She laughs and laughs.
More changes are coming. I’m starting a new job next week. I’m still in software engineering, but switching industries from e-commerce to cyber security.
We’re approaching the deep, dark parts of winter I usually shudder away from, but this year I’m trying to think about it differently. I have a new job and two beautiful children. COVID vaccines are imminent. Sometimes things need to freeze and thaw to begin anew.
In light of the Black Lives Matter protests, I want to bring to light an issue that’s really important to me: the increased maternal mortality rates for Black mothers. As a pregnant White woman, I’m comfortable knowing that during my birth experience, I’ll be taken care of and listened to and not worry about my own life. I don’t know how Black mothers feel, but I don’t think I would have that same level of confidence in the healthcare system and my own mortality.
Between 2011 and 2014, White woman experienced 12.4 deaths per 100,000 people while Black woman experienced 40 per 100,000 (source). Death is the worst possible scenario, and Black women experience other forms of racial discrimination during the birth process. (More information.)
We have to fix this.
As a pregnant mom, I wanted to share this information and tell you about an organization that’s working to promote Black maternal health. When relating real life to video games (like I often do on this blog) we often see the analogy of White people start on easy mode while Black people start on a higher difficulty, simply because of their race. Can you imagine what sort of high difficulty starting your life without your mother would be?
I’ve decided to support Black Mamas Matter, an organization that seeks to “advocate, drive research, build power, and shift culture for Black maternal health, rights, and justice.” They do this through research, policy changes, and supporting Black moms’ medical care.
Welcome to Parent Pack, the real life parenting inventory management simulator. In this game, you play a parent who needs to get their kids out of the house. This game takes place in summer 2019, so no COVID-19 to worry about. You can actually leave the house.
MMO Pantheon announced they’re bringing back coin weight as a mechanism in inventory management and Twitter was abuzz about it for a while. I was surprised how many people are down with inventory management as a concept in general, since I always see it as a necessarily evil. It’s even more annoying in real life when you can actually feel the weight of the stuff you’re lugging around and you have to make crucial decisions about what to bring with you and what to leave behind.
Congratulations you’re a parent. You have a 3-year-old (who’s still in diapers) and a 4-month-old. It’s a Saturday in late June. The 3-year-old is getting antsy. Your partner has plans to do housework and yard work all day. You need groceries. You decide to go to the playground, have a picnic lunch, and get groceries.
You have to decide what to pack. You feed the baby right before you leave and decide two unmixed bottles of water and formula will be enough. They go in the diaper bag. You pack about 6 baby diapers and a pack of wipes. There’s already a pad in there and some diaper rash cream, plus a couple small baby toys. The baby needed to wear the last emergency outfit you had in there, so you grab another. You also grab a lightweight blanket. It’s sunny outside, so you pack a thing of baby sunscreen and a sun hat. You stuff your wallet and keys in there, too.
Now you need to pack for the 3-year-old, but the diaper bag is about full. Luckily, the 3-year-old can carry a few things on their own. They have a small backpack. You add a few diapers, snacks, small toys, and a bottle of water.
The 3-year-old picks up the bag. “It’s too heavy!”
You dump out half the water bottle. Now the 3-year-old can carry it. Except the 3-year-old refuses to use the baby’s sunscreen. Thankfully, the 3-year-old’s sunscreen is getting close to empty and does not add too much weight to the backpack.
You pack the cooler. You pack a small cooler, and have to forgo the bottle of iced tea you wanted because it’s too tall. You take La Croix for yourself instead. The entire cooler is stuffed. You can barely close it.
“Can we have grapes?” the 3-year-old says.
Crap. You didn’t pack grapes. Or any fruit. “Sure, honey.”
You wash and pack some grapes, but there’s no room for them in the cooler. You take everything out. You decide not to leave the chips–they’re getting kind of crunched up anyway. You pack the grapes.
Now you have to carry everything. In this game, you can carry a limit of 3 things. Your three things are: the cooler, the diaper bag, and the baby in their car seat. The game also has a mechanism where the heavier the stuff you’re carrying, you’ll eventually get slower over time. The heaviness of the stuff correlates to how fast you slow down. The stuff you have (particularly the baby) is fairly heavy, so you’ll slow down quickly. If you carry it all for too long, you risk collapsing. If you collapse, there’s a chance you’ll injure yourself and the baby.
You get everything out to the car. Putting the stuff in the car resets the slow-o-meter. Before you leave, you text your mom and she decides to meet you at the playground. She’ll bring her own food.
The walk from the car to the picnic area is long and your slow-o-meter is getting rather full. You can set your stuff on the picnic table, which resets the meter. Your mom is already there, with a pile of new clothes for the baby. She went on a shopping spree. You try to be grateful, but some of them have questionable phrases on the front and you don’t know where you’re going to put them to carry them back to your car. You push them aside for now to worry about later.
