The voice sneaking out from under the playroom door is guttural but child-like. I don’t know any German Elementary school boys but clearly there is one in my house not more than 10 feet from where I stand, paused before entering the powder room.
After I minute I hear the musical peals of my son’s laughter and his response. “Wait until you see this dog try to herd this turtle. He is just so slow! And I’m talking about the DOG!”
The turtle safely tucked away I crack the door to see only my son, his beaming face lit by the computer screen as he Skypes with another new International friend.
Four years ago he struggled socially. He was liked by many but loved by few, and playdate invitations rarely came. He had the small boy attitude of “everyone is my friend” which meant “no one in particular is my friend” on the loneliest of lonely days. He would trudge home bent under the weight of his backpack and irregular long hair as the neighbors piled off of the bus, limbs intertwined like a litter of puppies.
His brother stood back, waving vigorously at friends headed away to the next stop while my smaller boy came into the house to receive my kiss. When other kids might have played kickball he often stayed on the computer, and by 5 he was running his own MineCraft server. If you don’t know what that means then you are just like me…but kids across the country and beyond appreciated this attribute and began to approach him through this massive international game, and then exchange Skype addresses in what I assumed was a 2015 version of a pen pal.
[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]Decades of technological growth and connectivity have changed the terms of the pen pal. [/Tweet]His single topic texts quickly turned to regular chats and finally video chats, inviting friends from across the country into our playroom the way he never did from his school across town. Soon he was video chatting, introducing his cat, and comparing bedtimes and birthmarks. He even hosted a virtual birthday party where friends bought him special powers for his online persona.
Somehow those powers have transferred from the screen to the school yard. Today he comes home with other kids in tow and they play four square on the patio and tumble together in a way that requires three dimensions. After a while he leads them inside and expands their social life to the global level. They log on and connect with Germany and California, they compare the complicated rules of Jinx in each other’s communities, and practice them on each other voices piling on top of one another’s across time and space.