Providing snacks, attending to injuries, declaring nap time, and constant safety vigilance – these are a few of the services my children provided to me last night. I was playing Minecraft for the first time.
I didn’t intend on paying them back for years of maternal stress and labor – we just wanted something to do together to avoid going stir crazy.
However, as my much more experienced children guided me around, created a house to shield me from mobs, and patiently taught me (while anxiously trying to prevent me from dying), I did take pleasure in emulating the very toddler behaviors that wore me out earlier in our relationship:
- “I need a stick!” (Or ax, stone, pork chop, etc.)
- “I’m bored in here – what can I do?”
- “Can you set up a light for me – it’s getting dark and there are monsters.”
- “I don’t have all my hearts! Is that bad?!”
- “How do I sleep?” (Or open a door, or open a chest, or dig dirt, etc.)
- “What’s this red stuff? I’m gonna jump in it!” (OK, this was purposeful trolling.)
It was genuinely fun (I made a house!), and they really got a kick out of being the competent leaders in our relationship. Plus I know they’ve experienced a sliver of the worry I feel when I send them out into the world. The next time one of them complains about a curfew or the shackles of Life360, I’ll remind her, “Remember how you felt when I set off into the forest alone to gather logs? That’s how I feel every day.”
He sits alone on the giant throne
Excerpted from the Simple Sabotage Field Manual, published by the OSS in 1944, and currently available from the CIA website.
It’s good to remember that employees can do their part to gum up the works of would-be dictators, often simply by demanding the highest standards and the most scrupulous adherence to rules.
And also that if all else fails, we regular citizens can use acting stupid and crying as a weapon against the fascists. I think I’m prepared!
General Interference with Organisations and Production
- Organizations and Conferences
- Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
- Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.
- When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.
- Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
- Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
- Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
- Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
- Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.
- Managers and Supervisors
- Demand written orders.
- “Misunderstand” orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can.
- Do everything possible to delay the delivery of orders. Even though parts of an order may be ready beforehand, don’t deliver it until it is completely ready.
- Don’t order new working materials until your current stocks have been virtually exhausted, so that the slightest delay in filling your order will mean a shutdown.
- Order high-quality materials which are hard to get. If you don’t get them argue about it. Warn that inferior materials will mean inferior work.
- In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers of poor machines.
- Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw. Approve other defective parts whose flaws are not visible to the naked eye.
- Make mistakes in routing so that parts and materials will be sent to the wrong place in the plant.
- When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.
- To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.
- Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
- Multiply paper work in plausible ways. Start duplicate files.
- Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.
- Apply all regulations to the last letter.
- Office Workers
- Make mistakes in quantities of material when you are copying orders. Confuse similar names. Use wrong addresses.
- Prolong correspondence with government bureaus.
- Misfile essential documents.
- In making carbon copies, make one too few, so that an extra copying job will have to be done.
- Tell important callers the boss is busy or talking on another telephone.
- Hold up mail until the next collection.
- Spread disturbing rumors that sound like inside dope.
- Work slowly. Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one, try to make a small wrench do when a big one is necessary, use little force where considerable force is needed, and so on.
- Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can: when changing the material on which you are working, as you would on a lathe or punch, take needless time to do it. If you are cutting, shaping or doing other measured work, measure dimensions twice as often as you need to. When you go to the lavatory, spend a longer time there than is necessary. Forget tools so that you will have to go back after them.
- Even if you understand the language, pretend not to understand instructions in a foreign tongue.
- Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and ask to have them repeated more than once. Or pretend that you are particularly anxious to do your work, and pester the foreman with unnecessary questions.
- Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.
- Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.
- Snarl up administration in every possible way. Fill out forms illegibly so that they will have to be done over; make mistakes or omit requested information in forms.
- If possible, join or help organize a group for presenting employee problems to the management. See that the procedures adopted are as inconvenient as possible for the management, involving the presence of a large number of employees at each presentation, entailing more than one meeting for each grievance, bringing up problems which are largely imaginary, and so on.
- Misroute materials.
- Mix good parts with unusable scrap and rejected parts.
General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating Confusion
- Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.
- Report imaginary spies or danger to the Gestapo or police.
- Act stupid.
- Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself into trouble.
- Misunderstand all sorts of regulations concerning such matters as rationing, transportation, traffic regulations.
- Complain against ersatz materials.
- In public treat axis nationals or quislings coldly.
- Stop all conversation when axis nationals or quislings enter a cafe.
- Cry and sob hysterically at every occasion, especially when confronted by government clerks.
- Boycott all movies, entertainments, concerts, newspapers which are in any way connected with the quisling authorities.
