People often laugh when I talk about “learning lessons” from my sims, but it’s true. As I play through the lives of three dozen households — from singles just starting out in life, to growing families, to empty-nesters, to elders living their final days — I see a panorama of events, complete with emotional response. Watching my sims deal with problems — and seeing them occasionally triumph — teaches me a lot about the world.
I have happy sims, and I have not-so-happy sims. Sometimes I lie awake at night, thinking about my families, especially those unhappy ones, and always one miserable woman comes to mind.
Of all the households I’ve played in Sims 4, the Madrigal family has been the most consistently unhappy one, and truthfully, I think I’d blame it all on Katherine.
She came to Willow Creek as an starry-eyed young romantic with a heart full of dreams. Unlike a lot of young people, Katherine knew exactly what she wanted from life.
She wanted to find her Prince Charming, get married, and have a big, happy family. Her first romance — with handsome Zachary Grayson — never blossomed. Although they had a lot in common, the spark just wasn’t there. Katherine moved on, searching for the right man.
When she met musician Casey Madrigal, she thought her dreams had all come true. Good-looking, talented, charming, and romantic, Casey offered her all she could hope for in a man. They began dating, they fell in love, they married, and life looked good. It looked even better the following year when Katherine gave birth to their first child, a son they named Seth.
Two years later, they welcomed their first daughter into the world. Katherine aspired to be the ideal wife and perfect mother. She wore herself out trying to keep the house spotless and have meals on the table precisely on time. She worried incessantly about not being good enough.
And then, tragedy struck. They lost their infant daughter to “sudden infant death syndrome”. Of course, Katherine was devastated. It was all her fault. She should have checked on the baby more, she should have been able to do something.
Immediately, she got pregnant again, and when their next daughter, Bridget, arrived, Katherine spent every moment beside the baby’s bassinet. She worried. She nagged. She fussed. She made everyone around her nervous. The house was a wreck, Katherine was frantic, and no one was happy. To make matters worse, she couldn’t lose the weight she’d gained having babies. She knew her husband no longer found her attractive.
She still wanted a big family, but when she failed to get pregnant again, she decided she and Casey should adopt a child. He wasn’t in favor of the idea, but in hopes of making his wife happy, he agreed. That’s how Ian came into their lives.
And so did Jena. She was the sultry singer who worked with Casey at the club. Casey was honest with his wife about his affair, and at first, Katherine tried to simply look the other way in hopes that her husband would come to his senses. It didn’t happen. Instead, Jena became pregnant, and when she heard the news, Katherine threw her husband out the door.
Life got worse without Casey around. To support herself and her three children, Katherine began writing “self-help” books for unhappy women. Among her works were “Is Your Husband Cheating on You?”, “How to Tell If He’s Having an Affair”, and “Yes, Your Father Still Loves You Even If He Never Bothers to Call”.
The nagging, whining, fussing, and complaining got worse. She alternated between running the house with strict, military-like rules, to simply giving up and letting the kids do whatever they wanted. She bounced between manic enthusiasm and severe depression.
Earlier, I was looking back at the Chronicle — my on-going updates for all my families, and I heard Katherine’s whining voice as I read the story of her life at that particular time:
“Katherine Madrigal’s life sucks right now. She’s lonely. Of course, she’s signed up with one of the dating clubs in the area, and she planned to attend this month’s get-together — a nice Thanksgiving dinner included. But she was too tired to go. Work is a real drag, she’s not getting ahead in her career, and life just sucks. Bridget and Ian fight with each other all the time. Argue and bicker. Argue and bicker. That’s all they do. Plus Ian is really discouraged right now after publishing his breakthrough novel last year. She tried to warn him, but he wouldn’t listen, you know. So far, he’s sold one copy of the book, and that was the one she bought. He hasn’t even tried starting another novel. It’s awful when your dreams curl up and die. That’s sort of what’s happened for her, too. She had so many dreams of being a happy wife with a beautiful family. What did she get instead? A cheating husband, a divorce, the loss of one child, a gay son, a daughter who complains about everything, and another son who thinks the world is ending because his first novel didn’t make the best-seller lists. Life sucks. It really sucks.”
Poor Katherine. Poor kids. They never had a chance for happiness.
The kids are all grown now. Seth is an artist living with his boyfriend in a nearby city. Bridget is married, recently gave birth to twins, and is nagging her husband to death. Ian is married now, too. It wasn’t planned, but when his girlfriend got pregnant, Katherine insisted her son man up, and do the right thing.
The moral of the story? Sometimes life gives you…well, plums. Plums happen, you know. What matters, though, is how we deal with the problems life throws at us. Some rise above the difficulties. Others, like Katherine, cower down and wallow in their unhappiness, never missing an opportunity to tell others how miserable and unfair life can be.
For a long time, I felt sorry for Katherine. I’ve come to see, though, how much of her misery has been her own making. We have choices, and while we can’t control what happens in life, we can choose how to respond. If live gives you plums…well, make plum pudding.