The parenting story that has gone viral today is that a dad named Mike Mika hacked the classic Donkey Kong video game so his daughter could play as Pauline, the girl who Mario tries to save. So instead of Mario saving Pauline from Donkey Kong, she saves Mario.
Mike’s daughter had been enjoying playing as the Princess in Super Mario Bros. 2, which happens to be my favorite video game of all time, and she was disappointed to learn she couldn’t be the princess in Donkey Kong as well. So her dad took care of it.
“Having kids is incredible. And having a daughter is something special. I get the opportunity to see the world through her eyes. And if this experience has taught me anything, it’s that the world could be just a bit more accommodating. And that if something as innocuous as having Mario be saved by Pauline brings out the crazy, maybe we aren’t as mature in our view of gender roles as we should be.
I didn’t set out to push a feminist agenda, or try to make a statement. I just wanted to keep that little grin lit up on my daughter’s face every time we sit down to play games together.”
Sure, a good number of video games throughout history have featured a male hero who saves a female; that concept caters to a male audience who is wired to solve problems and earn the love and respect of a beautiful female, not to socialize and network with friends like Farmville on Facebook.
The earliest example of an action-based video game where the lead character is a female hero is Metroid; though you wouldn’t know the character is a female until you beat the game.
That’s one of the many reasons I always loved Super Mario Bros. 2; because it was fun (and weird) to play as a female in an action game. I wasn’t ashamed to play as a character who wore a pink dress. I just wanted to win!
In fact, Super Mario Bros. 2 is still often referred to by those who didn’t own the game growing up like I did as “isn’t that the one where you can play as the Princess?”.
Today, Mike Mika has earned cool points with parents across America for thinking of such a clever idea to help his daughter feel special and loved.
Yes, it’s a parenting cliche. But it’s so true and therefore I must confront it:
“They grow up so fast.”
We live in the age of Instagramming. Granted, I’m not actually cool enough to have a smart phone to share a vintage photo version of what my kid just did any given moment of his waking hours.
But I see Instagrams all the time on Facebook. Some being unintentionally ironic and uncreative- like a picture of a Starbucks cup. Others, however, are photos of something a bit more relevant and important in life.
Like our kids.
And I think that’s a pretty symbolic concept. Prepare for me to get deep here.
If you’re like me, you spend the majority of your time doing the things you don’t want to, like driving to and from work, being at work, cleaning dishes, etc.
A very small percentage of my life is actually spent doing what I really want to do; which is spending time with my wife and son.
So I constantly carry my camera around in an effort to capture every warm, fuzzy moment I can. Because as I’ve written, these are the longest years and the shortest days of my life; being a parent, that is.
It’s my attempt to magnify the best parts of my life and be able to share them with everyone who cares.
Consider this: We are constantly traveling through time and space.
My best Internet research tells me that since the Earth is always spinning, we are constantly moving at 1,040 miles per hour. (Correct me if I’m wrong on that.)
Good thing for gravity.
We are forced to travel forward into time while simultaneously stuck in physical locations we don’t necessarily want to be and participating in events we’d rather not.
There is no such thing as the present. Once we think, “this is now,” it’s no longer now. It’s back then.
So anytime we can make a positive memory into one that is eternal, indestructible, and virtually omnipresent, why wouldn’t we?
So why is Instagram so cool? It automatically “retro-izes” events that just happened, dressing them up like a Dharma Initiative Polaroid in order to direct-deposit the memory into the classic “good times” folder in our brains.
That’s basically what deja vu is- when our brains mistakenly file a current memory as a classic one.
Now back to the beginning: “They grow up so fast.”
We can’t stop it. We can barely detect the tiny changes in our children that happen overnight. We want to hold on to “this version” of our kids forever.
The next best thing we have to pressing the pause button on their current cuteness is to take a picture and therefore speak a thousand words.
That is how we travel back in time to places we’d rather be.
Get used to seeing my son Jack in this suave, retro blazer, paired with a pumpkin-accented plaid shirt because as his dad, I’m going to get as many miles out of this outfit as I can while it still fits him.
This weekend we decided to dress him in my old jacket and shirt from when I was literally his age.
From a walk in the park to lunch at Kalamata’s Greek restaurant to a quick visit to the pet store, Jack was rockin’ the jazzy new-wave wardrobe.
Like most parents of toddlers, I am not willing to spend much money on clothes that my kid will grow out of in a few months from now.
But being that Jack’s jacket and shirt were free, because they were a gift for me three decades ago, he gets to be a baby fashion model for the time being.
In the Spring of 1981, right before I was born, my Italian great-aunt Margaret Metallo in Kenosha, Wisconsin sent my mom a yellow blazer with a “matching” shirt from Sears as a gift for her soon-to-be born bambino, Mario Eugene Shell.
Yeah, uh… that’s me. However, after I was born, my parents recognized that despite my mother being half Italian and half Mexican, I looked ”too white” to have such an ethnic name as Mario.
So nearly 2 hours after I was born, my parents officially gave me my name: Nicholas Shane Shell.
By the time I reached adulthood, my features got darker and I finally looked more like a Mario. Though honestly, I probably look more Jewish than anything.
And now I’ve got a son who’s even whiter than I ever was: Yellow hair to match the jacket and marble blue eyes to compliment it. Honestly, Jack pulls off the yellow blazer better than I ever could.
I think it’s safe to say that jacket came before it’s time: Ultimately, it would be another 30 years for the perfect little bambino to come along to legitimately model it for the world.