- Do not cooperate in salvage schemes.
Sorry I haven’t been posting. I started working full time, the kids’ lives got very busy, I started hanging out with some really cool new friends. I was wondering how I could juggle everything. AND THEN I GOT FUCKING CANCER.
Yes, my right boob went rogue and tried to kill me. I sliced it up, and then to keep the rest of my organs toeing the line, I scorched the earth of my entire body, leaving no quarter for possible enemy agents. This is war, Peacock, and you can’t make an omelette without breaking any eggs! (Oh yeah, my ovaries shut down permanently thanks to the process.)
But I made it through the fight, and have come out the other side to tell you there’s still no God, and for the love of all that’s holy, eat brownies when you get the chance, because life can be short and the width of your hips can indicate a healthy recovery from 16 weeks of barely being able to eat. I eat the brownies, and the deep fried wontons, and I suck the literal marrow out of – well a literal cow bone, but metaphorically out of life too.
more to follow if anyone is interested.
I almost started this post with something like, “I’m terrible – I’m sorry,” but you know what? I’m not terrible – I’m just a busy parent! And I wish I had more time to devote to this blog lately, but ya gotta have your priorities. (I got a full time job, and somehow these kids are still around needing food and care and love all the time. Thank goodness for my fabulous co-parenting husband and my mother, the wonder-nanny!)
So instead, let me say that I just worked through approving a backlog of very nice comments, and I AM sorry about letting them sit neglected amidst the spam for so long! Thank you for reading and contributing!
And I did renew the blog for another year, so even if I don’t post any brilliant insights, at least people can still look at the old stuff. You never know when a ready-made, snark-filled rebuttal to Darcia Narvaez might come in handy.
Good clean fun
Tweens love Minecraft, if my kids’ set is any indication. And it’s a fabulous game for creativity, persistence, and problem solving, as well as just being fun. Kids can play by themselves, or they can go online to one of many servers and play games together within a Minecraft environment. My daughter has found some really fun and challenging servers through YouTube videos by trusted Minecraft gurus, and of course through friends. She and her friends like to all join a server, and set their phones up in front of them so they can Facetime and talk while they play. (Due to the angle the phone is typically set at, my husband has taken to calling them “The Nosehair Club.”)
There are all kinds of monsters in the Minecraft world, including the Creeper. It’s a nasty opponent that sneaks up and then explodes, destroying everything around it, including you and your constructions. It gives very little warning, and can have devastating effects. Luckily there is a simple way to repel them – keep a cat around, and Creepers will run away.
The real scary characters
Unfortunately, there’s another type of creeper on Minecraft servers – creepy dudes who creep on kids. And getting rid of them is more complicated. I asked a certain ten-year-old girl I know (who I’ll call Bella) what kind of chat messages she had gotten from other players that made her feel uncomfortable.“You’re cute.” (without preamble) “I want to fuck you.” (without preamble) “Will you marry me? Will you marry me? Will you marry me? Will you marry me?” [Is told, “NO!”] “You fucking bitch. Stalker! [continued swearing until chat turned off]”
She also described another player constantly following her in “sneak” mode and mimicking all her movements.
I don’t know if players using male skins experience the same kind of thing, but referring to her girl friends who play, Bella says, “We’ve all had it happen to us.”
To me, it sounds like there are certain players who will flirt with, proposition, stalk, or abuse players who use female character skins. My guess is this is mostly coming from immature teenage boys (the bulk of players are 15-21, and 94% are male). Motivations probably range from clueless romantic excitement that “OMG, there’s a girl, an actual, real female person, who is into this game I love,” to older boys forgetting/ignoring that a lot of pretty young kids play, to just straight-up trolling jerkwads. As much of a worrier as I normally am, I doubt there are many actual child predators lurking for prey on Minecraft gaming servers.
But who cares? The point is that prepubescent children are trying to play a fun game with friends, when someone sidles over and sexually harasses them. My concern is protecting my kid from the feelings Bella describes: feeling stunned, wondering, “What’s wrong with you?!” and well, being creeped out.
“Minecraft is not a dating site!” Bella emphasizes. “It’s meant to play, and build, and construct, and, like, play cool minigames.”
What can we do?
I asked Bella what she does when this kind of thing happens. She replied that she tries to ignore it, waits for chat to end when a game round begins, and had just learned from a friend that you can block communications from individual players.
In reality, there is a lot more that one can do, but kids don’t necessarily understand the systems and procedures for reporting bad behavior. So here is some information on what you can do.
First, of course you could prohibit your child from playing online. Or from playing on servers you’re not familiar and comfortable with. I’m personally not willing to say “no servers,” because my kid really has a ton of fun with her friends online.
