If you have followed my reviews – and you must be slightly odd to have done so – you might have concluded that I play more games with my 6 year old son than with my 4 year old daughter. So does my son really have the lion’s share of gaming with Dad? The short answer is yes, but the whole truth is a bit more complicated.
Gaming with my children is not confined to the games I review here, although that is a major component. The games that I review tend to be those acquired more recently, which tend, in turn, to favor more complex games that we could conceivably still be playing a few years hence. To make up for this, I offer at other times to play simpler games that my daughter can join in, but the offer is more often than not declined. My children will often play those simpler games with one another, though, which is a great opportunity for them to develop independent social skills under loose parental supervision.
While both my children enjoy games, there is no doubt that my son is passionate about, perhaps at times obsessed with, playing them, while my daughter’s enthusiasm is more reserved. Cyrus has pointed out that children are inclined to share their parents’ interests, but it is also true that they will develop and pursue their own passions. Right now, my son not only has the maturity to sit and focus on a game for up to an hour, but he also relishes the intellectual challenge of defeating his old man (and other adults, too, but particularly his old man). My daughter enjoys playing with the components, and can focus for 10-15 minutes before she shifts her attention to something else. Therefore, she enjoys playing as my assistant (what can I say – she likes to be on the winning side), but usually leaves halfway through in favor of some other activity, returning when the game is over to find out if she won.
Both of my children enjoy reading books, swimming lessons, piano lessons and football (soccer), all of which my wife and I encourage strongly. Boardgaming is definitely not the only pursuit we enjoy as a family, and I consider this variety a virtue. So when my daughter declines an invitation to play a board game, even a simpler one, I ask if she would like to kick a ball around in the backyard instead.
Finally, while it is desirable for children to spend a decent amount of time with both parents, it is not uncommon for boys to enjoy a bit more time with their fathers, and girls with their mothers. So it is in our family, which contributes to the discrepancy in gaming time.
My conclusion is that, while we should strive to love our children equally, that does not mean that we should treat them exactly the same. Whether it is about discipline, recreation or social activities, it is appropriate to celebrate your children’s differences as much as their similarities. And so my goal is to offer similar opportunities, but not to strive for identical outcomes.