Being a father to a little baby was cool. He was all cute and snuggly and I loved the first words and the first steps and all that stuff. I remember getting Sam a “Level 1 Human” creeper and a couple nerdy onesies before he was born. One of the few perks of babies not being able to talk is that you can dress them in whatever you want without protest. Consequently, my kid has unwittingly displayed in his short time on this planet countless slogans, concepts, and characters from many nerdly sources. (Including one Celestial Porpoise onesie I designed when Stupid Ranger first started, which raised a few family eyebrows despite a great deal of well-reasoned logic about its utter manliness.)
Does The Konami Code Count As Operant Conditioning?
One thing that’s always been lurking in the back of my mind is whether all this geeky stuff is just a weird mold that he’ll eventually break. I remember thinking, he’s two. That Mario shirt is cute, Sam can even say “Mawio” when he sees it, but he doesn’t have any attachment to that character like I do. Am I just filling up his head with a bunch of crap he’ll just dump and replace with something real to him?
Now, my boy Sam is 4, and we can have conversations about stuff and tell jokes to each other and share what happened that day and play all freaking day and HOLY CRAP. IT ROCKS. THUNDEROUSLY. These days, Sam knows what’s on his shirt. Boy, does he know. Don’t try to send that kid to school in an Autobot t-shirt if he has declared it Robot Taco Shirt Day. At least, if you don’t want a war on your hands. He is familiar with the source material for pretty much everything he wears that has an associated game or TV show.
My favorite thing to do with Sam right now, which should surprise no one, is playing lots of old NES games on the Wii. I’m pretty sure he can tell it’s an older game, mostly because he asks me “Daddy, is this game old?” Even so, he still giggles and smiles and loves playing. It’s still colorful, it has cool music that makes him dance, and the characters are recognizable to him (perhaps the sole benefit of Hollywood remaking freaking everything!). I know a big part of why he loves this is because he’s spending time with me.
It is really cool to be a 4 year old’s dad. You are frequently super awesome in their eyes.
The Sam Of The Future
I’ve been in karate since I was a teenager, and I remember seeing an odd scenario play out not long after I started. One of the black belts had both his kids in the class, and they were rising up through the ranks a little ahead of me. About the time they got to brown belt, they just sort of vanished. I found out later that they quit and really hated being there. The instructor, being a good parent and extremely nice guy, let them follow their own path but was sad they didn’t take his.
That scenario kind of scares the crap out of me. I identify pretty hard as a giant code-slinging gamer nerd, and kids are known for thinking their parents are complete idiots after they reach a certain age.
It’s so weird simultaneously not wanting your snuggly little kid to grow up, and yet not being able to wait until they’re old enough to really game with you. I see boardgames a couple nights a week. I see after-dinner Magic: The Gathering. I see me running D&D campaigns for him and his friends. I see a means to have fun and bond with my kid and my family — hopefully even after he leaves the nest.
Thing is, I have no idea what I would have done if my dad would have been all “let’s play D&D” when I was 13. He is (and continues to be) an awesome dad and I learned all kinds of cool stuff from him, but we didn’t play all that much — certainly not at the level I have in mind.
What I’m hoping for is the scenario I saw at my D&D Next playtest table at DDXP this year: an experienced gamer dad of about 45 years with his 15 year old kid who had never played before and was loving it. I don’t usually think of Gen Con as a family vacation but bringing my teenaged kid to it sounds like a blast.
Unless, of course, he only likes NASCAR and thinks I’m an embarassing dweeb.
I suspect the answer is going to lie somewhere in the middle, where we have a lot of fun gaming together as he grows up and he thinks I’m completely embarrassing. I won’t be, of course.
That is, not until the Celestial Porpoise pictures come out at his wedding reception.