by Marie Goodwin
My daughter loves animals. Her room is awash in the stuffed variety, but we haven't been able to have live pets of our own in our house because of my husband's allergies.. No dogs or cats. We do have four guinea pigs, but they can't live with us; so we house them in a friend's basement. Sadie is filled with remorse over our animal-free home, and she is on a mission to correct it.
A hamster... how allergic could daddy be to a hamster?
She has, for months, worn us down. Yesterday, Chris begrudgingly agreed provided that the hamster stay in her room and the cage is kept fastidiously clean. Today, she woke up and started the "Great Hamster Habitat Project."
She pulled boxes out of the garage and, all day long, cut and taped and glued and marked and cut some more until she had created a multi-level home of hamster complexity. Nevermind that the hamster will chew through the box in a nanno-second; she is undeterred in her imagining and creating of the home that she wants to provide for the new addition to our house when the time comes. She cares not one whit that the hamster will live in a plastic habitat like all the other hamsters of the world, because THIS house has a chair and table for her new sister, Ms. Star Hamster (formerly known as Cupcake Hamster.) This house has chutes (and ladders), hiding holes, and secret entrances. This house is fit for a hamster princess.
At one point this evening she looked up from her cutting and taping and said, "I know you love this project I'm working on, mom. You know why I know? I'm not even a LITTLE interested in screen time while I'm creating this....", thinking that is the only reason I would be happy with a day filled with cardboard creativity.
It helps, I'll admit. But it isn't the only reason. What I find important in this work is her ability to delve into something with every ounce of her being and stick with it for 12 hours. Not many kids I know can or will do that... and certainly not for the idea of a pet, the reality of which has yet to be realized.
by Marie Goodwin
My kids spent the day yesterday creating finely crafted imaginary characters from scratch. From the time they woke up until dinner, they poured over books with names like "The Monster Manual" and rolled oddly shaped die to determine the various characteristics of who they were to become. They rolled also to determine magical objects that they would carry with them on their journey. Important stuff.
And, of course, they argued. They are siblings, after all. Older brother, as a DM ("dungeon master" for those of you lacking initiation), holds wayyyyy too much power over little sister, and little sister is honor-bound to rebel. Little sister also has a control fetish that she gets from both of her parents. She wants all of her personality traits to be powerful and strong. She wants to be everything: charasmatic, magical, cunning. She want to have all the best magical spells and objects at her disposal. But it is all up the roll of the dice, and sometimes she rolls numbers that make her "less than." And her brother won't let her roll again. And he's being kindof mean about it, so eventually she storms off in frustration.
After the arguing got to this fever pitch out there in the kitchen, I asked them to bring their books and papers into the living room for a chat. We talked about inequal power, in games and life; how that feels to both parties. How problems might be solved when unequal power is at play and how language and emotion can either exacerbate this particular problem or ease tensions with others. There is a skill to avoiding conflict in these types of situations, and it is important to learn how to navigate this because sometimes you will hold the power and sometimes you will fall under someone else's power. How do you choose to walk in the world?
We talked about how no one is perfect; sometimes your charisma score just isn't that high and you have to make due with intelligence and cunning, and maybe a magical item in your bag. What you lack in yourself is usually made up by your gang of other creatures and beings that make up your tribe. Their strength covers for your weakness, and vice versa. We don't have to be strong in every facet of our lives. We just have to surround ourselves with good friends who know our weaknesses and are willing to step into the fray when we can't help ourselves. And we too must be willing to accept and hold up our friends and allies when the time comes. There is no other path to completing the journey ahead.
They went back to their imaginary world and finished the character sheets before dinner. The table is still strewn over with books, markers, and paper as well as the candles they burned for ambiance on a dreary late-November day. Now, the next morning, they are sleeping and most likely dreaming of elves, magicians, paladins, and dragon-born because this is where their creative energies sit right now, learning from games what it took many years for me to learn from life and never learned in school. If only I had taken D&D more seriously in 8th grade...