I have a nube skin and sometimes lay low like a bush camper, but I’m all in for Fortnite.

“Ok, we’re landing at Tilted. Follow my marker.”

“The blue one?”

“Yes, Mama. I’ll tell you when to jump…. JUMP!”

“Where should I land?”

“On top of that first building.”

“Crap. I think I opened my chute too soon. I’m going to land way away from there.”

“Ok, I have a shottie, a legendary SCAR and some mini-shields.”

“How do you find this stuff?”

“Don’t worry, Mama. I got you. I’m going to drop the minis for you and the shottie. Drink the shields. We have to get to the circle before the storm gets us.”

Fortnite.

Most adults hate it. If you have kids, they have probably spent the better part of their summer playing it on their iPad, X-Box, PS4 or any other number of devices. The best part is it’s free. The worst part is it’s addicting and your kid has probably asked to spend the next five years’ allowance on V-bucks for battle passes and cool skins (avatars).

But contrary to what most of my friends think, I happen to like the game. And what I like more, is getting to play it with my kids.

Yes, there’s violence. The object is to kill/ survive until you are the last single, duo or squad standing. But there’s no blood, no gore, and no side vulgarities. If you die, a light kind of dissolves you leaving all of your loot behind for enemies to pick up.

What I really like is the teamwork and skill involved. Unless you’re playing singles, you have to work with others in order to win. So people will share shields with you. They’ll build for you if you suck at it (like me). And they’ll even revive you if you’re knocked down, which I find amazing. Even though my own kid chose a supply drop over reviving me once–asshole–random players have revived me again and again.

And again.

I told you, I really suck.

But I’m getting better.

I can land where I planned to and find chests with all the goodies. I can reload my weapons on the run. I know how to aim and shoot. I can build— albeit very slowly.

And I have to admit, I like getting better at something. I like the strategy involved in drawing your enemy out, in choosing the appropriate weapon. In running floor to floor in a house and knowing there is always a chest in the secret room in the basement. I like having my go-to landing spots—Retail Row, anyone?—that are now familiar. I like reviving nubes (new players) like me.

But most of all, I like the fact that my kids are way better than I am and yet they want to play with me.

My kids are 13 and 9. They’re both starting to hit that stage where I’m not cool enough to hang out with. In the future they’ll be way more interested in their friends and eventual boyfriends and girlfriends. So I cherish this time of looting and killing with them.

Even if it means I watch my daughter get excited about killing someone with a single headshot.

From behind.

And I like that they are the experts. I think it’s awesome that they can teach me, and that I suck at stuff that they excel at.

And what shocks me is the patience they have with me. Sometimes I get frustrated when I can’t pick up what I want to pick up. “Mama is your inventory full? You have to drop something, remember?” Sometimes I can maneuver the way they can. “Here, let me build another stair so you can jump easier.”

When I get killed, they empathize. When I get a kill, they’re ecstatic.

That’s only happened four times…

So yeah, Derek plays way more than I’d like him to, and sometimes I have to make him get dressed and see the sun.

And I’m like 99… ok, 93% certain that playing this won’t have negative long-lasting effects on him. Probably.

And it’s not quite the scenario I pictured when they were little. You know, visiting museums, appreciating art, reading books together… which sounds pretty boring now that I typed that out. Sheesh.

But he won’t always be nine and want to play with me.

So, thanks, Fortnite.

Update– roots of these feelings run deep

This is me and my son. My boy. My buddy.

I’ve thought a lot since my last post. Why my response was so charged. So visceral. So violently protective.

And after looking inward, the anger turned to sorrow, as it usually does. Anger results from fear, and fear comes from a lack of control, and a lack of control makes me into Annie Anxiety and reduces me to a sobbing mess.

So here’s the real deal.

When Derek was born, I slept on the couch while he tried to sleep in his car seat on the floor next to me. It was just the two of us every night dozing and feeding and watching House Hunters all night long.

And he was safe. 

When he was ready for his crib, he had trouble. His breathing would rasp. He would hold his breath and then let it out. All. Night. Long. I half-slept on the floor of his room and spent nights listening to the monitor. Every time he went down on his back, the same thing. 

After a visit to a specialist, we found he had tracheomalacia– where the trachea isn’t rigid enough to stay open, and can be exacerbated by back sleeping.

So I held him as he slept on my chest, upright, on his belly. 

And he was safe.

Advance a couple of years to his toddler preschool class. One night while singing the last song, he broke out in an excruciating scream. He didn’t fall, get hit, or bump anything. I took him home, helped him out of the van, and he was suddenly fine. We went to the doctor anyway and we found out that his elbow joint was loose and could easily dislocate.

She showed me how to put it back into place.

Several days later, I helped him out of the van, and took his arm. Instant screaming and pain. Bill couldn’t stand to try it, so I forced Derek’s arm down in front of him, held the elbow still and flipped his hand to his shoulder to pop it back in. The screaming instantly stopped.

And he was safe.

Like most moms, I have wiped tears, laughed at antics, and walked myself upstairs to stay calm during tantrums. 

He went through a horrible stage when he was four where he was completely defiant. He could make me so mad I would be in tears, and if he felt completely backed into a corner, there was no easy way out for anyone. My patience was tested again, and again, and again, but I knew it would all be worth it eventually. He would learn what battles to fight, and how to fight them.

And he was safe.

Through it all, he has been my boy. My buddy.

But that time is limited.

One day, I have always known, he will cease to be my boy. He will tromp off with his dad, his friends, and wave bye as he goes.

Without me.

And I also know in my rational brain that this is supposed to happen. That it is good for him. That gaining confidence and independence makes a healthy, functioning, fully adaptive adult.

And I want that for him.

But not yet.

I’m just not ready.

I’m not ready for an empty space next to me in the chair where he now squishes to fit.

I’m not ready for the lack of late I love yous when he’s supposed to be in bed.

I’m not ready for lonely walks around the block with the dog without making him laugh until he cries.

So I’m grieving. 

Ahead of time, yes, but grieving all the same.

My anxiety-idiot brain says he won’t need me. And won’t want me. I’ll be tossed aside like once beloved stuffed animal.

He won’t want my hug. My goodnight kiss. My hand ruffling his sweaty hair after an intense game of Horse.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned and re-learned again and again, it’s that despite all of my planning, I can’t control outcomes. Therapy and medication have tried to beat that into my brain despite years of neural pathways coaxing me that it can be done. 

And in all honesty, for his sake, I can’t want him to stay my boy forever.

Just a little while longer.

Because I’m just not ready.