Thursday, April 12, 2012

why I think Zhu Zhu pets are better than birth control

After a great Easter weekend spent with family in Cleveland we were heading home when about an hour away from home we ran into a serious traffic jam. With the tiny toddler asleep in his car seat and the big five year old completely entranced with his hand held game I let go of my frustration over this unplanned delay and all the work that lay ahead of me at home, like packing school lunches and unpacking the car, and I had a real adult conversation with my husband. The big five year old was playing a Zhu Zhu pet game in which he had to keep all the pets happy- feed them, put them to bed, help them use the potty. (That's right, the cute little hamsters actually climb up onto a potty and then a flushing sound can be heard.) These little hamsters require a lot of attention and my big five year old was having a hard time balancing it all. It reminded me of our pre marriage days when my husband and I would spend time together playing video games. I used to love the Sims game. Something about being in control of these people on the screen, feeding them, making them drink expresso, decorating their homes.... I loved this game. Loved it. Occasionally I would neglect them to the point where the grim reaper would show up and take my little creations away, which was always a little sad. But the ones that survived- they had a good life. I married them off and soon they started having babies. So then I had these adult Sims to get up, dressed, fed and off to work every day, and these baby Sims to keep clean and fed and find childcare for every day. Soon it all got to be too much and I grew tired of my pretend people- after all, I was living this life already, without the babies. I had a boyfriend, a home to clean, meals to cook, a job to hold down. I was actively trying to avoid the grim reaper in real life, did I really need to do it in a pretend world as well?

I haven't thought about that game in a long time. But my conversation that night with my husband made me realize that I will never need to play that game again. I have a real life Sims situation going on in my own home every day. Just like my Sims, one of my "live" people always needs something. Just when one little person is no longer hungry the other one needs a diaper change. Just when my husband finally has my attention and can actually talk to me one, or both, of the little ones need to talk to me as well. One is hungry. One is dirty. One is needing entertainment. One is needing exercise. One is wanting to talk. One needs a hug. Oh my God, I am living in a video game.

But unlike the video game, I can't turn it off and go back to real life. This is real life. And also unlike the game, the stakes are much higher. If the grim reaper takes my grown up Sims away I can hit a few buttons and create another one. If social services shows up and takes the crying Sim baby from the crib and walks out the door I can match up my adults and have another go at it. And on the plus side, all that "trying" raises their happiness meters. (Unlike the real life "trying", which can lower happiness meters in no time.) But here, in my real life, I have to get it right. And some days are easier than others when it comes to keeping all those balls of need in the air, isn't it?

I had never really thought about it until my sweet husband and I had that discussion in the car the other night. I am totally playing a real life Sims game. I am stuck in a constant loop of feeding, bathing, entertaining, and working to pay the bills. The payoff will be so much more rewarding though. Even though I can't turn the game off when I am tired or frustrated, or create a new character if I make a mistake, I am raising people here in real life. I am helping give this world two more beautiful, charming, intelligent and compassionate young men. And that makes me never want to turn off the game.

My big five year old is now up to taking care of six Zhu Zhu pets in his hand held game. He is sitting on the floor of my office playing the game right now, and I can hear him muttering to himself things like, "I'm going as fast as I can!", and "How can you ALL be thirsty AGAIN? I just gave you a drink!" Better than birth control, this game.

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