As with many things, hypotheticals are not bad in and of themselves. It’s why and how we spend time thinking in the hypothetical.
Brad is playing chess. His opponent can do many possible things. One of those things is to come out with a surprise move and win the game. In order to win, Brad has to spend his time in the hypothetical. If he spends his time worrying that his opponent might win, and moves his pieces with that frame of mind, he won’t win, except if he’s lucky. He’ll also be a nervous wreck during the game.
However, if Brad spends his game critically thinking about the possible moves that his opponent can make, and then plans ahead to either counterattack or manage his opponent’s moves, then he has a much higher chance of winning. It’s still a whole lot of hypothetical, just a matter of how he’s going about it.
Now, I’m not saying that our kids are opponents. Far from it. They are on our team. If we are playing soccer on a team, and we have teammates who spend time worrying about how the other team might kick a ball in their face, or that they might score a goal, is that team member supporting the team? Team players thick critically, and help each other. Even team captains. Team captains who worry, and fret, and second guess their choices have a hard time leading their team. Team captains who are bullheaded also have a hard time leading an effective team.
Here’s another simple truth: We will always miss out. We will always get gipped. So will our kids.
It is practically impossible to do everything. The only thing we can do is fully and completely experience the thing we are doing now. I’m typing this email instead of cleaning the house. Later, I’ll be scampering around town fending off my mother from buying everything my children ask for, instead of sitting at the park while they play. And that’s how it is. If I spend that time wondering if it’s the right choice, or thinking how I maybe something else would be “better”, then not only have I lost the thing I didn’t do, but I lost the thing I’m DOING, as well. Either we are fully here and now, or we are doubly screwing ourselves over.
Here’s another simple truth: Playing video games to escape is different than playing video games because it’s a passion.
The kid we imagine who plays video games in his room all day and never talks to his family, he’s in trouble. He’s not in trouble because he’s playing video games. He’s in trouble because he’s disconnected from his family. Because he’s unhappy, escaping. He doesn’t run downstairs to tell his family about all his adventures. He doesn’t enjoy celebrating at holidays or sharing a family outing. He’s hurting. That’s a child who doesn’t need his video games yanked from him. That is a child who seriously needs help emotionally. The family probably also needs help, because these things don’t happen in isolation.
We can worry about this happening, and make it more likely it will happen. Or we can think critically and know that if this does happen, we are willing to stand up and say, “I’m going to do everything I possibly can to help this family heal, including healing myself.” Even in this very difficult situation, all is not hopeless. Except, when we worry, it does seem hopeless. When we think critically, we realize that every situation is manageable.
On the other hand, a kid who plays a lot of video games, but then comes back to his family and friends on a regular basis, and is happy at family gatherings, and likes to have conversations about his adventures. He reads books, and plans, and all the other things kids do when they are enthusiastic about life, then that’s GOOD. This child is healthy and strong. He is loving life, happy, and enthusiastic. Why mess that up with our own worry and neurosis?
Even if this does become a problem because his obsession is so strong, it takes away from his other life pursuits (say, showering, eating, going outside…), there ARE ways to deal with these things. But not if we worry and stress about them. We HAVE to believe that no matter what happens, we are capable and able parents, and we can deal with it. We are also capable and able enough to recognize when things start getting to be truly unhealthy. Because we are critically thinking, not worrying.
I am a hypothetical preparer. I think ahead, plan, prepare for what-ifs. I’m typically good at strategy games and leading and managing personalities. I don’t worry about what’s going to happen. I expect crap to happen, and I’m ready.
Final simple truth: Crap will happen. It will happen a lot. Get used to it. Then, deal with it.