Crying Over Dungeons and Dragons

I cried at our last Dungeons and Dragons session.

June 2022: Crying Over Dungeons and Dragons

  • “Going Invisible 2” — The Mountain Goats
  • “How I Feel” — The Hallucinations Nation (w/ Leonard Sumner, Shad, & Northern Voice)
  • “Flaming Flamers” — Mato Wayuhi
  • “Under the Table” — Fiona Apple
  • “See You Later” — Heatmiser
  • “Within Dreams” — The Album Leaf
  • “I’ll Still Love You” — Elvis Costello
  • “Something On Your Mind” — Karen Dalton
  • ”Hounds of Love” — Kate Bush
  • “My Crew” — Jean Grae
  • “Nothin’ to Talk About” — Rayana Jay
  • “Respiration” — Black Star (w/ Common)
  • “LUCKY PENNY” — JD McPherson
  • “Company Calls” — Death Cab for Cutie
  • “As I Went Out One Morning” — Mira Billotte
  • “Tie Up My Hands” — Starsailor
  • “La Femme Fetal” — Digable Planets
  • “After the Gold Rush (Live)” — Thom Yorke

Listen on Spotify. Listen on Apple Music.

A little background: I lead a session with four teenagers. My own 14YO (Sierra) and freshly-turned–13YO (Isaac), and two of their friends. It’s a long and involved series of arcs stolen from everywhere: one part original Final Fantasy, one part The Adventure Zone, one part “what cool and weird monster should they face today.”

In helping them create characters, I made a rule that each person had to have their own secret — something I could relate to the larger story that none of the other players knew. Isaac’s secret was that he was an assassin hired to kill another one of the main players, but had relented and was now hunted himself. He ran away from home in order to protect his family and friends, taking a different name. It is all very dramatic. It has twisted. It has turned. His character was outed. His family was threatened. His backstory was revealed.

In the end, his character’s conflict ended where it began, in his hometown. Seeking out the assassins who hunted him, he walked into his childhood home, where his parents had lived for years while he was in hiding, to find it ransacked. More than this, though, he discovered that his parents were writing him weekly letters. They were unsent, but they discussed what had happened in the town that week — the banalities, the struggles, the times when his character’s parents were almost found. Each letter ended the same way.

“Everything is fine. Don’t worry about us. We’re proud of you. And we love you.”

I told this story as a dungeon master, but I wrote the story as a parent. As his parent, as the parent of two wonderful teenagers who I empathize with, endlessly. The struggles of growing up — even in our relative peace, in our privilege and safety — are easy to forget, but we see every moment, every slight. This was one more way to bring real-life into their story, to tell all of the kids that they are seen, that they are trusted and loved.

In the end, Isaac’s character finds his father, who is dying. His father, essentially, hands Isaac’s character over to the other party members and tells them to fulfill their destiny. That there’s nothing more that can be done. That he belongs to the story, now.

Then, this time in person:

“Everything is fine. Don’t worry about us. We’re proud of you. And we love you.”

And that’s when I started crying. I couldn’t make it through the line.

One of the more difficult things about being a parent is balancing reality with optimism. To say “Everything is fine.” To say “Don’t worry about us.” To say those things and mean them when, on the other hand, saying it again brings the uncertainty into relief: we don’t actually know that everything’s going to be okay, and oftentimes it sure seems like it will never be okay again.

It’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone. It shouldn’t be for everyone. Everyone makes difficult decisions, and they all go on to shape the world in different ways. I made the decision to have kids, to constantly remind them that everything’s going to be okay even when that seems like a lie. That’s the choice I made.

This past week — and month, and year, sure — has been a hard one. We have lived with reproductive rights for long enough that we took it for granted how many people are actively trying to harm and control women and, beyond that, the lives of others — people they will probably never meet, living in situations they’ll never understand. It’s hard to see it and think that everything’s going to be okay. That no one should worry about us.

More than that, it’s hard to see the sins of this generation and the one before it — the slow march of misinformation that has infected society’s ability to think logically, to look beyond themselves and into the lives and hearts of others — and not worry about that 14YO and that 13YO and their friends and their classmates. The kids who aren’t yet prepared to fight a system designed to reward hate. Who don’t yet fully understand the dismantling of laws and decisions that protect our environment and our bodies and our relationships. The kids who don’t yet have that fire — who aren’t ready and shouldn’t have that fire! — and instead just want to fight fantasy monsters and hear someone say that everything’s going to be alright.

I have never been in a situation in which an abortion was necessary or even considered. I find parenthood wildly enriching and wonderful — and hard, and impossible, and ridiculous. It doesn’t change my feeling on the simple basics: if you are in a situation that necessitates an abortion, I hear you and I see you. I support your choice. Beyond that: it’s none of anyone’s business.

In the meantime, as I struggle to really understand what to do in this country, I’ll continue with the choice I made. I’ll slowly stoke those fires in my kids, knowing they’ll someday need it, but just small enough that they aren’t yet consumed. To be proud of them. To love them. And sometimes, to lie to them.

To say a few simple words. Everything is fine. Don’t worry about us. Even if I don’t always believe it.

This was lovingly handwritten on June 30th, 2022