My two daughters are “gamers”. The only reason that I put that into quotations is that they are ages 7 and 3 and their ability to play games has up until this point been fairly limited by their inability to perform the fine motor skills required to play many games. Up until recently, they have mostly played simplistic games on either the Leap Pad or the iPad because those were the ones that were easiest for them to play.
Recently though the two of them have been asking to play games on my 3DS, which I’m fine with as long as they take proper care of it (although I did have to buy a new pack of styluses to replace the ones they lost). My youngest daughter doesn’t really know what she’s doing with it, she just likes to press buttons and get some kind of reaction on screen. But the other day my older girl asked to play so I handed her the 3DS and let her go off to do her own thing. About 45 minutes later I realized that she was still lying on the floor playing. I sneaked up behind her to see what she was doing and saw that she was playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf. And as I looked closer I saw that she wasn’t just pressing buttons to see what happened, she was REALLY playing the game!
This past Fall she began the 1st grade, and when she started the year she was a beginner at reading. She could pick up some of the simple words but couldn’t really get through an entire book. But in the 4 months or so since then she has rapidly picked it up and now is one of the best readers in her class and is constantly reading books to her sister, mom and myself. I’ve been incredibly proud of her as I’ve watched her learn so much so quickly. And it never occurred to me how critical this skill was when it came to playing games. Of course I knew that many games had a lot of words, it just wasn’t anything I had ever stopped and given any thought to.
But there she was. Talking to her neighbors, donating fossils to the museum and dealing with that s.o.b. Tom Nook. All without needing any help from me. There was no need to come ask Daddy what this word was or ask where she was supposed to go next. She just played the game. It seemed like only yesterday that she didn’t even know how to hold a controller. And to be honest there were equal parts excitement seeing how much she’s learned but also sadness to realize that with each passing year there’s going to be less and less that she relies on me to help her with.
The years when your children are so small and dependent on you for all of their needs are so precious and rewarding and short. It’s difficult to think of a time when that will no longer be the case. When not only will they be able to get along just fine in the world without your assistance, but they may not even have much time for you. One day my daughter will go to high school, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids and hopefully visit me once a month in the retirement home to show me pictures of my grandkids and feed me applesauce.
Or maybe I’m reading too much into her ability to communicate with a turnip selling boar named Joan.