I’m raising gamers. Gamers who love to be outdoors. I never envisioned this but considering my level of nerdery, it probably should not have been a total shock. But a little of one because they come from long lines of athletes on both sides of the family.
This past fall my mom asked me if I was signing Joey up for t-ball. He is, after all, five. And a lot of little boys play soccer and t-ball at that age. I think she was a little flabbergasted when I said, “no.” The reasons could be numerous, the difficulty of practices and games with Shelby, the money, the time investment that either Jeff or I would make solo, but it all boils down to this, he has no interest. Occasionally he will want to toss a ball with Jeff and he throws a mean strike, but it’s not often enough (read: once a quarter, maybe) to say, oh there’s an interest there. Same with Will.
Now, none of the kids in Joey’s class at school are on teams and neither are any of the neighborhood kids he plays with regularly. Maybe if his peer set was a bit different, that interest would more readily arise, but as it is now, it just doesn’t. And it’s not like they play games all day long. Joey and Will play outside daily (weather- permitting, obviously not during a hurricane) and their play is highly physical. Lots of running and trampoline jumping, swinging and long walks. They love being outdoors at least as much as they do gaming, if not more.
There has long been a theory that the best way to get a child active is through team sports, but it’s not best for every child. Sure there is lots of value to cooperation, teamwork and competition and it can be healthy through team sports. But it’s not the only way any of those things can be done. All three can be done in gaming as well as education. My boys have an overactive competitive side that is often expressed in their gaming as well as teamwork in some games. The physical activity for them is just pure fun. Jumping on a trampoline is pure unadulterated joy.
Another idea that has been bounced to me is that parents often need to encourage their children to engage in sports by simply enrolling their child without their child’s consent or knowledge. This, unfortunately, doesn’t work with my parenting style. Now, I want my kids to learn how to swim because it’s a survival thing more than anything and we live near the beach and multiple rivers and lakes so it will make for more fun for them when they are older, but we’ve done that gradually without pressure and without the help of a swim team. And my brother-in-law and sister-in-law did that with my nephew for three years, this year, as a seven-year-old first grader, he asked not to do sports but to try acting classes. So, unfortunately, it may not even stick even with parental involvement and encouragement. Sometimes kids know young they just don’t like something and can express they want to try other things. Which is great, we want articulate, well-rounded independent kids who are confident to try new things too, right?
We’ve occasionally asked the boys, Joey in particular, about sports and he kind of shrugs it off as, well, maybe…but nothing bordering enthusiasm or even general interest. I’m sure he would be good in any sport he tried. Plus he’s a lefty, so you know, if he is really good as say, a baseball pitcher, there could be serious scholarship money at the end of that rainbow, but it needs to be his dream, his drive not ours fueling him.
My kids are in great physical condition and health even as gamers, and the gaming is helping with fine-motor skills and problem-solving so it’s not “turning their brains to mush.” And in addition to being physically active, they have other interests. Will loves learning about trains and vehicles. Joey is a zoology nut, particularly with marine biology and sharks. But all animals interest him. And both of them love astronomy. So, I’m unapologetically saying, my kids are gamers and there is nothing wrong with that.