Thursday, August 14, 2008

Come here!

I'm sitting here in my study at home. In the next room is my younger son on his laptop. In the room next to that is my older son on his. They're playing a game called Gunz. My older son has created a clan, which he has invited my younger son to join and he's teaching him some of the techniques he has learned. They call to each other in the next room, while their avatars interact on screen.

At one point, my elder son called out, "No wait! Le tme show you how to do that, come here."

My younger son, got up and made the long and arduous journey of about 6 steps.

"No, not you!" said his brother, "Him." He pointed at his brother's avatar on the screen.

Sometimes, when one of them has learned something new, he wants the physical presence of his brother in the room, so that he can show him the keystroke sequence in conjunction with the on screen dynamics. Other times, physical presence is not required and "Come here!" is a command to be obeyed virtually, not literally.

It's an interesting dynamic, and I can't help feeling that they would do well to invent two different terms to communicate their expectations. Then again, most of the time, the circumstances seem to be the clue as to which "Come here!" applies on this occasion. So perhaps I'm just being middle-aged and overly practical (I do, after all, tend to call for the establishment of taxonomies a lot of the time these days, working as I do with teams drawn from different businesses, sectors, contexts).

I love it when my boys play nicely together. When they were little, they used to play long, involved games of pretend, which seemed to consist more of plot-setting than of actually playing (but I always thought the collaborative strategising was a worthwhile skill to develop, so I left them to it). Now that they're older, they still prefer to play as a team than as opponents - facing the rest of the avatars together (sing with me now, "It's you and me against the world...").

When they were very little and the baby took something that belonged to the toddler, the toddler would want it back without making the baby cry. So I told him, "Find something he wants more. If you can learn to negotiate, you'll have a skill that you can use for life."

To this day, my older son will go to great lengths not to do whatever the teenage equivalent is of making the baby cry. This entails teaching him everything he knows as soon as he learns it. He will even set himself up as a willing target for his brother to try out new fight moves on until he has mastered them enough for them to go out together and conquer the rest of their virtual planet.

It isn't always the older one teaching the younger, but it usually is - and my younger son accepts it as his due to be the padewan. Interesting case study for the birth order psychology adherents, I guess.

Come here. Let me show you. Let me teach you. Come here in person. Come here in your avatar form.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Karyn!

It is fascinating how strategies for communicating evolve in the home.

When my two youngest daughters were very little I had nicknames for them both. While I've never had occasion to think up 'calls' to beckon both (I'd always call them each by nickname) I've become aware, over the years, that the names I use cause different attitudes when they come to me. Tone of voice is also an important part of these messages.

These days I have to be vigilant, for I can set their attitudes depending on how I call them. For instance, if I call them by nickname, they know that it's a friendly beckon. If I wish to set the attitude at the time of meeting, rather than before they come, it is best that I go to them rather than call them to me.

Other things I notice with my two is the time of day and how that affects collaboration. Project work is best set on a Saturday just after lunch for best collaboration, certainly not after 8pm through the week when they both should be winding down and preparing for a good night's sleep. Times later than 8pm seem to expand their differences!

But I'm aware that every relationship is different. My two older boys could work together at any time of the day or night - sometimes all through the night - and all was sweet.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Anonymous said...

@Ken Let me set the record straight by saying that my boys don't always get along. Sometimes the younger one gets fed up with the older one acting like a parent beyond the scope of a learning situation. And the older one gets annoyed that the younger one's insecurities result in obnoxious behaviour when there are lots of people around.

But they get through.

That said, you've got me thinking about nicknames and the way we initiate communication in a physical environment.

I am an inveterate nickname inventor. Probably the only time I use my sons' full names is when I have something to discuss that is serious and probably unpleasant. It never occurred to me before, but subconsciously, I am probably deliberately setting their expectations for the encounter.

When my Dad committed suicide, I sent an email to a friend I've known since high school. She later told me she knew that something was amiss the moment she opened it because I had used the nickname I had had for her when we were 12.

V Yonkers said...

Karyn, I'm am so glad you said your sons don't always get along! Boy was I feeling like the inferior mother of teenagers! The only time my kids do seem to get along these days is when they are teaching each other tricks on the computer (my kids spend most of their time setting up their ipods in different ways).

I especially liked your description of how they used to play spending most of the time setting up plots. My own kids also spent time developing props. When we finally got a video camera, they also began to film their long convoluted "pretend". My son and nephew (who I used to watch) used to play two different characters with the same name as my daughter. I'd call her name and they would all stop to answer!