Virtual Voices
Benjamin Henry
Photo courtesy of the Henry family
Benjamin Henry

A gamer grows up

Family

Dear Benjamin:

Rob Lowe isn’t the only one sending his child off to college. As I write this letter, you are 17 years old and 17 days away from high school graduation. Up until this year, your schooling can best be summed as: “Mom tried to get me to read while I tried to convince her of the virtues of video gaming.” Wouldn’t you agree?

From the age of 2, when you were the only one who could figure out how to turn off my new alarm clock, to age 5, when you installed and executed Flight Simulator while the rest of us were taking a Sunday afternoon nap, all the way to age 17, when you’ve begged me never to be technologically daft, I knew that our brains worked in completely opposite ways, causing a bit of conflict between us. For the sake of peace, I gave up putting books in your hand/car/bathroom, and tried to show I valued your passion for the cyberworld by playing Need for Speed with you. 

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Once.

But one thing I never suspected from my gaming, 3D-artist son was that you, in your senior year, would ask to go to a liberal arts school that specializes in torturous classes like “Great Books,” and “The History of Economic Thought.”

You surprised me, son. Words have always been hard for you, and to submit to being doused with them on a daily basis was not what your mother expected you to do.

When you were 3, you stretched out your arms as far as they could go and asked, “Mama, when am I gonna be thiiiiiiiiiis big?” “When God’s ready,” I replied. You looked me right in the eye, paused for effect, and said, “Mama, God’s weddy.”

He wasn’t, of course … not yet. It takes a few years, I’ve learned, to turn a boy into a man. He starts out small and wants to eat candy all day long, but eventually, through mowing the yard and doing dishes and hiking mountains and wrestling his annoying little brother, he learns that candy all day doesn’t a chiseled body make. Nor does consuming candy of the mind a chiseled mind, heart, and soul make.

Thus, your decision to step foot into a school you weren’t prepared for. You knew deep down, you told me later, you were missing something. That you needed to get off your computer and be a human with other humans. That, despite all the fussing about them over the years, you needed … words.

So, here we are, nine months and several drafts of many a rewritten essay and speech later, teetering on the cusp of graduation. Have you read as much as I would have liked you to? No. Have you ingested all you could from this precious year of Great Books and The History of Economic Thought? Probably not.

But a fire’s been lit. You are no longer satisfied with a screen. Bigger questions are being asked and deeper answers needed. You have been learning one of the hardest lessons in life—to keep going when the going gets roughEspecially when it gets rough.

No matter what you become, what you do with your life, I hope you remember this year and the word, the Word, your loving teachers have pressed into your heart.

As far as growing into a man, Ben, God’s weddy.

Love,

Mom

Amy Henry
Amy Henry

Amy is a married mother of six and a WORLD correspondent from Kansas. Follow her other "scribbles" at Whole Mama or by reading her book Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love and Mothering. Follow Amy on Twitter @wholemama.

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