Sunday, August 23, 2009

Adventures in Real Parenting: Not All Fun and Games

In our basement, people are being killed in cold blood. The sound is horrendous.

It got so bad that sometimes, Chloe, The Dancer, would rouse herself enough to type a text message and hit send, hurtling her plaintive through the AT&T controlled air until it reached her father and me upstairs in our bedroom hideaway.

"Will you please tell Nathan to quiet down?"

Grumbling, one of us would slip back into parent mode, well past the time where we declare ourselves "off duty" and approach the door leading to the scene of the crimes. "Hey, Nate! Keep it down!"

The mayhem would lessen ever so slightly, enough so that we could not hear it from our room where we ourselves were watching Brits treat each other with stark brutality on DVDs borrowed from the library.

And his sister, the originator of the complaint, so exhausted from dance and academia, would simply fade into unconsciousness, taking with her those exasperated grievances and dire warnings that Nathan was on the express train to serial killerdom.

But it turns out that it isn't just murder and mayhem and foul language in the basement after all.

"Mom, what exactly is a quid?" Nathan asked me a couple of weeks ago.

We proceeded to have an eye-opening conversation regarding all he's learning about life in England. It seems that he's picked up the Anglophile gene. Please don't misunderstand. He hasn't a clue what a tea cozy is nor has he started calling dessert pudding, but he's much more aware of British slang and cultural icons than he was before. He knows what an O Level is. I had to google it.

"They really do talk like the people in Hope and Glory," he announced, taking a swig of some super-charged energy drink (as if he needs it.) He was referencing a movie that he and his sisters have been forced to watch so many times, they know half the dialogue. "They say bloody and bugger off and sod and you lot and they call each other blokes."

How is he learning this? From playing XBox live with kids from the UK. They've developed friendships over the last couple of months. Like many of us do here in the blogosphere, they look for each other to play together online.

I was delighted to learn that woven through the cursed exclamations (which elicit very stern NATHANS!!!! from his parents) and the very male banter involving grenades, guns, ammo and gear, the gamers discuss things like language, education, music and, believe it or not, health care. What do you know? The British gamers think it's odd that we here in the U.S. are struggling over health care reform.

It would be very easy to dismiss the online activities of our kids - it's all just games, killing, an erosion of our slick morality, blah, blah, parenting speak, blah....,but what they are doing, even as they play war games or as part of band is forming relationships with people from all over the world.

It's not morality that's being worn down, it's intolerance and nationalism and a sick need to feel superior to other people simply because this one was born in the U.S. and that one was born somewhere else. The world shrinks and, one hopes, understanding expands.

And, as someone who values my ability to have friendships with people from down the road (at which I still suck per comments on FB like "Your phone's dial out feature works too, you know) and across the globe (looks furtively away from my gmail because I know there are people in there that I owe an email), I can't think of a better way to use the vast technological glory of the internet.

Blood-soaked horrors, optional.

I ask you - what's not to love about something with a KillCam?


  1. Gosh. and I thought I was all cool because I met up with YOU "all the way in Atlanta!"

  2. I just told my son about this post and he asked if we could visit. I pointed out that you lived far enough away that it would take a few days driving, but otherwise he was hip to the idea of spreading blood and guts around the world with your son.

    I'm amazed at some of the questions my kid asks while gaming... he may not be out in the sun getting melanoma and bonding with local youths, but he is digging in a bit to his native British culture which had been left behind when I divorced his dad.

    So yeah, I guess it's not so bad after all.

  3. amzing how we humans interact aint it?

  4. That's pretty cool! :) I hope that someday, our future child (children?) will be interested in other cultures, too.

  5. I'll have to ask my nephew if he plays with folks from around the globe. Usually his friends contact him to play [insert game of the moment here] because he apparently kicks ass. And I guess it's better than when he would pretend to be an evangelical christian who would try to convince the other gamers to become born again. There were complaints.

  6. Interesting. I knew the gaming was international, but didn't realize there was that much socializing going on along with the gaming itself.

  7. I am such a luddite when it comes to video games -- I've tried but am hopeless at it -- and clearly I'm missing out. Kinda cool how Nate is expanding his horizons, however unexpectedly.

  8. As an Anglophile with a long pedigree, may I just say that it is a wonderful thing to find out we have that in common as well. Some day, should luck and money provide, I will find myself there, and it may take all the effort in the world to drag me back home.

  9. Yeah, I find it very funny that there is a health care "debate." Um, should we pay more money so that insurance fat-cats profit by denying coverage, or should we expand Medicare (which works extremely well) to all? Read hard choice if you put your thinkin cap on.

  10. That was pretty funny about the 'O' levels. When I interviewed for the job I had in London the Chairman asked me how many 'O' levels and 'A' levels I had. Not having a clue about either I said 6 and 5 since that sounded plausible. They looked very impressed and hired me (after I'd spent half an hour laughing and joking with the executive secretary).

    I agree the nets are making the world a smaller, friendlier place for most of us. Now what the heck is the matter with the governments?

  11. Subtract fifteen years and you might as well be talking about me, though in this instance I found an e-mail pal over the internet in the mid nineties when I was a lonely teenager.

    She and I struck up a friendship that became a horrifically impractical crush, which when it subsided, ended up with her not wanting much to do with me. However, I had grown close to her family who were I think curious to know about this American boy that their sister or daughter had been raving about for so long.

    And to this day, this is how I ended up knowing as much as I do about the UK, though I'm not sure I was ever truly an Anglophile.

  12. Are you saying we should invade England? That's what I got out of this post. You're going down, limeys!

  13. The bad news is - boys never grow up! My son is 32 and even half-way across the world, he manages to stay in touch with his friends (from every corner of the earth) via X-box! He can even watch OUR TV programs by hacking (he has permission) into one of his friend's TV. I son't know how they do that, but he is able to watch NFL and other things "back home." At least I don't have to hear the comments these "boys" make to each other! LOL

  14. Well at least he is getting to know some people. I had no idea you could do that.

  15. Personally, I like playing with the kids from the UK... I love the accent and they're typically not as good as I am in regards to cutting them in half with a Thompson Sub Machine Gun.


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