Second, you could identify certain servers that seem problematic, and avoid them. You need to be able to rely on your child to tell you what’s going on, and check in with them for this to work, of course.
Third, you and your child can take action against specific people. Typing “/mute” followed by the offender’s name will prevent that person’s messages from showing up in your chat window.
You can also research the rules for a server. For instance, Bella was playing on “The Hive.” Her dad Googled “the hive minecraft,” found the associated website, and had to click around a bit to find the in-game rules, listed in the forums. In addition to a no swearing rule, it also says,
“Bullying of any form will not be tolerated on our servers. If someone is being derogative towards you or another player, report it on the forums with a screenshot and the player(s) will be dealt with swiftly.”
So for this server, if Bella had someone swear at her or sexually harass her, she could take a screenshot showing the offending material in her chat window, then post it in the forum for a moderator to review. It’s a bit complicated – you’d have to create an account on the forums, and then upload the image of the screenshot. But at least there is recourse.
Servers often have moderators in-game as well. If you can identify one of the players as a moderator (or the administrator of the server), you can send a chat message to them asking for help dealing with abusive messages. Usually the command is /tell or /msg, followed by the moderator’s name, then what you want to say to them. Moderators will usually ban a player who has violated the rules, either for a certain time, or permanently.
Risk versus benefit
Each family has to decide whether the fun, camaraderie, and learning their child gets from Minecraft servers is worth dealing with the chat messages they’re seeing, and how the monitoring should be done. And even if you hover and help respond to nasty messages, you can only react after your kid has seen them. It’s a difficult question. But I figured parents can’t think through how they want to handle it unless they know it’s happening. I was grateful to find out about it, and we’re taking action. As things develop, we might change our approach.
Oy. We were at the dinner table, discussing puberty (as you do). The six-year-old strongly expressed her desire never to “born a baby,” and said she never will, because there are pills that can keep you from getting pregnant. (We’ve discussed this particular issue before.) Then the older kid started listing other birth control methods. Like, really specifically, and with authority. I don’t have a problem with her knowing about these things, but I haven’t gotten to that level of detail with her, and I don’t think it’s in any of her books. So I asked where she learned all that. I think it helped that I had more of an admiring tone than a worried or judgmental one.
So she told me about encountering a link to the “Murry” show after watching a Minecraft video, and being so shocked and disturbed by the title she felt compelled to watch it. And that led to watching a lot more. Once she described stories of tweens having group sex, 14-year-old prostitutes, and nine-year-olds smoking and drinking, I figured out which show she was talking about.
And actually, it led to a great discussion. As I told her, this is one of the reasons why we’ve told her not to go exploring on YouTube. Because I would rather that she learn about normal, healthy behavior before being exposed to what is really just a modern-day freak show. Maury is designed to shock and titillate, and provide fodder for that impulse we have to judge others. It’s pretty much the worst sex-ed material you could find outside of porn. But, I was pretty impressed at her ability to digest the information and process it into useful caveats about sex and drugs. Of course, she is also naturally cautious, thoughtful, and eager to please authority figures, so that probably helped. But her overall reaction was shock, and a passionate determination never to do things like that.
I think this important conversation was only possible due to two major factors:
- We mostly avoid punitive discipline. Not completely, but I do try to adhere to “connection before correction,” in an effort to keep my kids comfortable coming to me in situations that they worry might get them in trouble – whether that’s spilling something on the furniture, watching inappropriate videos, or (eventually) something bad or dangerous happening involving cars, alcohol, sex, or whatever.
- Before encountering these videos, my kid knew quite a bit about sex, from a loving, factual, normalized perspective. I strongly feel that the best way to approach sex education is to treat it like all other education – answer questions as they come up, in an honest and developmentally appropriate way. I found It’s So Amazing to be a wonderful resource, which I could use for visual reference as I shared information with my pre-literate children, and then as an age-appropriate resource to be used by reading age children on their own.
I believe that pretty much everyone’s kids are going to run across some puzzling, worrisome, or disturbing content before we would consider them ready to handle it. Having so much information at our fingertips makes it nigh inevitable. It’s worth thinking about how your parenting might not just limit the chances of such an occurrence, but also give your child space to ask for your help if it does happen. I feel like if I’d been a bit less connection-focused (I’ve been working on minimizing punishment lately), or if my kids didn’t already have a firm track record of me talking about squirm-inducing subjects in a matter-of-fact and open way, or if my daughter had had no context whatsoever in which to place the extreme spectacle she saw, she probably would have simply clammed up, hidden it from me, and worried about it on her own.