Introduced to most of us thanks to it being the game that came packaged with the Gameboy in 1989, the Russian-invented Tetris was the Angry Birds of my childhood.
I never owned a Gameboy, but by 1991, all my friends did. Because of enough spend-the-night’s at my friends’ houses in the midst of watching the Ninja Turtles movie for the 27th time on VHS and drinking Sharkleberry Fin Kool-Aid, I was able to be just as good at playing it as the next kid wearing a neon green slap bracelet over-using the phrase “Cowabunga, dudes!”
Over two decades later, as a 30 year-old dad, I realize that this seemingly-non-fun yet highly addictive game symbolizes my life as father in five particular ways:
1. There is always one more logistical problem to solve. Just like the need to manage and maneuver the constantly dropping blocks on Tetris, so it is in the life of a dad. Driving somewhere today with your kid today? Better hope you packed everything, including a camera to take pictures to share on Facebook. Fingers crossed that your child will actually fall asleep on the car ride there.
2. You must maintain solid ground by eliminating inconsistencies. In Tetris, the more gaps left in each row, the harder it becomes to pass the level. Obviously, we as dads have to be clear on the boundaries we set for our children and consistent on following through with discipline. Otherwise, the whole thing sort of becomes a frustrating mess.
3. Being passive doesn’t really work. Just like in the game, the sky is always falling so there’s no time to just sit back and watch things work themselves out on their own. As I’ve published more Dadvice articles, a common theme I’m seeing is the importance of the dad being proactive.
4. It takes looking at each challenge from several perspectives. You can turn each block around from each angle to see which will be the best fit before it hits the ground. Similarly, if you’re trying to figure out whether or not you should let your baby “cry it out” to learn to sleep through the night, you have to consider it from several perspectives: yours, your wife’s, your child’s, and common sense.
5. The experience is nearly universally known. While many versions of Tetris have been released over the years, the one on Gameboy is the Tetris most of us remember. Not every man has ever played Tetris at some point in his life nor does every man eventually become a dad. But as for the rest of us, we share the same frustrations and joys by default.
Tetris and fatherhood are important rites of passage for a man. At least for those of us who were still kids when The Simpsons was a just brand-new show which our parents were reluctant to let us watch and Jaleel White was on TV because he was playing Steve Urkel, as opposed to being a dancing game show contestant.
Do the Urkel. Or the Bartman.
Interesting trivia: “Do The Bartman” was written by Michael Jackson; though he was never credited for it because of contract obligations with another record label.
Jack has now graduated the crawling stage. While it may be simply natural to assume that walking is the next phase of mobility, Jack has decided to implement an exciting new transition for himself: skating.
Whether it’s an empty water bottle, a book, or a Jiffy cornbread box, Jack gets in his crawling position and places his right hand on the random item of choice. He uses his legs to push his body forward and his left hand for both steering and to skate with, using the object like a skateboard. (Yes, he’s left handed.)
He is officially in his most hilarious stage so far. I can’t help laugh as each time he skates to where the action is, as if to say, “Forget crawling, or even walking, I’ve got a better way to get there!”.
To make it even weirder to watch, he often spouts out his new catch phrase, “to-gaht, to-ghat, to-ghat, to-ghat, to-ghat…” as he skates along. I’m still trying to figure out if that’s supposed to be his impression of either Apu from The Simpsons or The Swedish Chef from The Muppets.
I’m in no hurry to see him start walking, because I know that will be a whole other challenge in itself for the parents. It’s totally cool with me if he wants to be a skater boy for now.
Have you found me yet? Yes, this really is my 4th grade class picture from the 1990-1991 school year, which was truly one of my favorite years of childhood. Why? I’ll tell you why.
First of all, I was in the same class as my “special friend”/crush since Kindergarden, Sara Shaw, in the plaid red dress on the front row. Secondly, that was the year that slap bracelets were the rage.
Thirdly, I was the perfect age to truly appreciate the Ninja Turtles in their prime; on the playground I always pretended to be “Nickelangelo.” Fourthly, though a lot of my friends’ parents banned The Simpsons in their households, my parents were cool with it. In fact, I think I acquired literally a dozen Simpsons t-shirts that year.
And lastly, one of my favorite sitcoms was Family Matters- mainly because of Steve Urkel. You would think that Steve Urkel, America’s favorite nerd of the ’90′s, would not be someone I would aspire to look like in any way. But sure enough, I begged my mom for a pair of suspenders. And because this was a time when neon colors were quite fashionable, I was able to obtain a pair of neon green suspenders.
I wore them at least once a week to school. Unsurprisingly, I deliberately wore my green suspenders for Picture Day.
As it’s plain to see in that picture, I was 100% comfortable with my goofiness; mostly unaware and apathetic when it came to whether other kids thought I looked cool or not.
I was in my own little world, where daydreams and reality collided and I barely knew the difference. (I guess not much has changed there for me…).
Based on my experience working with boys at summer camp for two summers in 2000 and 2001, then two summers teaching in Thailand in 2003 and 2004, something I learned was that pretty much all little boys are goofy in their own creative ways.
They are confident in being ridiculously weird, random, and off the wall. If their clothes don’t match or they get a funny haircut like a mohawk, it’s considered “cute.”
This concept easily shows up in my nine month old son. Pretty much everything he does is hilarious. I’m so thankful for ” the necktie picture” we have of him. Because even though he sort of has a serious look on his face, he’s wearing only a pastel colored necktie and a diaper. It’s like he’s trying to be as sophisticated as he can, but ultimately, he’s like, “Joke’s on you, people”.
He may live in his own little world, but I like to visit that weird planet of his any chance I get.
I think the best way to begin is to share a few things that I would rather do than take an eight month old little boy on a plane from Nashville to Sacramento:
1) Be forced to watch a 24 hour marathon of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, sending out a Tweet every 15 minutes praising the show, though I despise it more than the awful movie Something Borrowed; which is the worst movie I’ve ever seen- and that’s saying a lot because I’ve seen When in Rome.
2) Shave “racing stripes” into my hair until they grow out and when people ask me why I have resorted to a hairstyle trend that was briefly popular in 1988, I could only respond by saying “Cut… it… out!”, along with doing the accomanying hand motions, made famous by the character Joey Gladstone on Full House.
3) Walk barefoot on broken glass like Bruce Willis did in the first Die Hard movie.
When taking an infant on a plane, you must provide proof that your child is less than two years old. I know this now because we did not. (Dave Stanley, if you are reading this, I’m going to need you to email Jack’s birth certificate to me so we can leave Sacramento on Sunday…). The lady was nice and let us board the plane anyway. Thank God.
I’ve never seen my son pee so much, in a reasonable amount of time since his diaper was last changed, that I look down and see a puddle at my feet while standing in line to buy a snack before boarding the plane. And I didn’t even care that I didn’t have time to wash my moistened hand before boarding the plane.
A guy who looked just like “Comic Book Guy” from The Simpsons brought his Shih Tzu dog on the plane, hogging up the front row of seats; when my wife and I tried to sit in the remaining two seats next to him, he responded sarcastically with, “Uh, sure, I guess it wouldn’t be a bad idea for both a dog and a baby to sit in the same row.” It wasn’t worth it; we ended up settling for having to sit in the middle of the plane; my wife was in front of me and I was in the row behind.
The flight involved Jack sleeping as long as either my wife or I held him while standing up in the aisle. My arms are still sore from that.
Of course, Jack won’t remember any of this along with how much he didn’t enjoy the flight. But at least he can read about it in a few years.
Ah man, there for a minute I actually forgot… We still have do this whole thing again when we fly back to Nashville. Shazbot!