About this time of year (25 years or so ago), my family would get the Sears Christmas catalog. My brother and I would spend weeks poring over it, trying to decide what we wanted more. I always wanted holiday Barbie or some fancy Barbie. I never got holiday Barbie, but I always got something better and more in line with my play values.

I also used to peek at the presents in my parents closet. One year, there was Battleship and my sister and I were certain that it had been purchased for my brother, but it was my gift and I wondered why my parents would buy a gift like that for a GIRL. After I played it (and cheated), I realized that it was precisely my type of game. I love strategy games and playing those games with my brother are some of my fondest memories. When we got older, we played Axis and Allies, Risk, any game that required one to think about their actions and the actions of their opponents. I think those games really prepared me for engaging with the world.

It is interesting how I was determined to not like the game because I was a girl and DID NOT play war games. The truth is, I had fist fights with my older brother and the boys in the neighborhood. I was female, but not as feminine as one might think. I was not a tomboy; I fell into the between category. After a few rounds of battleship, I decided that I did play war games.

I think we all have these presumptions about what and who we are supposed to be. As a child, I thought my goal was to get married and be happy. I know that is what some girls’ goals were, but I never could quite get behind those goals. When I went to college, so many of my classmates in the Christian campus organizations wanted to get married. They spent their college careers studying and looking for Mr. Right. I happily declared that I was not in college to get my MRS.

I think playing war games taught me that it was okay to think outside of the box. It was okay to be timid and bold and conniving and generous and just myself. While I get stuck on who I am sometimes, I recognize that I am nobody else and nobody else is me. My parents saw that and that is why they didn’t get me the same Barbie that all of my friends wanted; they bought me toys that were just for me.

I’m really blessed by my parents. They have stuck with me through all of this mental illness and physical health problems. Good parents will. I just wish I had seen how wonderful they are when I was in high school and college. I was trying to be me and I was looking at myself through the world’s eyes instead of the people who saw me as a child who needed Battleship, my authentic self.

I want to be myself and right now, that is overwhelming. My brain is firing a hundred different ways and I have trouble sitting with myself, but my parents don’t see the mental illness; they see their daughter with a penchant for critical thinking and creating loving chaos. If my parents love me this much, imagine how much God loves me. He helped them pick out Battleship.

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