Virtual Playdates – by Cara Potapshyn Meyers
Last Thursday, my son started coming down with an illness that I could have sworn was in need of a minimum of antibiotics. He was sneezing relentlessly, was inconsolable with his stuffy nose, had a sore throat that even water irritated, and a cough that sounded wet and deep. He had everything except for a fever. I set up his humidifier, got out the thermometer, tongue depressors and a flashlight to look into his throat. I saw nothing out of the ordinary. How could my son be this ill without having a fever? This was quite atypical of his pattern of illnesses. We both had a restless night with me expecting to take him to the doctor first thing in the morning.
The next morning we both woke early, I took a shower in anticipation of a trip to the doctor and by the time I got out, my son was dressed and propped up on his bed looking seriously ill. I commented that I would call the doctor after I dressed and my son astonished me by replying that he wanted to go to school. School? Sounding and looking like he had the plague? (This is also the same kid who hates sweets. There is no trying to figure him out).
My husband and I pleaded with him to go to the doctor or at minimum, stay home and rest. My son was adamant. He was going to school. What kid WANTS to go to school at all, let alone very sick? We let him go, but wrote an e-mail to his teacher persuading her to have him go to the school nurse and have the nurse call us if the teacher felt his symptoms were unacceptable. Two hours later we received a phone call from the school nurse. Our son wanted to come home. My husband and I ran to get him and took him straight to the doctor.
They gave our son a strep test and looked him over up, down and sideways. Diagnosis: an Upper Respiratory Infection. A bad common cold. I was dumbfounded. He looked and sounded as if he had the flu, even though he had received a flu shot. Nope. A cold. I was speechless.
After complaining about taking a decongestant and some cough medicine, he started to improve slightly. By night time, parents of his friends were texting me, asking how he was. I replied that he looked and sounded awful, but that he had the energy to play a certain penguin game on his laptop while lying in bed. These parent’s kids played the same game on their computers and asked if they would like their children to call my son to play the game with him. I told these parents that my son would love it!
Friday night, there was a penguin-fest between my son and his friends on this computer game! My son was animated and forgot that he was sneezing every 5 minutes and coughing up a storm! That night he slept long and well.
The next morning, I went to see him with my arsenal of medical paraphernalia. He was up, computer on his lap, avidly playing his penguin game. After taking his medicine and eating a bit, he wanted to know if I could text one of the parents of the friends he had played with the night before. I replied that I would, at a more decent hour. Two hours later (with his constant pleading), I texted a Mom I know well and our sons were both on the phone and playing the game! This Mom and I were listening in to their conversation and texting each other messages such as, “How cute!” and “Priceless!” It truly is priceless listening in unobtrusively to your growing child’s conversations while they are playing a game! I was in hysterics at one point when my son noticed a strange penguin “hitting on” his “girlfriend,” and I heard him call out, “Dude! She’s NOT your girlfriend! And besides, she’s too hot for you!” I was rolling on the floor!
My son was able to rest his very sick body while still having the social network he craves! Since I am up with the birds, I told my son to tell his friends that they could call our home to play, but my son was NOT to call any of their households early in the morning. He patiently obliged. He even set timers to count down when they said they would call. I felt that this virtual playdate creation was such a terrific thing! It’s great if home playdates are derailed by minor illness. It is great if a child can only play for a hour before attending to other obligations. It’s even great on a Friday evening when the stress of the school week is behind them.
What I enjoy most is that this penguin game is cute, fun, and has your child reading clues to solve missions. The kids can also chat and send messages within the game, helping to improve their reading, writing and typing skills. All areas my son needs help with. I would much rather see him playing a “G” rated interactive game on the computer than zombie-out watching endless TV or playing mind-numbing video games. At least with this computer game, my son works on his reading, writing and typing, uses his brain to solve missions based on clues that are given, and earns penguin money to “buy” items. Parents cannot “add” real money so that their child can buy their penguin all of Antarctica!
The funniest thing I heard my son say to one of his friends this weekend while playing the game was, “Hey, my girlfriend was at my igloo but she left because I told her you were coming over.” I ran to my cell phone and texted the Mom of my son’s friend, “My son’s penguin has a girlfriend! And she was in his igloo!!” My friend made a complementary comment about my son. I replied, “Yes! I realize that! But there was a girl in my son’s igloo! This is serious!!” She “lol,” as did I.
I just can’t believe it! Right in front of my eyes, my son has become a Tween!!