I have two children, so, like most parents, I spend a substantial amount of time worrying about them for one reason or another. Is that cough the start of a cold? Is everything okay at school? Will I be able to afford to send them to college? Will there be jobs for them when they get out of college? And so on.
As I am a firm believer in not getting worked up about things I can’t control, I try to set aside my fears about the nebulous future and focus instead on the concerns I have about our lives in the present. For my daughter in elementary school, most of that is health and school-related. I know that the occasional illness or drama with friends is inevitable, and I’ve been pretty good about not jumping in to try to solve every little problem she has. I don’t believe in helicopter parenting and want my kids to learn independence, how to deal with life’s bumps, and so on. Any parent who tries to shield his kid from everything little thing really needs to reconsider his strategy. The goal here is to raise a functioning adult, not to protect your kid from the entire world.
That doesn’t stop me from worrying, though.
Lately, though, most of my worrying has been about my teenage son. He likes video games. That in itself isn’t a huge deal. Most kids like video games. I like video games. I would go so far as to postulate that the majority of people like video games of some sort, and even those who have never seen them before would enjoy them, given the opportunity.
My son, however, wants to spend almost all of his free time playing video games. At first, this made me worry about his grades. He’s still a good student, though. He gets his homework done. His grades are fine. And I’m not getting any requests for conferences from his teachers. Of course, my son knows I’m always watching. Thanks to living in the Internet age, I can login to his school and see his grades on every single assignment. So I’m not really worried about that anymore.
What about his social life? How can he be maintaining friendships if he’s playing games all the time? That’s something to be concerned about. I don’t want him to be an anti-social hermit. Once again the Internet comes to the rescue. He’s constantly playing with his friends. They’re just playing together online. They all get on a Skype call together and go find a multiplayer server to play in. He does have friends over occasionally, but they all bring their laptops and do the same thing they’d be doing if they were sitting at home. So he’s got friends. I just have to get with the times. Nothing to worry about there…I guess.
Maybe it’s nothing to worry about, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing he’d spend less time on the computer and more doing other things.
Recently, I got my wish. My son doesn’t want to spend as much time on the computer because he’d rather be spending it with his girlfriend.
Ignoring the fact (and tiny bit of jealousy) that his middle school dating record is now far better than mine (As mine was non-existent, surpassing it wasn’t that difficult.), this development gives me a whole crop of new things to worry about. He’s a teenager. And he has a girlfriend. And there are hormones. And AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
He and I have had discussions and he’s getting sex ed at school, so I know he knows the risks. I’ve been stern. I've been friendly. I've been parental. I’ve even joked with him about the worst STD of all: babies. At some point I have to hope that what I’ve tried to teach him over the years has sunk in and that he’s on his way to being that fully-functional adult I mentioned earlier.
I can’t help but wonder, though, if maybe I was a bit too hasty to condemn all of the video game playing. We can go back to that, right?