How I learned to stop feeling so guilty
Jul 17, 2023
How I learned to stop feeling so guilty and used Wanderly to connect with my 5 year old
I want to be a great parent, but I'm far from perfect. Sometimes I struggle to disconnect from work and really be present at the dinner table. Sometimes I deploy "easy-mode" in front of the TV so I can do a meeting or wash the dishes... and I'd see my kids' brains shut off.
So I felt guilty.
When I started building Wanderly, a personalized and interactive storytelling app, I didn't realize all the ways it would help me connect more deeply with my 5 year old daughter, Alanna. At first I thought Wanderly was just about telling stories. But as Alanna and I started using Wanderly together, I realized I could stop feeling so guilty.
The first thing I realized was that Alanna was engaged like I'd never seen her pay attention to an app before. Her brain didn't shut off. Our first session was 20 minutes long (and would have kept going if my early prototype didn't have a bug). She was on the tip of her seat. She asked me questions about what was going to happen next. She was excited to choose what would happen next in the story.
Alanna started to ask for Wanderly at bedtime, while we waited in a line or at the doctors office, and even once when she had a nightmare and wanted to calm down. I didn't feel bad about it, the way I normally did when she asked for other phone apps, because of how active her mind was during a session.
As we "played" more stories together, I started to understand what kind of choices she would make: she chose to be kind, to give characters second chances, and she also liked jewelry a lot (okay, I already knew this one). She sometimes got scared, but never ran away, and never wanted to choose the "bad" option. Through watching her choices, I got to know who Alanna was beyond just asking her "How was your day?"
A couple months into building, I also added the ability to choose a companion. Before using Wanderly with Alanna, all her teachers and friends kind of blurred together. But after using Wanderly, I knew which teacher was really her favorite and which friends she wanted to invite on adventures. She also fell in love with the baby phoenix pet, and for a whole week all she wanted to do was be a baby phoenix during our playtime.
I'm still not the perfect parent, but because of Wanderly, I feel like I'm a better parent. I know Alanna, who she wants to be and who she is in the real world. I hope you'll give Wanderly a shot with your own child. If you find yourself getting to know your child a little better, let me know. I'd love to hear from you.