As we walked/ran down the endless hallway to Theater 15, my kinetic 5-year-old stopped dead in his tracks, staring up in awe at the wall covered in five enormous posters.
“Daddy, Pac-Man! … and Donkey Kong!” he shouted in amazement.
I explained the other posters to him, all of which depicted ’80s-era video games for the movie Pixels. My son’s eyes widened a bit more. He bellowed, “I want to see THAT!” then raced on ahead of me to our theater.
With its PG-13 rating and star Adam Sandler’s penchant for “colorful" dialog, I’m afraid my son will have to wait a few years to see this film. In the mean time, I’ll have plenty of fun introducing him to the actual games... though I fear they'll pale in comparison to the gigantic, city-chomping versions he’s seen in the trailer. Regardless, I’ve invested a lot of time and energy making sure my son acquired both my knowledge and love of pop culture. It started with superheroes — still a mainstay of his enthusiasm — and quickly branched out into Disney films, Star Wars and scores of other TV/cartoon characters. Video games were a lesser childhood obsession; yet because they touch all those other universes, there’s plenty of crossover for us to talk about and enjoy together.
Though still a few months shy of 6, my son is already better than me at most games. Unless it involves reading (which he’s rapidly absorbing), his determination and tenacity outlast my more-developed dexterity every time. He’s already raced ahead of me (he’s good at that), acquiring tastes for games I’ve never played, exploring galaxies and kingdoms and canons I know nothing about. He’s developing interests beyond those introduced to him by me, but I still long to find ways to connect and relate. I fear I may have to give in and figure out Minecraft before too long.
All of this got me thinking about how different things are now than they were with my father and me. As in decades past, there are still plenty of dads who bequeath their love of a beloved sports team, a model of car, a favorite band. For my son and me it’s always been superheroes, sci-fi/geek culture, and the like. However, I don’t recall inheriting any of my passions from my father.
Is it a generational thing? Whether through cave paintings or stories around campfires, history shows parents continuing their family’s legacy through the telling of tales to their children. And for centuries (and still in some places), it was expected sons would take up their father’s profession.
My father followed in his father’s footsteps; though from the tales he’s told me, their height (both over 6’5”) and occupation (minister) were the only things they had in common.
Luckily I have a great relationship with my dad. And while I admire and respect him, we don’t share any of the same interests. Not our musical tastes, or the movies or TV shows we enjoy. Books, hobbies, social activities — nothing similar there, either.
Maybe nostalgia plays a bigger part in today’s world because of the Internet — that everything’s so much easier to discover and become “retro” so much quicker, it seems. Perhaps as a dad who’s 40 years older than his son (as opposed to my dad, who’s only 25 years older than me), I’m already well into a nostalgic state of mind. A 25-year-old is still discovering himself to a degree, is less established, and has less to pass down. Do younger fathers think less about their own mortality, and the legacy they want to leave their children?
As I consider this further, I do see the influences of my father in the things I love. A compassionate pastor, my dad influenced my desire to see justice in the world. He was also a prolific writer (he wrote out all his sermons) and a storyteller (his preaching was peppered with anecdotes and parables), and I see his influence in my love of writing and sharing my life through blogging. As a pianist and lover of classical music, he influenced my passion for performing, creating and appreciating the arts in all their forms. A voracious reader, he also introduced me to Lewis and Tolkien as a child, which led to my love of fantasy and sci-fi, in all its mediums.
But most of all I see his influence in his attempts to connect with me — though many times thwarted. And his patience with me — though many times tested. He may not have understood me or always known how or when to talk to me, but I never doubted he loved me.
So while my son’s interests and my own may end up being galaxies apart, I will continue to be present; always keep on trying to connect, keep on doing my best to be patient, and always ensure he knows he’s loved.
Brent Almond is a writer, graphic designer, comic book geek and all-around pop-culture junkie. He lives in the burbs of Washington, D.C. with his husband, son and their fluffy, black-and-white dog. Brent chronicles his adventures and obsessions on his blog, Designer Daddy.