Dear Auntie BubboPants

First published June 30th 2009, TWiR on
For a self-professed non-expert you sure give good advice. So I’m turning to you with my problems.
I’m the mom in a mom/dad/teenage boy/teenage girl/dog/cat/cat household. (We did have another dog to balance out the cats, and he gave us 11 wonderful years before moving on. Now we’re left with (as Dave Barry calls it) the Small Emergency Back-up Dog who is insane but that’s okay.)
The furry ones are not the problems. They are good.
The problems are mine.
1. Both kids and my husband play World of Warcraft online. The kids maintain good grades and friendships and have other interests, although they spend the majority of their free time on this game. I don’t like that it dominates their lives. They’ll often play for 10 hours at a sitting on weekends. They only have a precious few more years living in our home before they’re off to college, and I feel that any time left for my influence on them is slipping away. WoW is not a new obsession; they have been playing it for several years. I’d really like them to spend more time in activities that don’t involve sitting motionless in a chair for hours at a time. I also fear that they’re missing out on all sorts of interests and activities that could be more beneficial to them. We have lots of tools and machines for building stuff, a zillion books, loads of craft supplies of many different kinds, and even a ton of excitingly dangerous chemicals inherited from Grandpa for science experiments. (With protective equipment and heavy-duty supervision from knowledgeable adults. No pipe bombs around here.) There is a large university as well as an excellent community college nearby for cool classes in every subject. I hate to see them miss out because they’re playing a computer game.
2. My husband used to do all sorts of outdoor things involving gardening and minor construction and even inventing devices. For the last few years, World of Warcraft has dominated his existence. He plays for hours. He sometimes gets up at night to play. When he’s not playing, he’s reading WoW manuals and guidebooks and thinking and talking about the game.
He has a good job (very difficult to find in Michigan in the current economy) and does well at it. He works an insane number of hours, leaving for work at 4:30 or 5 a.m. (his choice, not his boss’s order) and getting home between 4 and 7 p.m., and often working part-days on weekends. He certainly deserves every bit of his leisure time. Before WoW he was overweight but in fairly good shape otherwise. Now he is obese, has a bad knee with surgery coming up, has a very unhealthy complexion, and has been warned by his doctor that he must lose weight, be more active, and quit smoking if he wants to live any length of time.
I would like to say that my husband and kids have a problem with World of Warcraft. But they are intelligent and responsible people and are doing well (or holding their own) at school and work. They are happy.
I feel like I’ve lost my family. I’m often anxious, depressed, resentful, and bitter. I’m also extremely fearful of losing my husband because of his poor health.
Sure, the kids are doing well, but they could be exploring so many different activities and ideas at this point in their lives.
My husband doesn’t drink or fool around or watch porno movies or anything like that. But he used to be such a fun and interesting person, as well as a healthier one. (Have you seen the South Park episode about World of Warcraft? There’s an adult WoW player in it who scarily resembles my husband. Although my husband is a Good Guy in the game.)
I am working hard at finding my own happiness, offering opportunities for other activities to my family, and having a variety of hobbies of my own (working on the house and yard, gardening, sewing, cooking, reading, and of course knitting and crocheting). But I want my family back.
I would greatly appreciate your viewpoint and advice.
Many many thanks.
Non-Signing Chicken Butt

Dear NSCB,
Lots of stuff here, but you’ve really thought about it and laid it out well, so that will make my job easier. Really, it sounds like you understand the situation, you just need some guidance for how to deal with it all. A bit of a warning: I have never played WoW. I really don’t know anything about it. The extent of my WoW knowledge comes from this video. It seems that one can be an ogre of sorts and be surrounded by overly buxom lady ogres who battle the laws of physics just by existing.
Well, first things first, since the beginning of time moms have looked at their teenaged kids and thought “Grunka have such nice rocks! Why offspring only interested in sticks? Stick not fun! Rock fun!” This is something that has always happened and will continue to happen until the universe burns itself out and we hear the very last energy particle whispering, “but I don’t WANT to play with neutrinos, mom!” You can’t force someone to be interested in something, especially when there is something else that is far more interesting in the other room.
You’re smart enough to know that even if you wanted to say, “you’re ruining your life with that computer stuff!” it isn’t really true. Their grades are fine and they seem to be doing okay. On the other hand, your husband’s physical situation is deteriorating and this IS worrisome.
1. Yes, your husband DOES work very hard and does deserve to relax
2. Yes, your kids are spending a LOT of time playing a video game when they could be doing something far more educational.
3. Yes, you are feeling lonely, left out and somewhat abandoned
So…what do you do with this?
1. Your husband works hard and wants to play, but he also has a much greater obligation to you and the kids. If he lived alone I would say, “hey, it’s not healthy, but it’s your body and you have to deal with the consequences. Go for it.” He does not live alone, he has a wife and kids and as such he is obligated to set an example and he is obligated to do what he can to be healthy so he can be around for his kids. His kids and his wife need him and they need him to be there physically. This is his responsibility and it is one he took on willingly (even if he seems to have lost sight of that).
2. Your kids are…kids! You and your husband are the boss of the kids. I honestly do not think there is anything wrong with playing video games or surfing the web so long as there is some moderation. Anything done obsessively or to the point of the exclusion of all else is unhealthy, even…yes…the fiber arts! gasp!
3. Yeah, of course you are. You are on the outside, looking in and you don’t have an ally.
It’s time for some moderate asskicking! Starting with your husband. If he’s too tired to participate in healthy physical activities after working so many voluntary hours, he needs to make some changes. Period. This idea that work must happen constantly and to the detriment of all else is sort of…doopiedoo. I mean what’s the point of working to the point of destroying your health and not enjoying life? You and your husband are an equal partnership and it’s time to start working on it.
This means that the two of you need to find a compromise. He has to start spending more time being active and less time in front of the computer not only for his health but also to set an example for the kids.
And the kids….well, set some time limits. Try to engage them and explain that you don’t want to take the game away, you and their father just want them to also focus on more physical activities for their health. They may not like it, but you know, teenagers! The key factor here is your husband. His failing health should be the impetus for change here. Put your foot down, take a stand and yell like one of those ogres! You can get your family back, it’s going to take some hard work on your part, but it’s worth it.


