For the most part, I work from home so that I can be with the kids. During the school year, that works perfectly. I drop them off, come home, do a little housework, a little work-work, and I stop in the office a few times a month for meetings. The meetings, while technically work, are a win-win for me. Yes, they force me to shower and do my hair, but I also get to talk to other grown people. It’s a lifeline.
Any of you who have ever been stay-at-home parents know how crucial this is. Without interaction in the real word, we stay-at-homes often begin to revert to our sticky preschool selves. You’ve seen us at Target, slogging around in slippers and yoga pants, hair pulled up into a three-day-old bun. Remnants of last Sunday’s make-up still on skin. There is probably breast milk or mac and cheese on the t-shirt we borrowed from our husband’s drawer. But hey, we had to, because our laundry is the only laundry that doesn’t have to get done. Our kids have to be clean, us, well, not so much. When we finally get to have that lunch with an old friend we haven’t seen in a while, we start to overwhelm them with stream of consciousness chatter and questions left unanswered. Then we apologize for constantly interrupting because, as we are forced to explain, we have forgotten how to talk to other adults.
My precious Parksalot is learning how it feels, too. Cut off from his friends and teachers at school during summer break, he is forgetting how to talk to me like I’m an adult. Apparently, he thinks I am a video-game obsessed, 9-year-old.
Now, I have suffered through two agonizingly long years of Minecraft. If you don’t know what Minecraft is, either you live under a rock or your kids just haven’t gotten to it yet. Just wait. It’s sort of a building game, where users create their own worlds using materials, such as wood, lava and glass, found in the game. Park is especially fond of elaborate houses with water falls and speeding roller coasters. And pigs. Somehow livestock is involved. It is an excellent game for developing imaginations, but for reals, I don’t get it. I have watched for endless hours as he cobbled a house together, asking my advice on what materials would look best and what colors I fancied. Finally, I just started making him create some Mommy-can-dream spaces, like luxe outdoor kitchens with pools and diamond-covered seating areas. When I got desperate for ideas, I would ask him to create art for the walls of his houses.
I was thrilled when Bodacious showed an interest in Minecraft, and now she builds with a ferocity to match her brother’s. But alas, like all good things, this is coming to an end. His latest obsession is Roblox. I have no idea what Roblox is, but he talks about it to me constantly. From what I gather, it is a community gaming experience, with users creating the games, uploading them into Roblox, and then everyone can play them. He loves the home designing games and the racing games.
And there is a part of me that thinks I might be going ever-so-slightly insane. After a particularly long car ride with him Thursday, the drive-thru wait at Chic-fil-A and then dinner, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I must have started twitching over my half-and-half tea.
My husband looked at me and asked what was wrong. I told him I couldn’t talk about video games any more, period. I asked if this is what it was like for him when he comes home, me trying to squeeze in a day’s worth of adult contact into the few hours he has with us in the evenings. I know I just vomit all of the day’s events on him as soon as he walks in the front door. Fascinating bits about the dog’s behavior or a story I read online, haircuts I am considering or something else completely irrelevant to his existence.
To his credit, he smiled, then lied to my face.
“No, never.” Now that’s love folks. When someone just sucks in all your junk, because they know that you need to feel engaged and that you need to be validated. Even though they could not care less about the difference between ombre and balayage hair color or what salad you might bring to family dinner. They love you so much that they listen anyway.
That evening, as I was loading the dishwasher, Parksalot came into the kitchen to ask me if I had ever heard about a guy named David Baszucki, who goes by the name Builderman, in Roblox. I looked at him, all hopeful and bright-eyed. Then I took a deep, deep breath, smiled and lied to his face.