Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Everything I need to know about parenting paradigms I learned from playing Final Fantasy in the 90s.

First, to the old school Nintendo gamers whose real life closely resembles the made-up life of the cast of the The Big Bang Theory: I’m married.  Down elven lord, down.

Second, I could probably own any of you in all of the first three Zeldas. Metroid, too. Sorry. I know that’s a blow to your collective Dungeons and Dragons egos. I'm also the one gamer to rule them all in any single digit version of Final Fantasy. I'll wait while you process my awesome. (I'm sure that's the word for it.)

But my ability to trounce men my own age at childhood video games is not what I wanted to draw your attention to. I want you to consider the White Mage. Let me de-geek it for those who spent more time partying in high school than I did.

You mean, you don't find this titillating? That explains a lot about my lonely teen years. (Source)

In a lot of epic Role Playing Games (RPGs), there’s a mash up of characters whose different strengths make the team a more capable whole. Like your own family, except some of your characters show up drunk to family reunions and hit on that second cousin with the hammer toe and make your team a more dysfunctional whole.

In the game Final Fantasy there's always Warrior, a Thief, a Black Mage, and a White Mage. There's also, how could I forget?, someone with a bow and arrows. Like the red-shirted guys on Star Trek, someone has got to be the first to die.

You have the option to enhance your RPG characters by distributing points; spend some on your warrior and he becomes an ultimate fighting champion. Spend some on that thief and he’s like the wind. Spend less time on any of this and you might actually get a date to prom.

The character I always neglected was that White Mage. I never spent any of my character-building karma on his improvement. Meh, so he can heal sick party members. Big whoop, my warrior with the double-edged Death's Bane sword is busy beheading goblins. You hang back, little magic man.

But before I knew it, I was deep in the game. Goblins had given way to ancient dragons unleashed from their cavernous hidey-holes and they were able to take down my warrior with one fiery blast of halitosis.  Suddenly, I needed that white wizard, the guy with the magic mumbo-jumbo who, had I bothered to invest in his 64-bit education, would have been able to revive my fallen fighters and, instead of repeating the same battle umpteen times, I would have vanquished the scaly scourge and secured the safety of Kingdom Dork.

But, you're waiting for the parenting metaphor, I can tell.

I won the game. (I also found dates for both the junior and senior proms, despite my intimate knowledge of nerd stuff and a captain’s spot on the debate team, thankyouverymuch.) I did it, as Frankie might say, my way.

I parent just like I used to play. I have selected the family values important to me. Among those are fostering creativity, having respect for each other, living with grace, being self-reliant, and letting mommy lick your ice cream cones. I could spend my experience points on other things, but I only have so many points to go around and, sorry Legolas, it's not your turn for the upgraded quiver.

Still, there were times when I really wished I’d taken an interest in tending to my White Mage. The same way that now, as my husband and I raise our own band of 3D thieves and warriors---in the loudest, longest, dirtiest, happiest RPG I’ve ever played---I sometimes look at them and think, “Maybe I could have tried it this way. Maybe that would have worked out better.”

I look around at all the other gamers. There are moms who home school; there are dads who require strictest obedience. Some families run only on wholesome foods, Oreos need not apply. Some have looser rules and share a bed. Most will win the game, or, to speak more plainly, they will unleash their children on the world and those grown people will succeed in their endeavors. Maybe they will even launch a sequel of their own, Family Fantasy II: Grandchildren Rising.

To the families raising White Mages: Thank You. My warrior thieves are going to need your help when they start their own quest. I know now that there's more than one way to defeat the Demon Queen and save humanity, or reunite the Triforce, or that sometimes the hero in the helmet is really a heroine. In the end we can all say, I mommied my way.


While my White Mage was casting a spell to make you feel more likely to click on my Top Mommy Blogs banner, my thief was stealing those Milano cookies you hid in the laundry room. Sorry, but a gamer's gotta play the game. 
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