Before Ian was born, I once went to a video arcade called GameWorks. In a fit of
madness undying love, Kelly encouraged me to splurge on a game that took only five-dollar bills. It was a hot-air balloon race. Players were strapped into seats attached to rails, in front of a giant screen. By means of synergistic hydraulics and gears, I shared the fate of my balloon, rising and plummeting at the whims of my opponents.
Hot-air balloons as weapons, a monument to boyhood.
I sat next to an eight-year-old boy, whose mother (like Kelly) had made it quite clear that she wasn’t going to play. We launched and became best friends, popping each other’s balloons and balancing the thrill of falling with the desire to win. We taunted each other, we yelled. We laughed. He won.
I love my son. Love is the driving force of fatherhood. But, when Ian was born, I won’t pretend that this moment didn’t feature prominently in my mind. Love’s neat, and everything, but, at our most basic level, boys just want someone to play with.
Not that Kelly and I don’t have fun. She likes Star Trek: The Next Generation and Settlers of Catan. She’ll even play Jeopardy on my old, grimy NES. But she’s simply unwilling to wallow in the pathetic and sordid depths in which boys thrive, becoming too involved, taking things too far, and ignoring the little voice that says maybe a little sunshine and social interaction wouldn’t be the worst idea.
She couldn’t care less about the original theatrical release of Star Wars on DVD.
Last year, she found Ian on the living room floor, trying to play Super Mario Bros. 3. Last month, Ian snuggled next to me on the couch and asked if we could watch ‘the space bus’ (i.e. TNG). Right now, Ian’s favorite story is Fixed by Camel, which was my favorite Sweet Pickles book. (Neither Kelly nor I noticed until the other day that it’s Camel who springs the trap, and the doorbell Kangaroo pushes doesn’t actually do anything.)
Am I trying to raise a best friend, or smaller version of myself? (Pause for collective shudder.) In the end, I think I simply like seeing Ian enjoy the things I show him. I like sharing my world with him, and I like it even better when he gets it.
If that means hitting a renn faire or two, so be it.