Shawn at Massively wrote a really great opinion piece today called “The raid can wait; your kids can’t.” Go ahead and read it — I have a few follow-up thoughts once you’re done.
With two tykes puttering around the house, I give a lot of thought these days as to the example that I’m setting for them. When kids are small, it’s sort of like you don’t have to pay attention to your habits because you’re pretty sure they’re going to forget anything you do in the next 30 seconds anyway. But sooner or later there’s that moment when a kid repeats something you said or does something that you do all the time, and it sinks in: They’re learning from you. You are their biggest role model, and it doesn’t stop.
Hopefully my kids will learn from what I discuss with them, but they’ll definitely learn from how I act around them and how I respond to them. And it would be a horrible lesson to pass along that “Games > Family”. I don’t think anyone intentionally does this (unless they’re sadistic), but there’s always a pull in relationships between your own desires and what others want from you. There has to be a balance and priorities and all of that, but some things automatically trump others.
Unless it’s for Work work, I don’t game around my kids that much, but when I do I notice how they come over and just peer up at my computer with that dazed expression that’s taking it all in. I pick them up and share with them a bit of what’s going on, but then turn it off and encourage them to go back to playing with their toys. Computers will come soon enough in their lives as it is.
One of the rules I’ve set down for myself is that I am never too busy for others — for those I minister to, for my wife, and for my kids. My daughter is relentless when she wants my attention — she crawls over, expends a lot of effort to pull herself up on my pant leg, and then claws at my thigh until I pick her up or get on the floor with her. And I do it — I don’t ever want her to think, “Gee, daddy loves me, but not as much as he loves the big glowing box over there.”
I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. Games come and games go — by the time my son enters kindergarten, The Old Republic will already be a few years old. By the time my daughter is in high school, computers as we know them today will be so ancient to be laughable. But I’ll never get these years back with them, so I better not waste them now.