On Fatherhood: Almost 40 With a 4 Year Old

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How different his world is in 2014 than mine was when I was his age in 1978. This is the blessing of the late blooming father. Had I begun the child rearing phase of my life a decade or more ago things would be different. We could enjoy the Hunger Games together, we could both simultaneously suffer from Bieber Fever and I could have eaten all of his leftovers without worrying about calories. Not so when 35 years separates us.

Now I can easily justify saying, “When I was your age.”

“When I was your age, we called a thirty second video clip a commercial.”

Will I be able to teach him to appreciate the things that made me who I am today or is he too far removed from my generation? Will the coming of age moments for me be relevant for him? Will the movies, books, video games and music mean anything now or will they be campy and ironic to him?

I’ve begun compiling a list of media he will need to consume (and appreciate) as he matures in order to continue calling himself my son.

When he comes home from school with awkward adolescent struggles and feelings of not fitting in I will sit him down to watch Weird Science to understand my 80’s awkward. We had to watch our back then. When we (the nerds) weren’t doing so we were fantasizing about a time when we could control our destiny with computers. We were on the front lines. “Back in my day, nerds weren’t cool like they are now. Who knew it would take something like Glee to allow us to come out.”

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Who knows where he will be and what he will have seen by then but when he is in high school and surely feels trapped, he will read On The Road and dream about wandering. He will not read it digitally. He will not listen to it. I will get him the book. I will encourage him to write in the margins and dog-ear the corners. I will teach him that the scuffed up pages with take him back to the spot where he scuffed them up. He will remember the book but more importantly he will remember where he was and who he was with when he reads it again later.

When I first started playing my fathers records, naturally I was drawn to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. It became mine when I heard the tracks that weren’t overplayed on the radio. That album came out only 7 years before I  was born but seemed from another time. If my son does the same, maybe he will stumble upon my Nirvana “Nevermind” CD. That album came out almost twenty years before he was born! Twenty years! What a gap. If 7 years was a lifetime for me then… what will a two decade spread sound like? The Beastie Boys album “Licensed to Ill” was one of the first tapes I bought on my own. A quarter century before he was born. To him… vintage. But the lyrics are timeless right? “Don’t step out of this house if that’s the clothes you’re gonna wear. I’ll kick you out of my home if you don’t cut that hair.”

As an avid collector of classic video games whether he will enjoy the games from a simpler time is a grey area for me. Will he have the imagination and patience left to be able to experience games in anything less that HD?  When we start playing together, where to begin? Do I introduce them after the fact as being retro and nostalgic or slowly trickle them out in chronological order so he can watch them develop as I did but on a much faster scale. If so, we need to start playing Pitfall on the Atari 2600 soon. He’s not too spoiled yet to think those green splotches are alligators and naturally you need to jump over them.

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Will these things hold up? Will he tell me to turn that old stuff off? Who knows. My only hope is that he can appreciate them and although it’s decades later maybe they will resonate with him at the right time and the right place as they did for me. Then again… maybe it will be his turn to teach me something.