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My boyfriend and I live together. (We’re planning to marry and it was just easier to move in now, okay? I had to move here from another state, sheesh. So no scolding.) He has 2 boys who enjoy games and D&D as much as we do. I have no kids. His are both boys, one 13, the other 15. However, they prefer video games to cooking and cleaning, and computer games to reading. How can I guide them to a healthy balance of real life chores and culture versus trolls with machine guns shooting the heck out of elves with sabers and bows? How can I help them be as creative and smart as Shelly, or as cunning as Mike?
Non-stereotypical Gamer Girl Geek
Dear Non-stereotypical Gamer Girl Geek,
First, congratulations on your engagement! Why would I scold? What has Shelly told you?
Next, please don’t wish for your kids to grow up to be like Mike. If only I knew then what I know now…just trust me ok? But he is creative in his own way, so that counts. I found that a great way to foster creativity in children is to force them to do loads of things they hate. That way they’ll have to think of creative ways to get out of doing them. For instance, I had a hell of a time trying to get Mike and Shelly to clean up after themselves. They’d leave their crap all over the place. So I started “collecting” their things, hiding them in a shoebox, and charging them a quarter to get them back. (This was back in the late 70’s so a quarter was a lot.) Oh how Mike hated not being able to show his friends his latest pack of hockey cards and Shelly would cry herself silly because her favorite teddy bear had been confiscated. It was a great plan until Mike, the shifty little bastard, found my shoebox and stole everything back. And not in a Robin Hood sort of way. That would have been forgivable. He ended up charging Shelly double what I was charging to get her stuff back.
D&D is creative, right? So it’s good that the boys play with you and your boyfriend. And you can always add culture through the stories you tell in the game, can’t you? I would think a great way to help them be more creative would be to ask them to write the stories (EDITOR’S NOTE: I think my mom means “campaigns?”) you act out. If you want more together time with the family and a more interactive gaming experience than video games can provide, maybe incorporate a Weekly Game Night. Let each member of the family take turns choosing the game. When it’s the adults’ turn to pick a game, pick something that gets their creative juices going. Don’t ask me for examples. I play Scrabble and various card games. I’m old, okay? Sue me.
Same goes with cooking. There are lots of cooking classes you could take as a family. Or if you don’t have time for that let the kids take part in the menu planning. Maybe choose a theme, again letting each member of the family pick once a week. Maybe you have “comfort food” one Friday and “South of the Boarder” the next Friday.
If not none of these things work then start leaving military school brochures around the house where they’ll find them. When they ask what’s up, look disappointed and say something like “That was supposed to be your birthday present! All we can offer you at home are books, home-cooked meals, and roleplaying games. Your dad and I see how much you enjoy these shooter type video games so we thought you’d love to do that stuff for real.” In fact, why don’t you try this one first.
Good luck. I hope it works.