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Oct 11, 2023 07:53AM ● By Matthew Jones

My wife and I recently got custody of our 14-year-old nephew Jayden. It’s been hard. I wrote a little about it recently here. One of the big struggles I had for a while was finding something in common over which to connect with him. Early on when he started living with us, we were having a hard time with our relationship changing from “fun uncle” to “guy that’s in charge of you.” There would be weeks when he and I wouldn’t have a single positive interaction. It was bad. So, I was ready to jump at any chance to find something that we might enjoy together.

 My first breakthrough was in the summer, at the Virginia Renaissance Faire. We go every year as a family, and brought Jayden along with us since, you know, he’s part of the family now. He was hesitant to go, but once we got there, he was amazed by all the people dressed up in costumes. That day he decided he also wanted an awesome outfit to wear to ren fairs. As we were leaving, he offhandedly asked me something:

Him: “What’s that thing where people dress up and fight with each other?”
Me: “… Do you mean LARPing?”
Him: “Yeah, I want to do that.”

For those not cool enough to be in the know, LARP stands for “live-action role play.” The idea is that you have a character you’re playing, like in a D&D-esque tabletop role-playing game. But it goes further and you actually embody your character; you dress up and go by a different name. There are also battles with foam weapons, bows and arrows, and verbal magic.

I had long looked down upon LARPing as an excessively dorky activity. “I play Dungeons & Dragons,” I told myself, “but at least I don’t LARP.” But Jayden really wanted to give it a try, and I readily admit I was curious, so I started researching.

I googled a bit but couldn’t find anything local at first. I asked around on Facebook to see if anyone had heard of anything in the area; one of my acquaintances pointed me to a group nearby: Muninn Myst. I sent a few messages to the guy in charge and bingo bango, we were on for joining them that next Saturday.

 Long story short: it was great! We met up with the head of the local group, and a dozen or so total people trickled in soon enough. Everyone was really friendly and very welcoming of us as new players. Plus everyone was dressed up too, so we didn’t feel out of place. (The costumes ranged from a simple tunic to one guy’s full metal armor.) They showed us the ropes of combat with the foam “boffer” swords and shields that they loaned us and gave us some basic tips for combat. The quest scenario that day was 4-on-4 adventurers versus undead minions, and we spent the next hour-and-a-half having some really incredible fun. 

Jayden and I both fell in love. The fun, the exercise, the community and the creativity all hit us just the right way. We’ve been back several times since then, and have even been to an all-day event out in Culpeper that included dozens on people from several states. I told all my friends about it; I’m such a geek that they were surprised I hadn’t already been doing it for years!

 Not all activities you try with your kids will turn out so well. Few activities we’ve tried with Jayden have gotten such a reaction. But making a connection with your kid is so important that it’s worth the effort. Try a bunch of different things and see what sticks. It’s easier with little kids since they just want to hang out with you anyway; the teenage crowd is trickier. But that makes it so much more important to try, and so much more rewarding to succeed. So get out there and keep exploring the world to find something in common with your kid. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you on the battlefield!


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