At lunch, your 3-year-old becomes very upset that there aren’t any chips and isn’t interested in the grapes. You are going to turn this into a life lesson about getting what you ask for, but it turns out your mom brought chips, and she readily hands some over. At least now you’re avoiding the game’s “Meltdown Mode.”
After lunch there’s a lot more room in the cooler: enough for the baby clothes. Your mom raises her eyebrows at you, and you have the option of starting a “Parenting Argument” mini game. It’s not very fun, so you say nothing.
You say goodbye to your mom and lug everything over to the playground. You set everything down on a bench, which while dropping the slow-o-meter back to 0, increases the chance that someone will steal you stuff. After about 10 minutes of heavy playing, the 3-year-old downs all the water in their water bottle. They says they’re still thirsty, so you help them at the drinking fountain. You bring all the stuff with you, because the theft chances increase greatly by leaving it there. It wouldn’t be a big deal if the clothes were stolen, but if someone steals the baby you instantly lose the game.
You help your kid with the drinking fountain, but water ends up all over their shirt and it eventually gets dirty after more playground play. You lose 5 points. Apparently you should’ve sacrificed a few diapers for more water in the bottle, or put diapers in the kid’s backpack and the water in the diaper bag. Who knew? Good thing this is a game and not real life, and you can try again for a better score.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No, this is not the title of an erotic fanfic about Santa and Mrs. Claus. Get your minds out of the gutters.
I’m in this network of parenting groups on facebook that are mostly positive. They’re non-judgemental, free of anti-vaxxers, and no one uses “DH” to describe their partners. But once a year they blow up. It’s not about breastfeeding vs. formula or working moms vs. stay-at-home moms. It’s about Santa.
One kid tells another kid Santa isn’t real. The first kid’s mom feels guilty about it and makes an innocuous post in a parenting group. The internet explodes into chaos.
As a former child raised as someone who knew Santa was a myth, I never realized how important he is to some people. I assumed parents didn’t want their kids to find out the truth because then they wouldn’t be able to use it as a behavior incentive. (That always felt a little icky to me, but I’m trying not to be judgmental.) For most parents it’s about magic.
They want to create a magical experience for their children. That magic is tied up in a belief in Santa. They remember believing in Santa as a child themselves. They plan how they want to tell their children that Santa, as a person, isn’t real, but anyone can be Santa to someone else by sharing a joyful giving spirit. I can’t judge that. I see how they don’t want some smarter-than-you kid messing it all up for their child.
My kid. Because I’m not going to tell my son Santa is real.
We want to make our kids childhoods “magical”. There are huge amusement parks dedicated to creating magical experiences for children. Families come in droves to spend money and wait in un-air conditioned lines next to other sweaty families to experience some magic.
I don’t need Santa to add some magic to my son’s childhood because childhood is already full of magic.
I remember being a kid and knowing magic wasn’t real, but still feeling like it was part of my life. I was new to the world and everything seemed amazing. If Arthur C Clark is right, and “magic is just science we don’t understand yet”, then everything is magic for little kids.
Christmas lights. Fairy tales. Baking. Bubbles. All of these things felt like magic to me when I was a kid.
You know what else felt like magic? Pretending in Santa. I knew Santa wasn’t a real person who came down my chimney (or, walked through the door, since we didn’t have a fireplace) and that the presents came from my parents. But we still pretended. We left out milk, cookies, and carrots. I knew my dad ate them when I was asleep, but it was still fun to pretend.
I think when we grow up we forget how real and powerful playing make-believe is for kids. My son often wants to pretend that we’re being chased by dinosaurs and have to hide in the curtains. These activities are boring for adults. We’d rather do structured play: do an art project, play a game with rules, throw a ball around. But my son beams when we play pretend together. He lights up. Because he’s still tuned into this childlike magic that I’ve long since outgrown. He doesn’t need me to influence him into believing in something that isn’t real. He already knows that the whole world is magic.
I’m not saying you can’t do Santa in your family, whole-heartedly and with gusto. If that’s a big part of your family tradition, who am I to stomp on it? I want to provide a middle option, somewhere in-between yes Santa and no Santa. Something that worked for me as a kid and a tradition I want to pass on.
Whether you do Santa or not, realize everyone’s going to do the same thing. There’s so many reasons for following whatever Santa tradition you choose. Some Christians find Santa too secular; some non-Christians find him to be too Christian. I think there’s a whole spectrum of Santa options for you to choose as a family. But please, be mindful of others. Think about how it feels when some kids get mountains of presents from Santa, and others get just one or none at all. If Santa was real, I believe he’d distribute presents equally, not based on the incomes of the child’s parents. Also, I don’t want my child to break another child’s heart with the truth about Santa. I’ll tell him to keep the secret under wraps. But since he’s not an extension of my own being, I can’t control what he does when he goes out into the world.
What are your favorite holiday traditions from when you were a kid?
Cover Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash. That’s a nice looking carrot, but I’d still go for a cookie.