Daddy, Daddy Zool
Besides my wife there were always 2 great loves in my life. Gaming and Movies. Armed with my consoles and Unlimited cinema card I used to spend most my evenings at a games machine and a lot of my “outside time” at one of the local picture houses. Now it’s natural that life gets more serious as you get older and responsibilities shift around and other priorities take over etc. But there isn’t much more in life that will steal away your free time like sprog.
Let’s get this out there from the get-go, this is not going to be a list of ways to avoid parenting and being a partner. I work a full time job and from the moment I get in the door until the little tyke goes to bed my focus is completely on my family. Weekends actually don’t make as much difference to Monday to Friday as the missus needs a break as much as I do!
I’ll start with the bad news. Baby gonna mean sacrifices in some capacity. Before Bob (as she will be referenced going forward) turned up, beyond my wife, family and friends my passions were Gaming, Film and Art/design. There are only so many hours in a day so something had to give and for me that was film. It makes sense to be honest as it was the main thing which got me out the house when I was headed to the cinema often on a weekly basis. It was also one of the things I used to do with my partner (more on that later).
Now, thankfully kids are built with several countdown timers and recharge times. You’ll get a good 6 month notice period with what to get all your affairs in order when they’re announced and in this time if you’re anything like me you’ll make some assumptions as to how things are going to run over the next few months and years. I had a vision that when I was left with new born Bob, I’d be able to set myself up in such a way that a bouncer and a rattle paired with a colourful TV screen, would provide sufficient stimulation for me to get an hour or so of gaming time in on a regular basis. Not only that, it would be time that my partner could use to rest up for their next shift (I’m generous like that). I can tell you now that at no age do kids develop an attention span long enough to make it through the briefest of loading screens! On top of that if you’ve managed to find a partner who will let you do more than suggest such an activity, hold on to them. Very tight. Through experience I very quickly learned that I would need to be more reactive than proactive in order to get what I wanted.
Iswiftly found that the sleep function on my infant was best used to clear up all the carnage that they left in their wake and to actually do things like cleaning (the house and my own self) and preparing for the next phase of the operation. So this gaming window of opportunity was also well and truly closed! In the early stages you become a bit of a slave to a 3-4 hour feeding cycle which is best tackled by taking turns with your partner. I managed to swing it so that I would allow Mum an early night at 8:30-9pm and I would have to wait up until 11pm to do the first night feed. That’s 2 hours a night to get my Game on. It was a short but glorious window, but also not the last as feeds and changes gradually shift to the daylight hours and before you know it we managed to work a 7 til 7 day night cycle for her.
Despite my initial trips and slips my marriage was still intact (your partner will likely be making just as many errors as you are at this point and if not sleep deprivation is always a good excuse.). It had me think back as to how I dealt with other difficult parts of my life and the various coping mechanisms I put together.
Being a lifelong gamer there was a theme to what I came up with. For example, the repetitious journey to school and college had me analysing my route which in my mind naturally became an awesome course for a Tony Hawks level. My discussions with friends included topics such as how far across the school field would you be able to see if it was subject to the N64’s fog or 3dfx detail pop-in.
I noticed I handled some of my latest problems in a similar way.
Creeping around during nap times is a short distance from Metal Gear levels of stealth. To this day I still hear Snake’s exclamation noise if I accidentally bang a door or drop something when Bob’s napping.
Does anyone remember Flash games? A popular genre of which was the “Escape the Room” style game which has since found a home on mobile devices (albeit in stage format whereas the Flash version was normally just the one room!). Basic premise was to point and click your way to freedom – find key, use on lock etc. Anytime you fancy leaving you home becomes a frantic search for every ingredient you’ll need for a successful trip. Locate Nappy Bag – Baby wipes are missing – search cupboard, search shelf, search pockets…search nappy bag again. Thanks to sleep deprivation the clues and solutions can be Just as obscure as the game! Car Keys located in the Fridge?!
I’ve come to the decision that the creature herself is actually a hybrid of half Tamagotchi – half Pokemon. Her Tamagotchi side ensures that she will always be by your side and should you not pay attention to her for more than 15 minutes she be up to her own neck in poop. Both creatures evolve at a quick pace and before you know it, look nothing like what they started like. The Pokemon in them ensures that they learn new tricks too! It may be Bob learned “Sit Up”, Bob learned “Projectile Vomit”, however all too soon they reach capacity and will only learn new tricks at the cost of others…Bob Learned “Spoon Feeding!”…but forgot how to say “Thank you”…
A dislike of mine are timed challenges. Patience wears thin for everyone, yourself included. Phrases such as “can you grab the….” And “where is the….” trigger moments which can only be summed up as the same levels of urgency that you get when Sonic the Hedgehog is near drowning.
Another darker turn, a large part of your life becomes a constant protection mission. The bane and breaking point of most games becomes a reality when you try your best to avoid damage to your precious cargo. It sometimes feels like the world (and even yourself) is against you and there can be an in trepidation every time you take Baby somewhere. Dog’s will attack on sight, every socket is an electrocution risk and stairs…STAIRS!!
A recent addition is that of Dialogue Trees when conversing with the little one. In Tell Tale games fashion, your decisions have consequences. Make your responses wisely and in a timely fashion. Anything but the precise answer will result in a) Tantrums or b) accidentally promising to take them to Disneyland tomorrow. Bob will remember this.
Now, it’s not like any part of these points discussed required or were completed as perfect runs in the outset. In fact there’s a certain satisfaction in line with unlocking a surprise achievement if you manage a whole day with things going to plan. You’ll settle on 1 out of 3 stars on most occasions however.
In terms of pastimes, gaming suits kids well. It doesn’t involve spending evenings out and leaving each other alone to the mercy of the child, you’ll just find yourself a bit more AFK than usual. So go out my fellow nerds and procreate! You can keep some semblance of a social life or whatever it is that keeps you happy, it’s just not necessarily to your own rules anymore.
I will just throw out a really important point which is to make sure you still make time for your partner and try not to be too selfish. I was lucky I hit a stride but most people don’t and the last thing you want is to have yourself happy at the price of your other half’s happiness. If they find themselves a bit lost or down, involve them in the thing you love to do. There’s plenty of choice things to do to entertain a non-gamer – A top 10 on that will follow shortly for guidance!
I’ll go out on a positive note which is thinking of all the fun you can look forward to. You’ve got a malleable life form at your command now. Sure we’ve a broad selection of Disney movies to choose from now but I’ve introduced mine to Totoro, Kiki and Ponyo and she loves these more than anything else (getting branded merch can be expensive though). Mine will also choose a Batman toy over anything you put in front of her and I’ve even got to the point where she’ll recite “I’m BaTmAn!” (in a growl) on command. They absorb everything you place around them so make sure that’s done in a loving home and look forward to the day they can finally best you at Streetfighter. Proud times.