Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Great Eights

Our little man turns nine today.

He is very cool and just a little bit weird and I like him a lot. I would hang out with him even if I didn’t have to. Which, now that Minecraft exists, I technically don’t have to anymore. He is a completely self-contained ecosystem when he is attached to a screen.

But I do still hang out with him when I can. When he makes time for me, in between bouts of intensely wiggling his fingers across the screen of my handheld gadget device.

What I did that makes succumbing to Minecraft actual Quality Parenting™ is that I have tied his time playing That %&$#!! Video Game (hereafter TVG) to his first having expended an equal amount of time pursuing real-world accomplishments. For example, if he wants to play TdamnedVG for 30 minutes, first he has to put in 30 minutes of guitar practice. Being the clever fellow that he is, he negotiated the use of the gadget’s native chronometer to keep track of the elapsed time of each exercise.

With a 30-minute minimum buy-in. No 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there. I saw that coming a mile away, and built it into the original agreement.

Mostly, he’s gotten a lot better at playing guitar; but I’ve also had him watch classic movies with me—in dreaded black and white!—as well as read foundational geek literature like The Dark Knight Returns and the first run of The Ultimates. And since I won’t brook talk of TVG in my presence, I’m afraid I’ve consigned The Missus to hours on end of listening to him go on with infinite enthusiasm about whatever it is he likes so much about TVG. I mean, literally enthusiasm without end; there is no end, only the inevitable “STOP TALKING ABOUT IT NOW!!” button. The difference is, I swing for the ‘stop’ button as soon as I become aware of what he’s about to begin going on about. Or has been going on about for a while before I noticed.

So now he not only sings and plays “Ring Of Fire,” but his vocal melody is slightly different in a couple of key places. I don’t think it’s a mistake, but the way he hears it. It’s also a hoot to hear it sung pitch-perfect in his little boy soprano.

He’s learned a Springsteen kids’ song and already agreed to perform it at the school talent show this year. When we play together and I fumble a chord—or several—I can wait for him to come around and jump back in, and he does the same. I’m not saying he’s any kind of genius (that I know of!), but he does seem to have the knack of it.

His reading has tapered off this year, as has his output of artwork. He’s still curious and reads and understands ambitious reading assignments, but only when he’s working for Minecraft time. We’re hoping the non-elective Arts extracurricular at his school this year will rekindle some of that earlier passion for creative expression.

But I decided he had to be up to speed on TVG since all his peers at school and Taekwondo are hip deep in it. My parents didn’t give a shit about my social experience, they stuck to their guns and as a result, I was always a step behind the other kids socially. A step or a good half-decade. I was literally the only kid in my late-1960s elementary school class with a military-style buzz cut whose dad wasn’t active military.

So as a parent, I’ve tried to find a compromise I could live with, and it’s proven to be as successful as it has been frustrating. By definition, the perfect compromise!

He is tall. He is leggy, coltish, dorky tall. He’s made a lot of friends this year. Last year, the birthday party worry was whether we were going to be able to stock it with party guests, this year it was cutting down the list.

I always tell my mom, I do pray, but only ever for two things. I beg for wisdom—sometimes knowing what the right thing to do is can be a little trickier than others—and from time to time, when gratitude overwhelms me, I try to give some of it back. And in a year that has been altogether too rough and rocky along the way for my taste, I am damned grateful how much Young Mr. Bastardson has flourished in spite of it. (It is the custom in Taekwondo to refer to black belts by their title and surname, which custom I have elected to employ here.)

Ostensibly to be a good parent, but really just to keep me from slipping back into clinical depression, I joined the Family Council at Young Mr. B’s school to keep busy. Then I volunteered to ‘liaise’ with the school board since I am acquainted already with a couple of its members, which turned out made me a voting member of the board. As soon as the implications of that position and its attendant responsibilities were spelled out to me, I agreed it would be a good idea to never ever write about, or even mention it again.

Except to say that now I am busy. Busy keeping The Boy busy.

It’s hard to quit calling him The Boy. He’s still our boy… but for the first time since he started going to school, he didn’t turn into an unruly, temperamental tyrant as the school year and his birthday approached. And he only earned his black belt a couple weeks ago.

He should be utterly insufferable right now.

But he’s been Mr. Cool. He and I even saw the summer out last Friday with a trip to the local overpriced Kidzone go-cart/arcade emporium, just like a regular 21st century Andy and Opie. Instead of fishin’ poles, we swung miniature golf clubs over our shoulders.

Since getting flushed from the bathroom of my career this winter (with apologies to Johnny Cash), suddenly I have free time to volunteer during the school day, and I’m doing that too. By God, I may never be able to remember any of these peoples’ names, but I’ll make sure they remember mine!

Young Mr. B. is on his own in that regard. He seems to lack my flair for self-promotion, but he also definitely lacks my facility for self-loathing, which in my opinion is a more than acceptable trade-off.

He’s already making friends this week at school. If we have put the bullying bullshit that marked the beginning of each of his first few years of public education behind us, Taekwondo and I will have done our job.

It’s been a hell of a great year for Young Mr. B, and I’m grateful to everyone along the way who helped. Eight is going to go down in the books as every bit as good a year as 5, the previous standard-bearer.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This last number of the evening goes out to Young Mr. Bastardson himself. I wish it could be something Sinatra sang—something about paternity, accomplishment, America and pride, with swelling strings and a big roar of cymbals right near the end—but his songwriters knew way too many chords for me to keep up with. Besides, I decided I was going to learn the following tune for your birthday when you performed it for me for mine. If you pay close attention, you may notice me yelling at you. This is an effort to get you to pay close attention.


Blogger Connie said...

Happy Birthday to Luke! Having you as a dad is a pretty good b-day present...and it's one he gets to play with every day of the year.

8:58 AM

Blogger L said...

Happy Birthday to your Boy!! (our boys will always be a boys to us, won't they, no matter how old, right?)

My 10 year old is absolutely obsessed with evil Minecraft and can talk about it for hours on end if you let him. The 12 year old pretty much lost interest...

Question, does he play it in the computer or ipad? My sons were doing only the ipad "light" version for a while, but got tired of that and now they only play on the computers. I held off for as long as I could and they only started playing in earnest last January, a year or more behind their peers...

12:19 PM

Blogger Ubiquitous Pidgeon said...

Well done, Lucas, and happy birthday!

8:52 PM


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