Sometimes you wonder what your children think is most important to you. You never expect to hear them read off those traits, though.
Enter the Sims, the online family simulation game. Then all bets are off. For her birthday, one of my daughters received the game, where you create people who live exceedingly ordinary lives doing exceedingly ordinary things in surroundings you control. Before you get too far, though, you have to give your individual Sims characteristics.
I cringed when my daughters said they worked together to create our whole family. I worried which characteristics they’d start rattling off.
Short-tempered? Focused on work? Frugal? Demanding? I felt vulnerable, that this game would give my children a chance to tell me everything wrong with me.
They went a different direction.
“We picked family oriented because you’re always right there for us, and you love your family a lot,” including our 3-year-old foster daughter, our 16-year-old said.
Our 8-year-old added, “He’s really strong, and he loves his family so much, just like you do, Dad.”
They also decided silly and computer whiz were worth mentioning. They told me I was their first family creation on the games, mostly because I installed the game for them.
Perhaps they went after their mother’s faults, I worried. Nope. They focused on how focused she was on them, what a great cook she is and how creative she is, from planning memorable vacations to always “knowing what’s right for her family,” as our eldest said.
They similarly found the best in one another. They made our 16-year-old daughter athletic and creative. The 10-year-old girl was a goofball bookworm. Our 8-year-old was creative and good, “because our whole family is great people,” as she told me. Our 3-year-old foster daughter was an outgoing goofball in the game.
When they had a chance to put together representations of themselves, they saw the best in each other. They saw the best in my wife and me.
It makes me wonder why we can’t play the game of life in the same way. So often, we define one another by our lowest moments, when our sins overtook everything else we’d ever been before or since. We see the worst in people. We see the worse in ourselves.
Life can be nasty, brutish and short, as Thomas Hobbes said in “Leviathan,” but we don’t have to hold up mirrors that only show our flaws. They can show the good in us too. Self-reflection is helpful for both minimizing the bad and building off the good.
I’m glad to see my children were able to do that when they evaluated the people they knew best, their own family, and find the good in each of us.