Using a role playing metaphor for life


Had a bright idea this morning. The little ones spent Sunday night over at their friends house, and apparently didn’t really sleep at all. So they slept in this morning, Danny waking around 7:30, Emily waking at nearly 8. And I was thinking of something Danny said last night, when I mentioned that maybe his friends could stay the night tonight. ‘I kind of don’t want anyone to spend the night tomorrow night.’ Which was a very sensible thing, he knew that he needed the rest, and the break from extra people (being an introvert like me.) When it occurred to me what a description of my role as a parent was, parents are NPC’s in our children’s adventure.

In Role playing games you have the players, taking on various roles, and running through adventures. You have the Game Master (or Dungeon Master), whose job it is to create the setting for that adventure, adjudicate what happens when a conflict arises, provide rewards. And there are Non-Player Characters or NPC’s. An NPC can just be the bystander, the shopkeeper, innkeeper, town guard. But they can also be the voice of reason. The Gandalf role, (in the books rather than the movies) who is the wise advisor.

Well it occurred to me that more often than not we as parents are those NPC’s. We aren’t the DM, because we don’t control everything that happens around our kids, whether they succeed when they try something. Instead we are the NPC’s, providing information, treasure, rewards, and (theoretically) sage advice.

I can still control what my kids do to a large extent with rewards, punishments, etc. But all of that really doesn’t control what they do, instead it guides and shapes them. They could choose to ignore the rules, run off, destroy things, sneak out of bed to watch TV etc. But they know that there are consequences to those actions that will be meted out by the NPC’s.

But I as a parent also provide the guidance and advice to them. An NPC might tell the party that they should make sure to take oil and torches before fighting trolls, or wooden stakes before confronting a vampire. As a parent I can encourage my children to take breaks from sleepovers, that they need a couple of nights rest. I can advise them that they should alter their sleep habits before school begins again. Or not to eat too much crap because it could lead to migraine headaches.

In the end my kids will make what they choose out of their lives. I can only hope that they heed the NPC’s advice and avoid fighting the dragon until they are high enough level to take it on.

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