Friday, January 31, 2014

Deep Discussions, Courtesy of a Video Game

I have learned a valuable lesson this week, and have to share. Lately, our whole household has been pretty much obsessed with playing Lego Harry Potter (Years 5-7) on the XBox. Monkey picked that to give her daddy for Christmas.

That was actually really cute...we were cruising the video game section because she wanted to get Daddy something. She spotted this one, and just LIT UP. 

"MAMA!! LOOK! It's XBox. AND Lego. AND HARRY POTTER-- that's like, three of Daddy's favorite things in ONE GAME!" 

I thoroughly agreed, so we rang the service request button to get someone to come unlock it from the rack. And waited...and waited... and rang again, and went looking for anyone who worked there...and waited.... Monkey started freaking out, because there was only ONE copy in the rack and she was petrified someone was going to swoop in and buy it first. 

I explained that seemed unlikely, since even WE could not seem to get to that copy...but she was not convinced. Thus, she parked her cute little self on the floor in front of the display case at Target, blocking sight of that last copy with her body, and with the sweetest face, asked me to PLEASE go ring the buzzer thing again. Which I did. Of course. How could I not? 

Obviously, our patience was rewarded and we got that last copy. MDD was very touched by her determination to find him the PERFECT gift.  

Anyway, we have all dived into this game wholeheartedly. I like that it's cooperative in two-player mode. Monkey likes that when your character gets killed, you come right back a few seconds later. *More on that, below.

 MDD and Big Sis like that it follows the stories in the books (which MDD finished, and Big Sis is still reading).

What we didn't pay attention to:

The game is rated E-10, as in "everyone, age10 and up."

Monkey is only five, and Big Sis is nine. So uh, not quite there... But there's no blood in the battles, and there's a lot of funny stuff, and it does take teamwork and dexterity and perseverance so... we kinda let it go. Besides, MDD and I are just as obsessed with playing it. And, we have been playing it seemed like no big deal.

Further Confession: 
We MAYBE have some history in letting some things like this slide...i.e., Monkey's been watching Star Wars movies since she was not yet two years old. There are some scary parts, but she knows it's not real. We are more careful about other movies and TV shows, and certain radio stations do not get airplay if she's around.

But -- video games? New territory.

I got the Marvel Avengers game this Christmas too, and that one has been designated just for MDD and me...also because I find it really hard and don't want anyone (else) swearing at it. Other than that, we've only ever gotten E-rated games. It's never been an issue before.

There have been a BUNCH of snow days this month, courtesy of the freakish Chicago winter and polar vortex attacking us every other week. There have also been a couple rounds of norovirus and other unpleasantness which have kept us close to home... which means a lot of time for games.

Maybe too much time for games...

Why?  Well, in the past week or so, Monkey has repeatedly spouted off about killing people. Obviously, we're NOT OK with that, and have told her exaggerating like that is not OK.

SO, then... A couple of days ago, we were finishing up dinner and I had to excuse myself to the restroom. Apparently that was bad timing, because approximately two minutes later, I hear Monkey sobbing and MDD speaking very firmly, and I was stuck in the bathroom going, WTH?!!? Can a person not use the facilities without all hell breaking loose?

Upon my return, I found my little one totally bawling and red-faced.
MDD, I could tell, had been pretty upset with her.
I raised my eyebrows and asked what THAT was all about.

MDD told me Monkey had made some superbly flippant comment about how killing people is not all that bad and it isn't a big deal. He had had enough of that line of talk from her, and told her so.

It didn't sink in, so he told her that killing someone means they die and go in a box in the ground, and never, ever come back, and their families miss them horribly. (Gulp... uh....gulp)

She still didn't relate to that, until he pointed out that everyone-- anyone-- is part of someone's family, and if it was, say, Mommy that was killed, she would feel differently.


So when I heard her bawling, "Don't say that about Mommy!" -- that was my child, suddenly struck not just by the fact that people do die (as we've never hidden from her, and had to be honest about, when our beloved pastor died last year)-- but that EVERYONE will die, someday.

And that everyone really means EVERYONE... including Mommy and Daddy.

Admittedly, I was pretty upset with MDD for not at least waiting until I was no longer indisposed to have such a deep conversation, with potentially major implications. He feels he reacted accordingly, based on her flippancy and the failure to grasp the value of a human life... I countered that she is FIVE... But, whatever... that bell has been rung. 

She sobbed for a long time as she realized someday there may come a time when Mommy and Daddy may, in fact, pass away. Her sorrow and fierce love made me pretty much lose my schmidt.

I held her and hugged her and smoothed her hair back from her little red face.

We reassured her as best we could, that day is far, far, FAR in the future and she doesn't need to worry about that. Eventually she calmed a bit and we did get her to bed with a little extra snuggling and reassurances that we would be right in the next room, as always.

The next morning (yesterday), as we were driving to school, she was pretty quiet in the back seat. She said she wished she was back at her prior preschool (where she hasn't been in two years). I asked why, and she wouldn't really say. She "just wished that."

Then she started saying things like: she doesn't want to move up to kindergarten next year, or first grade or beyond. I pointed out she wouldn't get to drive, then (one of her life's greatest goals). She said she didn't care.

OK. That was NOT GOOD. I figured the previous evening's discussion was still on her mind.

Concerned, I pressed gently for details and got this WHAMMY:

She said she doesn't want to grow up, because that will just bring her closer to the time when she will lose her parents. 

I did not know what to do with that.  Especially before having my morning coffee. 

She started sobbing, full out, like...going-to-choke-and-barf-sobbing.

We were stuck in the car. I couldn't get to her.

So I used my Bluetooth to call MDD on the speakerphone in the car. (I figured...he went there, so he needs to help me now...)

We assured her we are fine, in (reasonably) good health and have doctors looking out for us and we are NOT GOING ANYWHERE for many, many years.

But I felt dishonest, telling her that. 

I mean-- I know we HAD to, in that moment, to calm her fear and reassure her. But really... how do we know? If I step off the curb tomorrow and get hit by an ice cream truck, what would she think of what we told her? Would she feel misled? I think she would-- and she'd be right to.

As she tends to be wise beyond her years, it is such a balancing act to figure out how to handle certain issues. She is empathetic and loving, and deeply, truly values her family. In that, we have done a good job as parents to give her the love and support and safety she needs to thrive.

And now she recognizes that, and fears losing us.

In a sense, maybe that is kind of good... but I do not know how to deal with the consuming fear in my five-year-old's sweet little face that someday she won't be with me, because I will die. I was NOT a young mom. I know that means our time together won't be as long as if I'd had her ten years earlier...but it is what it is. And she is too young for me to really tell her that, IMHO.

I think the topic came up before she really was prepped to process it.
MDD thinks it had to come up how it did, because her cavalier attitude was growing into something we needed to nip in the bud.

At any rate-- we are DONE with the kids playing video games where characters die and revive in a matter of seconds. That label said 10+ for a reason, and ignoring it was a mistake.

We are rectifying that this weekend, and I am 100% certain that will be a very unpopular decision. I don't know how much of a difference it would make, but at least we won't be continuing to make things worse.

I hope...??

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