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Game Dad(游戏老爸)

Game Dad

This morning my wife found me playing with my son’s toy cars again. It was the third time this week. My son and I have invented a game that involved us trying to shoot his cars up a steep toy-car ramp, sending them airborne across an expanse of his bedroom and over the lip of his laundry hamper to land inside it. After much practice, we now succeed in about 40 percent of our attempts.

My son seems to really like this game, but the trouble is that I like it even more. He will lose interest after a while, move on to another, more destructive activity in some other part of the house. But I will keep at it with his car, trying just one more time to launch one into his hamper. Then my wife will walk in.

What strikes her as odd about the scene is not that I’m playing with my son’s toy cars but that I’m playing with them by myself. If my son will still in the room when she walked in, nothing would seen at all out of order to her. My son, in other words, is my cover. As long as he is around, I’m free to indulge my every adolescent whim, all in the name of bonding with my boy.

Of all the blessing of fatherhood, this may be the greatest: the license to act like a 5-year-old. I always believed that fatherhood would transform me in some profound way―make me wiser, more loving, more of a man. What it has really done is given me an excuse to play with toy cars. In the name of parenting, I now spend entire days in an orgy of second-childhood indulgence. I do 180-reverse slams on my son’s adjustable baby-basketball hoop. I binge on Post Alpha-Bits. I spend hours watching the Cartoon Network.

In fact, now that I’m a father, I act more like a child than I ever did when I was an actual child. And that makes me a fitting representative of the most immature society in the history of civilization. Some have called it the Kidult Society, and others the Age of Adultescent, but whatever you call it, one thing is obvious: Never before have so many acted so childishly at such an advanced age. See us putting around on our microscooters. See us joining our fantasy football leagues. See us toying with our PlayStations and our walkie-talkies and reading our Harry Potter books. I know stay-at-home parents who build their days around episodes of Blue’s Clues. I know guys who travel out town on weekends to compete in dodgeball tournaments. We may look like grown-ups, but we act like a bunch of kids.

The amazing thing is that few of us seem to find this state of affairs unusual. It’s simply accepted practice these days for adults to veer off into kiddie land for a few hours at a time. Sometimes the childishness fits in under the pretext of parenting. Keep a kid at your side and no one will think twice if you want to climb up into the tree house and play pirates. My neighbors see me running around the backyard chasing a Wiffle ball like it was Game 7 of the World Series, and they invariably praise me for being “so good with children.” What they find so admirable, in other words, is that a grown man can have the manner, interests, and intellect of a fourth-grader.

What man can be praised for being “good with kids” and not cringe a little? Who wants to be known as a really good Play-Doh modeler? My father and the fathers of my boyhood friends were men of gravitas, authority figures. Even as we loved them, my friends and I were a little afraid of and in awe of our fathers. They were not childish men. It’s not that my father would never play, say, a game of Wiffle ball with me or my brothers, but rather that, restrained by some old-world code of sober masculinity, he would never have been caught dead running the base with uncontrolled glee the way I do. Hell, I can’t remember him ever taking a turn at bat. He was the batting-practice pitcher, the instructor, the coach .The grown-up.

George Bernard Shaw once observed, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” He was probably right, but to me the sentiment loses all credibility because it sounds like greeting-card copy. I’m more inclined to listen to baseman Brooks Robinson, who when asked about giving up baseball said, “A man can’t play games his whole life.”

And yet here I am on the floor again with my son’s toy cars, my son is next to me, having a conversation with one of his cars, inviting it to let him take it for a ride, I think. I want to warn the little car to be careful, because I have seen this routine before, and I know that within seconds my son will be crashing that same car into his bedroom wall, complete with sounds of explosions and wailing sirens. I know that my boy could only have learned this sort of thing from me, but all the same, my urge to stop the mayhem is intense. This compulsion to play protector arrived as part of the fatherhood package; right around the time I started playing with toys.

When we brought him back from the hospital, my son was moonfaced and snuffling, eight pounds of need. I’d never felt so vulnerable in my life, and the feeling has not let up. What freaked me out was not my boy’s need, because after all, it was not news to me that kids need their parents. No, the real news was how suddenly and completely I needed my boy. I do what I can. I go to my computer and tap at the keyboard, trying to produce enough words to keep him fed and clothed and protected. I stand by, concerned and useless, while my wife tends to him when he’s sick. And when he says, “Daddy, play cars,” I do as I am told and play with his cars. Now he has lined up his cars on the edge of the table in his bedroom and is pushing them off the edge one by one. When each hits the floor, he says, matter-of-factly, “Boom.” How absurd is it that it makes me nervous to see this kind of carnage going down in proximity to him, even though he is the one pushing the cars over the edge? I’m on the floor, with the car my boy has handed me. Soon, he’ll get tired of this game and head elsewhere. I will stay close, just in case I need him.

