Unfolding a camping chair on my back patio I soaked my feet in a blowup kiddie pool. It was time to weigh and measure my life like a feudal lord. To be specific, like a feudal lord from the grand strategy PC game Crusader Kings II. Its gaming metrics coursed through my brain, the numbers tinkling in my head like the two or three ice cubes in my glass of tap water. My video-game-converted-to-real-life ratings appeared low.
WEALTH: does an unemployment check count? PRESTIGE: 90 percent of my Klout score is from Facebook family members. PIETY: sure, I hit up Foursquare when I'm checking in at the church parking lot. REALM SIZE: I don't know, is 0.14 acres a vast tract of land?
It's safe to say that my contribution to the House of Kalista dynasty is minimal. Trifling, even. But Crusader Kings II is described as a "character-driven" strategy game, as opposed to the more tactically-oriented Total War series, or the more 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) machinations of Sid Meier's Civilization series. Besides, I said to myself, being "character-driven" is a noble aspiration for someone that isn't wealthy, prestigious, pious, or a real estate mogul. Perhaps -- and at this point I was only talking to my glass of water and the passive-aggressive audience my less-than-a-quarter acre of crab grass provided -- I could enact a grand stratagem of social and political maneuvering to beef up my real-life score.
First, I took stock of the heir to my kingdom, my two-and-a-half year old daughter. Extracting stats and abilities directly from Crusader Kings II, I figured out what kind of progeny I had on my hands, and if she's indeed worthy of inheriting all this unmowed grass and fluoridated drinking water.
It seemed premature to project what kind of adult my toddler will become. I realized that on a certain level. Everything her mom and I had done up to this point, however, still counted for something. If I'd made it my habit to emotionally distress and thoroughly ignore my child, she wouldn't remember all of that come adulthood, but she'd probably grow up with abandonment issues of some sort. She just wouldn't know why. I'm no child psychologist, but that much made sense.
I'm not saying my toddler's personality is cemented, but a study initiated in the '70s and funded by health research councils in New Zealand found that evidence of character is formed by the age of three. So here I was, six months away from finding out if my parenting was okay enough to (maybe) add a contributing member to society, or if my kid had already assimilated my reclusive and underachieving nature.
But already my toddler is a better-adjusted and more well-rounded individual than I grew up to be. Some of these Crusader Kings II traits are polarized, but I'm just grading my daughter on a thumbs-up/thumbs-down scale for the purposes of this exercise.
ENERGETIC: My two-and-a-half year old only sits still in a car seat. She has boundless vigor. There's more ballet dancing than I could've ever imagined. She has a reasonable work ethic when it comes to picking up her toys and putting away her books. Sure, "Listen to Dad -- hey, listen" is one of the most commonly uttered phrases I use when it's obvious she hasn't gotten enough sleep and she's cranky and she's not going to reshelf Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory on her own. But you know what? If I want to take a nap I don't suddenly start putting dishes away in the cupboards either.
FORGIVING: She takes insult without injury. I've seen her on the playground many times, with kids playing and shoving and playfully shoving their way around the slides and monkey bars. My kid gets quiet and observant during these times. If she's pushed, she doesn't reciprocate in kind. This would be an undesirable trait were we indeed living in medieval times, but I think this amount of prudence is acceptable on a playground when you're not fighting for your life.
HONEST: My kid is truthful and impartial to deception. She's been sat in the corner for talking back, stomping her feet, and ignoring her mom and dad on occasion. But later -- haha, when she's figured out we can all talk and laugh about it later -- she doesn't fabricate any details about why she was punished. She doesn't invent excuses or pass the buck. She even admits that being put in the corner made her sad and that she's sorry she disobeyed.
PROUD: My daughter enjoys praise and compliments. And this is where I'm concerned. She's such a capable little human being that it's difficult, as a parent, not to congratulate her incessantly for things she does. Her mom and I, to combat the tingle of pride that may be bubbling up, have changed our wording from, "Good job!" to, "You did it!" in order to stop handing out verbal trophies to every little two-bit accomplishment. Saying, "You did it," is an objective statement of fact: she completed a task. As opposed to, "Good job!" which, I was beginning to fear, might devalue such high praise through saturation. If everything she does is a good job, what happens when you do something more impressive than pottying in a toilet?
Despite the fact that, according to Crusader Kings II, my kid is more "proud" than "modest," I can still see that she's superior to me in every way. She is energetic, whereas I will be sitting at a computer desk for most daylight hours, and enjoying such a sedentary lifestyle. We may be both forgiving, however, since I'm physically incapable of holding a grudge, even when it would prove useful to do so. Her honesty supersedes mine because she really sells it with dramatic retellings of harrowing (for a two year old) events that transpired a week or even an hour ago. And proud? When it comes to receiving compliments, she's cool like the other side of the pillow. Me? I like them, but hate receiving them, and so my world burns divisively.
And so this is what my parenting hath wrought. Hopefully she's more concerned with being character-driven than concerned with wealth, prestige, piety, and realm size. Because not only will she not have any kind of dowry to speak of, she'll not have massive landholdings to swagger over. Still, my dynasty has been weighed and measured, and has been found wanting for nothing.
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