Dear Auntie BubboPants,
Ok Auntie. I have a question for you.
This is the situation; I live about 20 minutes away from my parents. My bf and I go over to see them at least once a week, usually for dinner, board games and such. My mom and I are SUPER close! We talk about everything and get along fabulously. My dad and I…….. well, we aren’t close. It isn’t like we fight or anything, we just don’t really talk to each other. I just don’t have much to say to him. I don’t know why, but EVERYTHING HE DOES annoys the CRAP out of me. Not literally. But honestly I can’t STAND him sometimes!
There are certain things I try hard to overlook (things like chewing with his mouth open… GAH) but to be honest, the main thing that bothers me is that he is ALWAYS drumming on stuff. Tables, countertops, his laptop, he even taps out rhythims on a beer glass with his fingernails!!! He’s been a drummer since he was like 10; he’s done some professional drumming and teaches private lessons, so he really is good at it. He’s been doing it forever, and while I understand that he does it without realizing, that doesn’t make it any less annoying. I try to ignore it but after awhile the constant tap-tap-tappity-tap-tappity-tap is more than I can take. I don’t know what to do or say anymore. It’s to the point where I don’t go over there as much becuase it’s getting harder and harder to stop myself from punching him in the face. Which we all know is not the most constructive response.
I really want to hang out with my mom and I try to go at times when she’s home and he isn’t, but they are few and far between. Sometimes my mom comes to my house and that is really nice, but I can’t expect her to come here all the time. So is there anything I can do or say? I know I can’t change his behavior, only the way I respond to it. I wish I wasn’t SO annoyed by this, but I really am. So what do you think?
Thanks Auntie. :)
♥ Katie

Dear Katie,
There is no other way to say this so I am just going to say it, this really isn’t normal. Seriously, it’s not. Yeah, sometimes tapping can be annoying, but it’s not the tapping that’s bugging you. It would not matter what your father did you would be annoyed and angered by it. You say you aren’t close to your father but that reads like a lie of omission.
I cannot really advise you on your issue because whatever that may be, you did not write to me about it.
What I see in your letter is a woman who is very angry with her father, angry to the point of being unable to accept those weirdy little habits that everyone has. David always makes this “aaaawwm” noise when he yawns. When he’s tired he does it a lot and it starts to get on my nerves, but it takes me just a few minutes to remind myself that he is my David and this thing is nothing compared to his awesomeness.
If you would like to write again about the real meat of the situation, I would be glad to give you the advice I have. Until then, I do hope you find some peace.


Dear Auntie BubboPants,
how is one to find time to do everything? I have a full-time job with a bit of commute; I like reading, knitting, surfing the web; I like to spend some time with my partner, both in and out of bed; there is always housework to be done; plus just rest and veg around sometimes; cooking and eating and sleeping are also good.
I have a bit of a chronic illness, which makes me quite tired most of the time and most things take quite a lot of energy. My doctor and I are working on this, but even with 8 1/2 hours of sleep I’m tired, which adds to my constraints (both by taking out awake-do-things time and by the tiredness). How, Auntie, how can I get do to everything I want to and have to, and still get some sleep and not be exhausted nor be a workaholic? (I’ve tried the workaholic bit and it didn’t work) How can I manage everything and still have some downtime and not explode? I am really at a loss, and time just slips from in between my fingers.
Time-Deprived Chicken Butt

Dear TDCB,
If you ever find the answer to this, please let me know.
I’ve recently learned to dye and spin yarn! Along with that there’s needle felting, making purses from recycled sweaters, reading books, talking to friends, hanging out with my sister, learning new recipes and sleeping! When do I find time to get back to my real passion, crocheting? ha! Almost never!
You prioritize the best you can, I will put some days aside for specific activities like dyeing or sewing. As for housework…no idea. There are always at least 6 things far more rewarding than marching a pile of underpants through the various stages of being clean and put away.
Incidentally, I’m looking for a little army of workers to do all the mundane things. They should be pretty small and enjoy living in the basement or under the sink. If anyone knows where I can get one of these armies, please let me know!

It’s a shorty column this week, but hopefully I got it in under the wire!

copyright 2009 heather ward/bubbodesigns

One thought on “Dear Auntie BubboPants

  1. Dear Drummer’s Daughter,
    My Dad made me crazy, too. Everything he said or did was irritating. But Auntie Bubbo is right – it was really more about me than it was about him. I was mad at him for looking at me like a freak since the day in college I told him I was bi Before that we’d been really close, but for 2 years we circled each other at arm’s length. Anyway, my aggravation with him was totally a Luke-bringing-bad-shit-into-the-tree thing. Think about it.

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