On Being a Gamer (and) Parent of a College Student

Today I drove my 19 year old son to the airport so that he could fly 5000 miles to New York and return to school for his sophomore year in college.

Last year I actually took the trip with him and we made a vacation out of it by spending a week or so in New York City before driving upstate and moving him into the dorms. Once that was over, my sisters and I spent two days straight, driving around the Finger Lakes area of New York, sampling as much wine as possible. I’m not sure if the two days of drunken relaxation took the edge off leaving my only child behind or not.  But I’m thinking that it must have helped because this year it feels harder.

Being a “Gamer Mom” gives me extra “cool” points. Throughout his life, my son has given me many reports of his friends telling him stuff like, “Dude, your mom is super cool. I wish my mom was into games and stuff.” Or, “Can your mom be my mom, too?” In addition, since I had him when I was just shy of 20, I don’t wear “older woman” clothes, and I’m rather petite (5’3″), I’ve even been mistaken for his girlfriend! I am still one of his primary sources for video game information and news. I post links about video games on his Facebook wall and we talk about games a LOT. He probably wouldn’t be as into games if he hadn’t been surrounded by it since he was born. Sure, most teenagers today are into video games to a certain extent, but I’m pretty sure that he’s the most hardcore of his group of friends.

Having that common ground has been incredibly valuable in maintaining a close relationship with my son. For the most part, due to the fact that we treat each other more like gaming buddies than parent and child, we have always been able to communicate well with each other. Naturally, I’ve had to step out of that role to actually be a parent from time to time, but as he matures into an adult, I have to do that less and less. So while I will always view him as my baby boy, in my mind and in my heart, he has become one of my very best friends. I still brag about his accomplishments like a proud mother, but his friendship is what I value most.

And I know he values my friendship, as well, but he views it differently. He is spreading his wings and figuring out his own life. He yearns for independence and freedom. I’ll be straight up honest and admit that there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to let him have it. On a gut emotional level, I feel like his desire for independence means that he doesn’t want to be close anymore. On an intellectual level, I absolutely know and understand that this is not true, but emotions are funny things. Sometimes they just won’t listen to your brain.

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with as a parent. Screaming toddler? Meh. Dumb teenager? Meh. Letting a college student spread his wings? THIS SUCKS.

On the other hand, when my son isn’t around, I have more time for myself and I don’t have to cook as much food. Unlike some women, the empty nest problem isn’t quite as bad because I have a lot of stuff to do.  I have video games to play, anime and movies to watch, MOOCs to take, and books to read. Not to mention, I still have a full time job. Oh, and I somehow always fit my husband in there somewhere, as well. 😉

So here’s what I always need to remind myself: I CAN STILL GAME WITH MY SON. He may not have as much time to devote to online gaming, but we’ll still be able to hang out once in awhile. This is probably the coolest thing about being a Gamer Mom. We can still hang out on his terms in an environment that’s not embarrassing or inconvenient for him. The five to six hour time difference (depending on Daylight Savings Time) kind of sucks, but he tends to stay up really late at night, anyway. (His classes tend to be in the afternoon.)

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully let him go. But video games and gaming with him should help.

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