Tonight something epic happened. I took my son, Brad, to Target to spend a gift card he had left from his birthday and we came home with Rock Em Sock Em Robots. I got a little nervous when I saw some assembly required but then I remembered that this was a simple toy from a simple time. It didn't require a hexagonal wrench, a blowtorch, and a samurai sword just to get the toy out the box. Everything snapped together and in less than five minutes Brad and I were trying to knock each others heads off....of our robots of course.
He picked the Blue Bomber because the name reminded him of the video game character MegaMan so I was the Red Rocker. Somehow, I've always pictured myself as a red rocker. We mashed the buttons that make them punch and pushed and pulled the robots back and forth knocking stuff off the table in the process. Occasionally, he would get frustrated and just reach out and punch my robot with his bare hand. We laughed and talked smack to each other. We played with this stupid little toy game for a half an hour and decided we would use it in place of rock paper scissors from now on. I'm not sure who was having more fun.
That's one of the best parts about being the dad of a boy, I get to relive my childhood all over again. When he could barely walk I taught him how Tonka trucks should be rammed head on into each other. I get to watch wrestling with him and listen to him cheer for John Cena like I cheered for Hulk Hogan. One of our favorite things to do at the park is play hide n seek. We play Super Metroid together and when he asks me how I remember some secret I get to tell him about how his namesake and I spent many hours playing Super Nintendo. I got to show him the joys of a good book and it was like I was discovering them for the first time again. I play him older music and....well he thinks it sucks. Can't have everything, right?
The coolest thing about it all is that he appreciates it. He's not just humoring me. I have a t-shirt with the classic Nintendo controller on it and he calls it the epicest t-shirt of all time. He's always asking me about Macho Man Randy Savage and he wants to do the ohhhh yeeeeeaaahhhh with me. I never have to ask him to play hide n seek unless he wants to play tag. Then I have to suggest hide n seek because there's too much running in tag for this old man. He chose to buy Rock Em Sock Em on his own. I didn't even see it on the shelf. He won't ever admit it but I think just hanging with Dad is his favorite thing to do. The really coolest thing about it is that he does it because he thinks it's fun but he also does it because of the smile it puts on my face. That's the kind of boy he is.
I should be prepared for these days to end, I know. He'll be a teenager someday and I'll be lame. I don't really think these days will end. They haven't with my dad and I. Sure, I would put on a show for my friends but it's like that line Montgomery Gentry sang "Well, I'd just roll my eyes and make a beeline for the door but I'd always wind up starry-eyed, cross legged on the floor, hanging onto every word." There still isn't much in life I'd rather do than have late night coffee and ice cream with Mom and Dad. When my ex-wife decided to move away without trying to take Brad with her one of the things she said was, "I can't take him away from you. You're like his best friend," and it's true. I don't know if that's something he learned from the way I am towards my dad or if it's because of something I learned from the way my dad has always been to me and I don't care to know. It's magic and you don't question magic.
I don't let my friendship with my son get in the way of the other parts of parenting. I discipline when he needs it. I'm not a very strict parent but that's because I don't have to be. Still, I think cultivating that friendship is the most important part of my job right now. If he doesn't think of me as a friend as well as a parent, how can I ever expect him to turn to me in the truly hard times in life for help and advice? I see the saying on Facebook a lot that our cousins are our first friends, and I love my cousins, but my parents were my first friends and I'm proud of the fact that I'm sure my son will say the same about me. And the bestest part about doing this most important part of my job? It's my pleasure.
When I sit down to play with my eight year old son it's like I'm playing with his namesake at eight, again. It feels like I'm eight again and this time I don't have to spend the whole summer with a cast on my arm. I broke my arm from jumping on the monkey bars but do I let that stop me from encouraging Brad from jumping on the monkey bars? Of course not. I'm eight again and an eight year old boy always dares his friends to do the things he got hurt doing. I always explain boys to people this way; if there isn't a chance of something getting broken or someone getting hurt it ain't no fun. Well, I suspect that my son and I will be taking a lot of chances before he turns nine and long after that too.