I slog my way from the bus stop to the front door after a very long day, to be greeted by a barbaric yawp from the couch.
"Mom? Hey. How do I get my wife to go to bed with me?"
I stood there half in and half out of the door for a frozen second while my neurons wrenched themselves from mulling over the day's work troubles to full Mom-mode. But before my lips even parted for the string of questions lining up in my frontal lobes I caught myself. I remembered that I'd brought home Fable 2 the night before, and he had been home all day.
He had a big grin on his face. He'd probably been planning that particular heart attack for a couple hours. Once I could breathe again I muttered, "I guess I should be grateful one end is smart."
I asked him if he had a Condom (the game item) and he said he did, but he didn't want to use it. He wanted to start a family. Wince. I tried out what I remembered from the previous game. There were a few hilarious bad moves but that didn't get his horned and horny fellow where he wanted. We made a quick run to the bookstore across the way from the blacksmith's shop for some sage advice for the lovelorn and tried again.
A few fumbles and a decorous fade-to-black later, he got the predictable result of unprotected sex. After some thought and a couple rude suggestions from his sister who had put down her manga to see what the commotion was all about, he named the resultant house-ape JamesBond. I went to make dinner while he made farting noises over the cradle to make the baby laugh.
I didn't chose this little story because of the obvious morality play. For one thing, the kid in question is of an age where being married is a possibility (though I hope not to any of the current prospects). We long ago got past the embarrassment of any condom discussions and having to work out the game's corollary wasn't a big deal.
I know it can be hard to imagine when the when your kids are the age where the worst you have to worry about is watching your own language when they are blue-shelling you into eighth place again, there comes a day when when the conversations get a little more awkward. Once they're reach the M-rated age, you had better get prepared.
I feel like I've moved back in with my college roommates. I think back on those years and I remember all the stuff I saw and did. The all-night Talisman marathons running into the all-day D&D sessions. Drinking red Kool-Aid out of plastic skull goblets while plotting our way through our little weekly Elysium. The way a wooden practice sword stings your hand when you get in a good strike. I had this one friend who used to snort Vivarin and try to read religious materials upside down in between his turns in Axis and Allies. He was messed all kinds of up. For all my grousing I think this is an important stage of life. And for all my discomfort with parts of this, I wouldn't take away whatever their shape their stories.
When I'm stuck half in and out of the door with my jaw on the floor, I try to remember that no matter how awkward or embarrassing or shocking any one moment may be there will always be one just a little bit more so just around the corner.
Gaming parents in my particular place in life are rare beasts. Even with the self-selected older average age here, you guys are just starting your families. You're facing diapers and teething. My children are all 18 or older, and the youngest two just graduated from high school.
Or, to put it in proper terms, we raided Pomp and Circumstance. We got a tell from the last member of our group the day of the raid. We're no twinks, but we're buffed pretty good and I figured if we sheeped the trash between us and the Principal we should be able to pull the Superintendent without too much scraping. They drop the Ugly Acetate Armor, and in this school instance that's a Green item.
The post-raid wrap up had an even bigger surprise in store.
My younger daughter has been dating a young man for over six months now. Her brain is shut off as bad or worse as mine was when I was dating her father. After a couple months of dealing with her in this state, I actually called my mother and apologized for all the crap I put her through that summer after I graduated.
The big hurdle is she was still in school and he was out and I'm the kind of jackbooted fascist who insists on things like curfews and not hanging out unsupervised. After a few false starts and teary arguments, we negotiated curfews and various other lines in the sand. The biggest one of these being she had to graduate high school before anything went ANYWHERE.
But like all lovebirds, they wanted to be within arms reach every moment of every day. They solved the problem by him coming to the house every morning at 5am, her cooking him and her sister breakfast. Then after they've eaten he drove the girls to school. Then after school he'd pick her up and they'd spend every single second possible that they both weren't either at work or church together up until curfew. The day then usually culminated in coming back to the house for dinner and 15 minutes of goodbye-ing on the front porch with me standing awkwardly in the kitchen trying to decide if it was time for me to gently and politely remind them that it was time for him to head home.
Okay, sometimes I wasn't too gentle. After the fourth time I spoke up and they didn't even come up for air they both deserved it. But I respected the dedication on his part for getting up like that, and hers for actually learning how to do more in the kitchen than burn boiling water. I was very grateful that they returned the respect by following our agreements. And I can tell he loves her so very much.
The time they spent at my house told me a lot about their relationship. She fixes his car, and he buys her roses just because. There were a lot of afternoons alternating between Halo and Soul Caliber in the living room, depending on whose ego was most scorched at any given moment. He's better than her at FPS, but she's better than him at fighting games. When things got too tough on the one behind, they'd switch out. Conflict resolution skills are firmly in place there.
He's worked out a cautious truce with her twin, who at first was pissed off in a big way he was stealing her sister. The boys accepted him rather quickly, after a couple times catching them kissing when they were supposedly out there dealing with his balky headlights in the parking lot and embarrassing them.
I'd planned on surviving this week (which between graduation and my work has been a killer) and then sometime this weekend when the dust had settled sitting them down and finding out how we were going to do this from here on out. But my best-laid plans gang a-gley last weekend.
He asked me if he could talk for a moment so we went out onto the porch. And without further ado, he nervously asked me for permission to ask her to marry him.
While I was still standing there like he'd hit me in the head with a board, he launched into a recitation of the facts of the matter. He'd been planning this for months, but he'd waited until after graduation to do anything. He had bought her a ring and had been working to pay it off. And he'd already set his plans in motion to pop the question on their date already scheduled for the day after graduation. I just kept nodding while he talked and I tried to get two synapses on speaking terms.
I finally pointed out that I wasn't opposed to the match. And after we'd talked a moment, we agreed he'd better talk to the girl herself before we planned anything. When we went back inside, my sons asked him to have a little talk which I assume is going to be an expansion on the "you break her heart and we'll break your kneecaps" conversation they had already had.
For me, the intervening days have been spent trying to keep my head above water on the graduation front while keeping my mouth shut about the big surprise. And while I stand here in the server room at work watching this computer do it's thing, somewhere on a beach in Seattle my little girl is getting handed the first really big shock of her life. And I know in a few years, her own little ones will start throwing her a whole new set of awkward surprises.
I can hardly wait.