Over the summer, my son goes to his dad’s. The tables turn and I’m at a distance from my son again. This year has been slightly different. He’s older… a seasoned thirteen going on 24 years old. He’s (clearly) more mature – so he’s less into playing uno with mom via webcam. Heck, he kind of isn’t into talking on the phone. I’ve, unfortunately, seen this happen more and more between he and his father. No amount of encouraging him really changes it – he’s in a place age-wise where he has to find the motivation to maintain the relationship himself. It’s less about visitation initiated by the parent and more about visitation needed or wanted by the “child” (young man. almost adult.).
But – we’ve found another way to interact. He’s building a public minecraft server and a website to go along with it and I get to help out. This was his idea. About 6 months ago, he mentioned it and I thought it was a neat idea and said I would help or support him in his endeavors but thought it might go the way of some of his past loves – like Pokemon, for instance, which hasn’t seen the light of day in years. But he kept at it, doggedly. He’s been building this server ever since and it’s kind of amazing. It’s a game he loves. Having a monetized server appeals to his entrepreneur side. And I THINK he’s really enjoying monkeying around in the code. And can I just say that as an IT geek myself, there is nothing finer than seeing my son pick up coding of his own volition? I am totally proud momma about my kid and his minecraft project.
Being a project manager, having a background in web development and business development, I have a few things I can add to his equation. So, this summer, this is the project that has kept us in touch. We’ve skyped so that he can screen share and show me the new stuff he’s built into his server. We’ve skyped so that I can screen share to show him how to update his website. We’ve had phone calls to talk about plans for adding functionality to the site or launching the server. It’s all stuff that makes both of us happy – and gives us something to work on together, even when he’s not right here with me.
I remember once in middle school, I had to make a science fair project and I told my dad about it and he built this whole solar cell arrangement for me and even wrote a paper on it called photo-voltaic conversion. I won the school fair and went on the regionals. He and I both went to regionals and spent the day there. I probably shouldn’t have won at all because I cheated and my dad did it for me – don’t tell, please. But the end result was that I thought my dad was the coolest dad on the planet because he enabled me to do something REALLY cool and I remember feeling like we were doing something together when we went to the science fair together.
Maybe this is the hot ticket with older kids. The way to show support from a distance. To pitch in and help them with stuff that they want or need to do but could use some help doing it better or bigger or cooler. There are tons of those opportunities in upper middle school projects and definitely in high school and technology gives us a way to collaborate in a way we’ve never had before. Or maybe it’s just one more tool to add to the toolkit of a long distance parent.