My PPRPG group is a nice cross section of people who are at various ends of the spectrum in the years known as the thirties. A couple of us are a tad bit older having just entered our forties. I, myself, am at the higher end having turned 40 this past year. We also represent a nice cross section of people who are at various stations in our relationship statuses. Some of us are single, some of us are in relationships, some us are married, and some of us are divorced.
With these two factors, age and relationship status, we add a third ingredient: Some of us have children.
Children: I don’t think there is a standard anymore for when people begin families. I think there may have been a perceived rhythm that suggested an expected pattern which was perpetuated by mass media, but in truth I think everyone who’s interested in starting a family have very specific reasons for adding children to their equation. Granted, it can also be a decision that wasn’t planned. The path to parenthood traverses many seas.
For me, it’s interesting because being at the higher end of my PPRPG group’s age scale I’ve had the experience of seeing many of my contemporaries in the “40s club” outside of my PPRPG group evolve and grow, and with them their children. Some of my friends’ children graduated high school this past year, others just welcomed their first child, and than there is a whole array of ages in between these extremes.
It’s a strange time for me to be an adult when it comes to children. I did the math and if I had children in my early twenties as many of my friends did they’d be getting ready to start their adult lives this summer. I, myself, do not have children. I am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
Children were never in the cards for me. I certainly experienced the conversation that a lot of married couples probably experienced in regards to how they’d like to see their life unfold. Children are often a part of that conversation. For me and my then spouse it was something neither of us wanted. Its not that we had some great disdain for children, but I think we both felt informed enough to understand the lifestyle shift it would create; and we were not interested in experiencing such a shift, and therefore children were removed from our life goals.
However, it would be unfair to say that all things in life come about through planning and sometimes things just happen. As an adult we have to address these things and adjust accordingly in order to embrace or reject the things that come to us through the ether. I’d always kept the door open to revisit the topic of having children during my marriage. However, my spouse and I ended up going our separate ways for various reasons, and a lot of those various reasons for ending our marriage were the same reasons we didn’t have children. We had other priorities and eventually those priorities were not sustainable to a marriage. In hindsight it was the right choice to not have children; even now many moons later, our respective lifestyles would be incompatible with child rearing.
The sacrifices I would have made to be the loving and responsible parent I’d aim to be would have derailed how I’d chosen to live my life. Perhaps, I may never know if that statement is true. A thought that comes to me randomly, but often, is the idea that I am still young enough to start a family if I wished. I suppose some doors close slowly.
I do have some reference for what life must be like with children having three wonderful nieces and one wonderful nephew spanning the ages of 6 – 12. I feel myself at least acquainted with the demands of being a parent, from a conceptual point of view. I’d never be naive enough to suggest I actually could have true empathy. This being acknowledged, I see how many activities and demands are placed on my sister in order to support her kid’s passions and their needs, and my conclusion is I don’t know when she finds time to sleep nor do I know how she could even conceptually be part of a PPRPG group.
Yet, she does find time for herself. It’s a miniscule amount of time, but It does exist. Also, the circumstances have to be right to take advantage of those opportunities for self-indulgence I aptly refer to as “me time.”
But, “me time” is tricky. It is another path in the seas of life which need to be negotiated. Parents have a lot of interests, activities, and hobbies, that don’t directly relate to having children. I think that is okay. I don’t think we stop being who we are or what we like once we are in a relationship or have children. But, our time, and who it is allocated to does; it stops being about only us. That has to be respected.
As mentioned my PPRPG group has members who are parents. Their children are on the much younger side and therefore are far from being the independent entitles tween and teens can be. Notice I said “independent” and not “responsible.” Most of them are barely in grade school.
For these parents this is a time period where children are obviously less independent and if there is to be time away from them in order to experience “me time,” arrangements, such as child-care, have to occur. If you are in a relationship or marriage the child-care may take the form of your partner or spouse. Yet, that is a slippery slope, because if “me time” is not readily available, then you are often going to spend what “me time” you have ideally with your partner. Finding time to engage in an PPRPG is going to be challenging and not always a priority. This is where we enter the next philosophy:
Philosophy Two: Children Come First (It may be more appropriate to say, Family Comes First.)
This is a reality.
If an attempt is going to be made to keep to a schedule of regularity for participating in an PPRPG group as a parent of children of any age, then both the parent and the PPRPG group have to come to the realization very quickly that family comes first. If a parent puts that out there as a boundary, then the group can adapt. It may mean the parent’s participation is reduced or not as regular as they’d like it to be. The flipside is the group may have to figure out from a narrative and structural point of view how to carry on without the parent on those occasions they need to be elsewhere. I am here to testify that it can be done successfully. However, everyone’s experience may differ. Yet, with some creative thinking, an astute game master, and a group of players who are committed to respecting this boundary, it can be done.
One of the keys to making this work for the parents in the group is to have a PPRPG group whose size is on the larger end. It does make a bit more work for the game master, but it provides a buffer that prevents absenteeism from derailing the group. The likelihood that multiple people will miss the same game session is minimal if boundaries such as the ones in the first part of this article (you can find this here) are respected. I’m in no way suggesting this is easy and there is a certain amount of planetary alignment that has to create this scenario for folks, but a group of seven players seems to be just about right and you should hold to the rule of five. If you don’t have a minimum of five of your seven players, then you should suspend the game for that session. You may find an equation that better suits your group’s dynamics, but this has worked successfully for my PPRPG group for over a year. We’ve only had to cancel a handful of sessions, and considering we play weekly, that’s pretty successful for a bunch of working adults.
