One of the unexpected joys of being a ‘forced’ stay at home dad has been the amount of time one obviously has to spend with your child but also the number of times other parent’s knowing that you are at home, will ask you to look after their children too.
Now I’ve mentioned this is the past, but interacting with young children or indeed children in general is something that money simply cannot buy and the rewards, for me at least, are immeasurable.
Dads, you have to game with your child. Its not enough to simply take your child out over the weekend in order to bond. Just recently, I had the teenage boy of a good friend of mine come stay for the afternoon. Nothing unusual about that, I’ve looked after him and his siblings hundreds of times.
He is a privileged lad, private schooling, wants for nothing except perhaps time with his parents. In order to be in this privileged position, his parents have to work all hours in high pressured jobs and quality time together is something of a premium.
Moreover, the modern scourge of family life – or so it seems – has been the advent of computer games. Like it or not, today’s kids game, not all of them of course, but a lot do. I, as a 53 year-old male, grew up in the late seventies and early eighties with pac-man, space-invaders and the like. And, that is where you would have thought it would have ended. However, with the birth of my own child, it wasn’t long before she wanted to engage in gaming. At first, it was a bit of a novelty but she grew older, she became more immersed in the industry and I do mean the industry. She knows who the CEO of Nintendo is, she knows the chief designer, the creative team, musical director and so on….
When this young man was over, we started to discuss the graphics of one of his favorite game on the PS4 – a platform I’m not familiar with. But what stunned me was his remark: ‘you’re the only dad I know who games’ followed by the devastating comment: ‘I wish my dad would play with me’.
Whilst I was proud that he appreciated my interest in computer games, I was saddened by his yearning for his dad to play with him. I know his dad takes him to football games, they go out together as a family on long bike rides and he is essentially a taxi every weekend for his three children. But it isn’t enough or its not what his son wants. His son wants him to spend time on their own at home playing together.
There are a lot of misgivings about computer games, about spending time in front of the TV or screen playing what appears to be at first glance an inane waste of time. But I disagree. What I have begun to understand about gaming is multifaceted. As a middle aged man, I find the use of the controls; the hand-eye coordination, the reaction times, the solving of puzzles, memory invaluable. I would go as far as to say, certain games would definitely aid the older generation especially those who have the onset of dementia or even loneliness. I have trouble competing with my daughter, i cannot operate the controls as fast she does, some of the puzzles are unfathomable and you sometimes have to think out of the box. For an elderly person, it is definitely a way of keeping the mind alert.
But I repeat, not only to dads, but mums as well. Try and engage at your child’s level and become a gamer, they will love you all the more for it, and so will their friends apparently!