Prioritizing Family as a Tabletop Gamer
Board gaming, I have a problem. Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m not enough of a gamer. I don’t have the money to go to as many conventions as I’d like because my health has been suffering, in part because of burn out. On a day to day basis, I don’t have time to learn and play new games and I don’t have anyone around to teach me games because the city I lived in was too expensive to stay in so I had to move out of the city, thus limited the number of people I have around to game with. As a result, I’ve felt largely exiled from the tabletop gaming community. It’s not like I don’t know that deep down I am a committed gamer. I spent the last 26 years of my life day in and day out thinking about and playing video games and tabletop games but with the massive amount of new games coming out, and my inability to keep up with the hotness, it’s challenging and scary to feel left out of a field that I turned into a full-time career. So what do I do when I feel like I’m not enough?
Family & friend time.
Well, there are a few things. Over the weekend we took a gorgeous trip to the beach and we brought a simple game that my daughter absolutely adores, called Just One. This is a great game for traveling because it’s fairly compact and despite not being a “serious” gamer game, it's one of the few games we knew we could actually play on the beach without ruining. This was a great way for me to get gaming out of my system but still feel like I was having a meaningful experience with my family and friends.
I spent 9 of my daughters years parenting as a single parent and while I’m now married, functionally, I am still a single parent. My wife will do things like help take my daughter to the doctor and help with the cost of medical insurance but overall, she’s still 100% my personal responsibility because my wife didn’t choose to create life, I did even if I was only a year out from being a child not to mention riddled with trauma from years of abuse when I did so. The thing is, I thought that as my child aged that I would have an increased amount of time to game because my daughter would be getting older and so I would have more help around the house. I have never been more wrong about anything in my entire life.
It doesn’t get easier
As it turns out 9-year-olds might be able to help make coffee, vacuum the house and clean but they come with an entire slew of problems I hadn’t been anticipating. My daughter has been “dating” people since 1st grade, and I did too at that age because all dating ever meant to me as a 1st grader was that I had a crush on a person and they had a crush on me. We didn’t hold hands, we didn’t hug, we didn’t kiss it just meant having validation and that’s precisely the way my daughter is approaching dating as well but I was never popular growing up because I was extremely poor and had horrific acne, braces and exactly 3 friends. I didn’t have nice clothes so I wasn’t ever in the popular circle of people. To say the least, navigating my daughters popularity is not something I was prepared for. My daughter is not only gorgeous, kind and has nice clothes but she also had me tactfully training her how to navigate the mean girls in class as the kid who was a loser her whole childhood.
One day after school my daughter came to me crying. I asked her why she was so upset and she told me that there was a girl in class who was bullying her and her friend, who happened to be a muslim girl. This also happened to be the same day she brought home her class photo. I took one look at the class photo and immediately understood the power dynamic between these kids. My daughter was competing with this other little girl, unknowingly and because my daughter confided in me all of the rude things this girl had said to her I was determined to teach my daughter how to defeat her. I gave her one line of advice, “All you have to do to defeat this person is to be kind to everyone in your class.” A few weeks later she came back to me and let me know that my advice worked and that the other little girl was finally leaving her alone. Admittedly, I was proud at first but then I found out a secret she had been keeping from me.
I wasn’t prepared.
My daughter had several girlfriends prior to this year and swore to me that boys were the worst and while I warned her that she might one day like boys too and she didn’t believe me, she kept her boyfriend a secret from me. When I confronted her about it I found out the truth about why she had been keeping this boy a secret from me. It was not because she was dating a boy but instead because she and her best friend had been fighting over this boy for the last 5 months, all of course, kept under wraps. I knew she was hiding something from me because every time I came into her room and she was on her phone she would nearly jump out of her skin. Eventually I managed to get the truth out of her after days of discussion.
The conversations that followed were emotionally laborious. Getting Hailey to admit that she had done something wrong was tasking as her first reaction was to be defensive. Then she assured me over and over again that her best friend was fine with her dating this person when I knew for a fact that was not the case. I sat down with her time and time again and asked her why it was important to be dating this kid. I asked her what dating meant to her, I asked her if she hugged him, held his hand or kissed him all to which she stated, “No, dating isn’t allowed at school but I really like him because he also has a pair of Heelys.” What it really boiled down to was that he is the popular kid in class and she is too. This was a war of power dynamics and I had accidentally taught my child how to ruthlessly win that war by winning the favor of the people.
We still have a ton more discussions that need to be had following the incident but I did throw in a few snide remarks at her which did help her acknowledge that she could have handled things a lot better than she did. I strongly considered a dating ban for her until high school but then I remembered what happened when my parents told me I couldn’t date anyone in elementary school and how well that went over. At the end of the day I decided what I really want to do is maintain an open stream of communication with my daughter about the problems she faces at school and in dating. Parenting is hard and I’m far from perfect but as someone who never trusted her own parents, I am really striving for my daughter to trust me.
I know that I don’t do everything right as a parent and there’s no way to predict the ways in which I’ll mess up my daughter and make her neurotic. My parents certainly couldn’t have predicted the ways in which they had screwed up our relationship but I know one thing for sure, as long as I continue to prioritize her and ensure that she knows that she is the most important non-cat being in my life, I think we’ll be okay. If this means I end up feeling guilty for not playing enough board games, so be it. If this means not being invited to big events with the “big names” in tabletop gaming, so be it. If this means fading into oblivion because I’d rather be a good mom than a known figure, so be it. I don’t owe the world my time but I brought my daughter into this world and I do owe her my time helping her navigate it.
As parents and tabletop gamers it’s important to remember that we don’t need to feel guilty for prioritizing our family over games, even if games are a means of unplugging from social media and spending time together. Sometimes the time you need to spend together is just sitting around and talking about your problems. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to feel guilty for not always having the hottest new games and it’s not a bad thing to be unfamiliar with a new game, take it as a future opportunity to experience something new but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to know every board game out there.