If a parent is going to participate then childcare becomes a real factor if the children are not old enough to be left to themselves which is very much the case in my PPRPG group.
If the parent doesn’t have access to family oriented child-care this can quickly become expensive. There is also a good possibility the spouse or partner may also be part of the PPRPG group. This is fantastic but also comes with its unique challenges. Here in the Washington DC area some people pay the same amount as their mortgages for services like daycare or childcare, just for the times they are away at their occupations. Children also may have unique needs that often require specifics that are not easy to leave in another person’s hand. Regardless, I am the last person to ever suggest that claiming “me time,” let alone using it to participate in PPRPGs with children, be it newborns to angst ridden teens, isn’t a challenge. It could potentially be the source material for its own blog and very well might be.
Here are some ideas and thoughts from my direct observations and interaction with my PPRPG group.
Respect the family first rule. This is a two-way door that both the parent and PPRPG group must abide by. It is very realistic that it may not be sustainable and that is the subject of an inclusive conversation that should occur within the entire PPRPG group. If its not, then move on. But, if it is, then it needs to be respected.
Participating in a PPRPG group should be equated to and given the same weight as playing on a sports team. It might be hard to give the PPRPG group that kind of encumbrance, but with all the demands of parenthood, it needs to have that kind of gravitas in order to be honored in an individual’s schedule. This goes for all participants and is not mutually exclusive to the parents in the PPRPG group.
If a parent in the PPRPG group is raising children with a partner or spouse, then communication is going to be key. A partner or spouse may not understand, or, they may be disinterested in the PPRPG world, but that is not a cause to be denied participation from it. Putting it into the context of a sport team helps to translate this. It may help to negotiate what should be a respectful trade off in which a parent may participate in a PPRPG while the other parent tends to the children. And then when its time for the other parent to pursue their interest the partner or spouse will step up to the plate to handle childcare. In my PPRPG group we actually have a couple who participate but rotate. For one campaign the husband attends and for another campaign the wife will attend.
I have to be honest, this is really great relationship work, and allows each parent to have a night out while the other spends the night in with their children. I can only aspire to find such great dynamics in my next relationship.
The PPRPG groups should be willing to hold their gaming sessions at unconventional times. Sometimes the more bizarre the time the more readily everyone becomes available. It may take a bit of sacrifice, like getting a little less sleep on a weekday night, but if the PPRPG group holds to a soft start time and a soft end time, then it becomes easier to plan around. I’d recommend no more than three and one-half hours. But, each group will need to generate their own times.
Also, if realistic, hold the game session at the parent’s house and start the game after the children have gone to bed for the night. I’ve played more than one game-session with the soft glow of a baby-monitor in the corner of the room. It also takes stress off partners and spouses. By being “home” in case of a crisis the parent is on the premises to assist. The PPRPG group will need to be ready, and be good humored, to accept that interruptions and delays to gamming may occur.
If holding the game at the parent’s house is not reasonable, then the PPRPG group might be open to having the children at one of their homes as guests for the gamming session. Setting up a space, like a home office in sight or adjacent to where the gaming session is held, as a temporary child friendly zone, can allow the parent to participate and keep an eye on their children. I’ve had gamming sessions where we’ve had playpens in the room with us.
Also, if there is a babysitter involved, and its feasible, have the babysitter come to the non-parent’s home for the gamming session. Granted, it may not be an ideal solution as most children are more comfortable in their own homes, but it alleviates the potential for other factors which may cause the parent to miss a gaming session. Also, by having a babysitter on the premises the parent potentially can stay more engaged with the gamming session, and at the same time not be worried about the situation at home while they are away.
If the goal is to not be home and to take a break from the domestic kingdom, then a parent’s route is going to have to be in relationship communication as mentioned earlier. Another member of my group has negotiated the time away to participate in the PPRPG group and is fortunate to have a spouse who may not understand the PPRPG world, but understands the need to participate. This member provided me the sports analogy, and it was this analogy that put into a better context their participation while creating the circumstance of understanding that allows for their absence from home one night a week.
As parents It not always going to be possible due to occupational, financial, and familial reasons to be away from the children long enough to participate in the full session of a PPRPG group. Parents and Non-parents are going to also have to be realistic in terms of group members needing to leave early or arrive late. The key is communication.
There are going to be obstacles. Parents and non-parents are going to have to be realistic in terms of creating the circumstances for participation in a PPRPG group to work for everyone. It may not work for everyone and that is going to have to be okay. There are other PPRPG groups out there in which that planetary alignment might occur and its not a commentary on anyone’s dedication to friendship or loyalty to a PPRPG group to simply agree its not a good fit.
Yet, with a little out of the box thinking and a lot of understanding it can be done.
Coming next is the final entry of this article, Philosophy Three: Staying on Target.
Dogpark Geek is a series of articles on The Neverending Digression where The House of Bella and Baron examines his experiences and shares his opinions on being a grown-up participating in the geekier side of popular culture.