  游戏老爸

  今天早上我在玩具车的时候又给妻子逮了个正着,这已经是本周的第三回了。我和儿子一起发明了一种游戏的玩法:我们将他的玩具车发射出去,冲过了一段陡峭的斜坡轨道,悬空在他的卧室里飞过,然后一头撞到他的洗衣篮边缘并翻滚进去。在经过多次练习以后,我们已经有了40%的成功把握。

  我儿子很喜欢这个游戏,可问题是玩起来我比他更加着迷。他玩了一会就兴趣索然,很快就会跑到屋子的其他地方进行更具破坏力的活动。可我依然兴致勃勃地摆弄着他的玩具车,老想着再玩一次,再一次把玩具车开进他的洗衣篮里。而就在这时候我妻子走了进来。

  让她疑惑不解的不是看见我在玩儿子的玩具车,而是我居然是一个人在玩得津津有味。如果这时候我儿子也在房间里面的话,她就会觉得很正常。换句话说,这时候儿子就成了我玩游戏的最佳掩护。只要他在场,我就可以打着与儿子培养感情的旗号,恣意地沉溺于儿时的种种异想天开。

  谈到做父亲的好处,这点无疑是最好的――可以理直气壮地模仿五岁小孩。一直以来我都认为一旦自己身为人父,某种深刻的变化会发生在我身上――自己会变得更智慧,更具爱心,更像个男子汉。可在自己真做了孩子他爸以后,我才发现父亲的身份只是自己玩玩具车的幌子而已。打着照顾儿子的旗号,我现在已经沉迷在自己的二度童年里面。我在儿子的儿童式可调篮筐下做反转180度大灌篮,不间断地往自己嘴巴里塞糖霜字母麦片,连续好几小时地守着动画片频道。

  实际上,虽说我现在身为人父,可我觉得自己比任何时候都更像个小孩,甚至是自己还是小孩的时候。从某种意义说,我代表了当今文明社会的不成熟。有些人管这叫做“大小孩社会”,也有人说是“成人儿童化”,不管是什么样的称呼,可有一点是很显著的――当今社会涌现出了前所未有多的“老”顽童。你可以留意到我们踩起了迷你型的单脚滑行车,组建网络足球联赛,沉溺于电脑游戏而无法自拔,玩弄着对讲机,或是沉迷《哈里?波特》小说。我认识一些住家父母,他们可以整天守着看儿童剧《小蓝线索》。我还知道有些人在周末的时候组织躲避球锦标赛。我们看上去都是成年人,可玩起来我们就是一堆小孩。

  其中令人不可思议的是大家对这现象居然泰然处之,并不觉得有任何不妥,人们觉得成人偶尔回归到儿童的世界里是很正常的事情,很多时候这些孩子气的表现还是打着“照顾孩子”的旗号。你可以扮海盗堂而皇之地爬到小树屋上面去(只要还有个孩子陪着你),没有人会认为你爱玩耍。我邻居看见我激动地在后院里追着威福棒球,那副认真的模样就好象是世界职业棒球大赛的决赛一样,他们都不约而同地称赞我“善于和小孩打成一片”。让他们艳羡不已的是,一个成年人居然可以和一个四年级生有着同样的举止,兴趣和智商。

  可是,到底哪个男人愿意被夸奖“善于与小孩打成一片”呢?作为成年人,谁也不想被称赞为培乐多彩泥的塑模高手。我的父亲,还有我小时候玩伴的父亲,他们都是说一不二的严父类型。尽管我们都爱自己的父亲,可我们多少都心存敬畏。他们可不是孩子气的男人。当然,我也不是说我父亲不和我们一起玩耍,例如和我们兄弟一起玩威福棒球,但是由于受到某种旧的所谓阳刚思想的影响,他放不开手脚,不能和我一样拼命地跑着去救底线球,和我一样笑得上气不接下气。天啊!我甚至想不起他有哪一次换位击球。总之,他是练习击球的投手、指导、教练、成年人。

  英国剧作家肖伯纳曾经这样说过:“我们停止游戏,并不是因为我们在变老;可一旦我们停止游戏,我们就变老。”或许他说的是对的,但对我来说,这句话没有多大的可信度,因为这句子就像是从问候卡上摘抄下来的一样。我更倾向垒手布鲁克斯?罗宾逊的话,在被问及放弃棒球有何感想时回答说:“一个男人总不能一辈子都在玩。”

  话是这样说,可我现在就在摆弄着儿子的玩具车。他就在我的身旁,我猜他正在和他的一辆玩具车说话,想开走这部车。我很想提醒那辆车要警惕,因为这样的情景我已经目睹多次,我知道过不了几秒钟,我的儿子就会把那辆车往墙上撞,嘴里还大呼小叫地发出爆炸声与哀叹声。我知道这套把戏我儿子只能从我身上学到,可同时,我内心又很想阻止这次故意伤害。这种想当保护者的冲动在我做了父亲以后就有了,在我开始玩儿子玩具的时候。

  当我们把儿子从医院里抱回家的时候,他只有八磅重,圆圆的脸蛋,用力地抽着鼻子。一时间我觉得自己是如此的脆弱,并且这感觉一直就没停止过。让我觉得惶恐的不是我儿子的需求,因为我很清楚小孩都需要父母的照顾,让我觉得惶恐的是――我离不开我的儿子,这种既突然又完全的感觉。为此,我尽心尽力,敲打着电脑键盘,通过写稿挣钱,希望挣更多的钱,希望儿子可以吃得饱,穿得暖,得到足够的保护。在他生病的时候,我的妻子忙着照料他,我就在旁边看着,忧心忡忡却又无所作为。这时候儿子说话了,“爸爸,玩我的汽车!”于是我就听话地摆弄起他的汽车来。现在他把玩具车一字排开摆在卧室的桌子边上,然后一辆辆地把车子往下推。当车子砸到地面的时候,他很平淡地嚷了声:“嘣!”我在一边可是看得胆战心惊,老是担心这样的惨剧会发生在自己儿子的身上,虽然如今把车子一辆辆往下推的是我的宝贝儿子。我就躺在地板上,拿起儿子递过来的玩具车。他很快就会厌烦这游戏的,他会转头去其他地方。而我还会继续留在他身边,说不定什么时候我又需要他。

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