Sometimes I’m a bad dad.
About two years ago, my son made this point effectively and unintentionally. We were visiting my sister, and an argument broke out around the XBOX and whose turn it was. I went to the game room to investigate, and in the mayhem, somebody handed me a controller. Cool uncle, right?
“Here, Uncle Ben, it’s your turn.”
“Um. Okay. What are we playing?”
I’d heard of Minecraft. I’d heard a lot about Minecraft. In fact, I’d heard so much about Minecraft that I’d deliberately avoided it. “Mine-Crack” some of the kids called it. With all those nieces and nephews staring at me, though, I froze. The people had decided. Who was I to argue?
I am not an uncoordinated person, but the XBOX controller for Minecraft can be tricky, with its multi-colored buttons, dual control sticks, dual triggers, D-Pad, and dual bumpers. Even worse when all your nieces and nephews are staring at you, and you’re trying desperately to maintain that thin façade of coolness that all adults think they wear, even after getting blown up several times by a green proximity bomb with legs.
My youngest daughter sets down her controller and re-explains the controls to me while the rest of the cousins giggle. And from the back of the cousin pile my son’s voice cuts through chatter like Minecraft’s infamous diamond blade:
“You know, all I ever wanted in elementary school was to spend a day playing Minecraft with Dad. And I never got to.”
That hit me right between the triggers. Or maybe the D-Pad. He’s 16 years old, and probably too grown up to care anymore, but I had never once played Minecraft with him. Not even for an hour, though I’d listened to him talk about it endlessly.
The point of being a parent, I think, is so you can feel bad about yourself more often, perhaps hoping eternally that you might get at least one thing right.
So for Christmas, I gave him a copy of Minecraft in his stocking. I’m probably the only historical example of a lame dad giving his sixteen-year-old son a five-year-old copy of Minecraft. About eight years too late, if you don’t think too hard about the math.
He sorta grinned when he took off the wrapping paper. “You know how old this is, right?”
“Yeah.” I grinned back. “But I’ve got the day off.”