Leo runs to grab some more apple slice and calls out over his shoulder “be back in a second.”
Steve and I are in the kitchen. Oliver is upstairs. Leo is ostensibly speaking to no one. Or everyone. In fact it is someone with whom he is playing Minecraft. From Germany. On Skype.
Earlier this afternoon I was un trimming the christmas tree when I sneezed. My cute sneezes have morphed into something that would wake the deaf, sleeping, dead. Its those boys. They have big heads. If you don’t follow you are doing something right with your life.
In any case I pretty much screamed out my sneeze, and a crackly little voice said. “Bless you.”
I looked toward the computer. Leo, as usual had left it on, and whichever faction he was playing with was still present in our living room. One of these virtual players had heard me.
We have dined with pre-teens. I hear him negotiating with them. “Its dinner time, I need to be away from the keyboard.” “How long?” They ask accusingly. 15 minutes he replies. “That’s tooooooo long”, whines the response.
Leo flips his hair and laughs. “I’ll do my best to hurry, but we eat together here.” They will call out to him during the meal with anger over stolen goods, or excitement over great discoveries when he forgets to mute them.
He rushes out of the room to silence the Skype, whispers a word of encouragement or celebration, rejoins us at the table and apologies politely.
One of his newest friends has throat cancer. He found this out after chiding him over his funny voice and cough. Now we have spoken at length about chemotherapy, cancer, its known and unknown causes. A bit of power drained away from him during this talk.”Even kids can get it,” he tells me, face pulled down. “Yes.”
At the same time he has a new battle to wage, his friends treatment and remission, the fear of randomness quickly replaced with the kinship of a war waged with witnesses.
He is glad this friend has Minecraft. He can play from his bedroom and never feel alone. Leo tells me that this boy can’t go outside. He can too easily get sick. “I’ll stay in with him.” My son declares. “He can’t catch anything from me.”
As he sits at the computer he looks out at a large park with basketball courts and soccer nets, baseball fields and tennis courts, not one but three playgrounds. He stays inside though.
The facts of Minecraft, with its endless mods and servers are not what interest me most. It is the incredible developmental social aspects that keep me fascinated.
Minecraft as Leo plays it is the wild west. It’s a melting pot and playground rolled into one. Kids from all over the word come together to meet and join forces and battle against one another.
They create new worlds, and find their footing in existing ones. They call each other names, talk behind one another’s back, get dumped by whole groups of friends, and live to play another day.
While his brother sleds and builds snowmen, breaks off icicles and makes natural slushies Leo stays online. It is a struggle to get Leo out of his chair. So we don’t struggle.
We focus instead on positive lessons, and know that he spends tons of time outdoors. Online.