Friday, May 28, 2010

"Mommy, You're Good at Killing Monsters."

The other day while my mother had taken my older daughter, B – 3 years old– to the park. I was bouncing my baby son and playing video games, like ya' do, and when the pair returned, my daughter exclaimed with unrestrained joy and excitement:

"Mommy, you're good at killing monsters!"

I was startled and laughed out loud because "Yes, I am good at killing monsters.

Now,  let it be known that I am not going to start playing violent video games daily in front of my daughter, she's a little young for that and as she has begun exclaiming, there are even parts of Scooby-Doo that are scary. But! I was both startled and excited that her walking in on me slaughtering hell beasts was not a moment of panic, but a moment of awe at mommy's ability to vanquish the concerning monstrous horde.

As you know, I feel strongly about challenging and yes, frightening your audience. I am a firm believer that if you face a fear and deal with it psychologically in a safe place, like a child dealing with nightmares at home where mommy and daddy can help put it in context, you'll be more prepared to deal with them later on. That said, I'm not sneaking into my kids' room at night and yelling them awake either.
On mother's day B sat through her her first movie (more or less), and this was really quite exciting for me and my husband, it was Where the Wild Things Are, and she asked a lot of really compelling questions. She was very concerned with how everyone in the movie was feeling, why people were being not nice to one another and the obvious concern of many critics, that the movie simply "wasn't the same story as the book." Which it isn't.

 She was much more bothered by the older kids at the beginning of the movie who made Max cry than she was of the Wild Things themselves, as well as the "Mommy who was Mad-ic and yelling" (for some reason "Mad" is "Madic" in B-language: "Don't be Madic, Calm Down!". Though she did find them "scary" the monsters were really only monsterous to her when they were being "not nice".

The film, and her concern for these characters, had a much more lasting outward effect than walking in on me fighting off the legions of hell in a lava pit, but, what has stuck from that is asking me if I'm going to "kill monsters". I usually say no, because I want to play puzzles with her, or because I was actually going to watch a DVD with her and had picked up the controller, let's be honest, it's easier to do something with her in the moment than play a game then clean up the paint that got all over the floor because I was in the zone.

Overall, I like that B's first reaction was that Mommy was winning, she got very excited about it and cheered me on for several minutes before I decided to stop playing. I chose to stop because my arms were getting tired (bouncing a sleeping baby and working a controller is a surprisingly solid workout) but I'm glad I didn't immediately jump to shut off the console. If I can be a demon-vanquishing roll model to my baby girl, then I will take that and run with it.

I certainly am concerned about raising B to know that violence doesn't solve most problems, let's be fair, it solves the problems of ravening demons invading your cityscape in a video game. It was fun for me to be cheered on as I eviscerated the scary creatures that unflinchingly menaced my avatar as B yelled where they were coming from next. Afterwards, we all had a hearty cuddle and she was excited, not frightened by the experience.

I don't think I'll be letting her play Dead Space or BioShock any time soon, but maybe it's time we started thinking about a Wii.  I'd like her to feel she has the power to overcome scary characters, something I never got as a munchkin, I didn't play video games and the frighting spectres of childhood entertainment were never creatures I could interact with and vanquish on my own. Maybe if I'd been able to take on Freddie Kruger myself and overcome him in the video game setting, I would have been less plagued by nightmares. Or if I'd had the ability to control Jaws on a rampage I'd have been able to laugh him off a little more, I mean, I was hundreds of miles from the nearest large body of water.

 Waaaay less intimidating than my imagination.

The ability to interact directly with the characters who inhabit your nightmares is a gift, and one to which these new generations of kids have unique access. My three year old probably isn't old enough to meet Master Chief or take on the Locust with Marcus Fenix; but I think she's may be ready to be introduced to Mario.

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