PSA for dads: Play Fortnite

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This is written as a PSA for dads as I am one, but I assume everything said here would work for moms as well.

My oldest son was five on the hardest day of my career.

As a high school principal we had a student suddenly pass. I remember leading the building through a very difficult week and while I was emotional, I had not cracked. On Friday, the superintendent, my assistant principal, and I did the heart-wrenching work of cleaning out the student’s locker. I remember the drive out the parents’ house as relatively normal. I was in no way prepared for the harsh reality that was about to slap me in the face.

We entered the house and the parents were incredibly thoughtful and grateful for the support the school had provided. I sheepishly handed over the materials to the father, who started to tear up. The moment was awkward. The father eyes were darting around the room and we stood in silence. He then became fixed on an Xbox and said, “I wish I would have taken the time to get to know how to play. I could have spent so much more time with him then.”

I lost it. As a dad who sometimes prioritizes work over family this was so relatable it hurt. I literally could not speak as the tears rolled down my face. I remember being so thankful my superintendent was there to close the conversation. I literally could not speak as my heart broke for the family and ached for the time I was away from my own children.

As we made the trip back to the district, I was sad, but I was committed to never forgetting the lesson I learned that day. Take the time to meet your kids where they are at and become interested in what they are interested in.

Fast forward three years and I forgot the lesson I once learned. I am back to working too much and not hanging out enough with my kids. Fast forward five years and now I am speaking all over the place and home even less.

About two years ago my family was in the minivan riding home from somewhere. The twin two year-olds were sleeping and the nine and ten-year old were talkative that day. The nine year-old starting telling us about his favorite YouTuber and I was dumbfounded. I had no idea such a title existed. He continued. And – like many dads before I dismissed the conversation about something important to him because it did not make sense to me.

I had the opportunity to connect, but talked down to my kid instead. I did not realize that his favorite YouTuber was as real to him as my love for Ryne Sandberg or Jerome Walton was to me when I was his age. It took me a few weeks to realize this and then I re-engaged. And in the beautiful way kids do, he seamlessly forgave our previous conversation and then we watched videos of people jumping on trampolines full of pudding for an hour and it was awesome. Not the video – the time together.

So – where is this going? It is simple. If you are a parent of a child who plays video games at all and they are between the ages of 8-18 chances are they are playing Fortnite. Most likely – they are playing it A LOT. It is the current fad in gaming and it may be for the next six months or maybe it will only last six weeks.

My advice is simple – talk to them about the game. Watch them play the game. Heck, even play the game yourself. I spent a good ten hours of my Spring Break watching or playing this game. My kids love (and I do mean LOVE) the fact that I am horrible at it. But, over the ten days of Spring Break I spent time with them. I spent time with them on their turf. I was doing something they liked.

This is not intended to sound preachy. Lord knows I am far from a perfect parent. And this is not intended to even be advice on how to parent. This advice is selfish. Do this for you. I guarantee you that you will not regret the time spent with your kids.

2 Comments

  • Kurt Preble

    This is brilliant. I have 13 and 10 year old daughters, and just recently became a dad again a couple of weeks ago. While my daughters live with their mom, the time I spend with them needs to be more in their areas of interest, rather than mine. My new son is perhaps a 3rd chance to be better at this parenting thing. For my daughters, I’m going to go figure out this musical.ly app right now…

  • Deb Thibodeai

    You talk about kids ages 8-18, as a grandmother with grandkids ages 6 months to 14 I find that I too have to carve time out of my life for them, and their video games. Yes, this grandma stinks at every video game she tries, but I have found that’s when we laugh the most. (I can say at least I try!) My kids still love to laugh at their severly incompetent video gaming mother too. It is the connects we make that will last a life time.

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