by H. Linn Murphy
My son recently brought home a particularly egregious set of grades. This is a son who comes home and tosses me a quick yes to my question of whether he's finished his homework. He "does it all at school." I would question that, but his school is really going downhill and doesn't send homework. So like a dolt, I believe him.
Then he plops himself down in front of the computer and begins to kill stuff. Normally I wouldn't whine about someone coming home and unwinding for a few minutes from a long slog through academia, but the session never ends. I form an expedition into the wilds of his room in search of dirty towels and clothes and eating utensils. When I mention that I think I've spotted grazing raptors and his country must be razed he gives me THE LOOK.
"Mom, I'm right in the middle of a fight. I could die!" he exclaims, his face blanched white in earnestness. I can't elaborate on how little I care if his funky-looking character takes a dirt nap. I can't even fathom how that is so important to him. The disconnect floors me.
Then I remember back to when I coded for an on-line multi-user dimension game a few years back. It started out as something I could do with my husband and ended up being a completely solitary venture. Back then I had a 55 level Elflord who could kick some serious tail. I was extremely buff and able to defend Lothlorien against all comers at the click of a button. Yeah, I seriously rocked. I'd spent countless hours getting that way.
But I looked up one day and saw the sun coming up. And then my little girls came in to me rubbing their sleep-sandy eyes. I hadn't even been to bed. I'd been locked onto the screen trying to kill Cthulhu and nearly getting "killed" myself. My little girl came to my knee and asked, "What are we having for breakfast?"
Then I really looked at them. I realized I'd "mudded" clear through their whole babyhoods. I could barely remember their first steps. But I had about 23 quests under my belt and could thrash almost any monster the M.U.D. had to offer. Woo. That was the end.
I realized then that I'd spent the golden coin of C's babyhood for a wisp of nothing--less than nothing because they deleted my 55 level Elflord two weeks after I stopped playing every day. All of that playing time and angst and "prestige" went careening down the Whirlpool of Ending. And for what?
I told my son this morning about the
things I'd done in my life. I'd lived in Europe when I was young. I'd
gone back there at 16 with the German club folk dance team. I'd done a
tiny bit barrel racing. I'd competed in dance and danced on toe in
ballet. I'd sung, danced, and acted in school plays. I'd swum and
climbed and rappelled and hiked. I'd gone to Alaska to work in the fish
camps. I'd caved and painted and toured with choirs and fought in heavy
armor. This was where I spent the golden coin of my youth.
I have regrets that I didn't do more with my coin. Why didn't I
continue with the violin until I could stand to hear myself play? Why
did I let a move to OR with my parents explode my dream to be a ballet
dancer? Why didn't I fight harder to go to school in Austria like I'd
planned? Why didn't I push to finish getting my Young Women's Medallion?
Why didn't I go on a two-year mission? There are a thousand regrets.
husband ran in three marathons and countless 10Ks. He played the string
bass in school and in plays. He served a successful two year mission in
Argentina. He was in tour choir with me. He fought in heavy armor and
caved and hiked and camped and took scouts on outings. He has worked hard for our family.
has regrets. He wishes he'd finished the last bits of his Eagle. He
wishes that he'd gone to the Olympics in running. He wishes he'd
finished more college.
We have a trove of stories and
memories and experiences to draw from. We learned to trouble-shoot and
solve problems. We learned to use our imaginations. We learned a
thousand different life lessons.
my son? He has nothing like that under his belt besides a play. I feel
so sad when I think of the load of regrets he'll have when he's old and
used up and too crumpled with arthritis to move much. He spent his
golden coin for a teaspoon of ether. I tell him, "Run. Play a sport. Act
in drama productions. Play an instrument. Get the last three merit
badges and do your Eagle project. Join a club or three. Pick and pursue a
college. Pursue scholarships. Decide what you want to do in life and
then make firm goals to get there. And for heaven's sake do your
schoolwork! Don't let your life equal a teaspoon of fog."
He slopes away into his cave to lick his wounds and wonder why his mom is so mean. And I'm left wondering how I could have let it get so far.
this is the deal: We only have so much coinage. There are no Youth Coin
Give-backs except in the movies. We need to make certain that the
things we spend that golden coin of our youth on, are worth it.
s young. I'd gone back there at 16 with the German club folk dance team. I'd done a tiny bit barrel racing. I'd competed in dance and danced on toe in ballet. I'd sung, danced, and acted in school plays. I'd swum and climbed and rappelled and hiked. I'd gone to Alaska to work in the fish camps. I'd caved and painted and toured with choirs and fought in heavy armor. This was where I spent the golden coin of my youth.
A teaspoon of ether never satisfies.