Sometimes, before the sun even peeks above the horizon, you learn your place in the universe.
“Good morning, buddy! Time to rise and shine!” I said to my son Evan as I pulled his blinds up with the ZIIIIIP that starts most of his days. Now that our kids are no longer nocturnally yodeling babies, perhaps I derive too much pleasure from being the one who gets to do the waking, but you know what they say about revenge: It’s a dish best served to small people who can’t do anything about it.
“iPad,” Evan croaked from under his covers.
“Dude, that’s not how you greet someone in the morning. It’s good manners to say something like,
‘Good morning, Father! It’s so great to see you! I missed you all night long, and also you are exceptionally good-looking!’”
“iPad!” Evan agreed, letting me know where I stood in relative importance to a device that is, in all fairness, much cooler than me.
Until last week, I thought Evan had escaped the curse of video game addiction, the affliction that plagued my childhood, leaving me with happy memories of idyllic summer days spent saving princesses, when I should have been outside getting Lyme disease and sunburn.
“Is he into video games?” a friend asked me recently.
“Not yet, but I’m not sure he knows what he’s missing,” I answered. Marketers have a hard time getting to our kids since we cut our cable TV and dump the contents of our mailbox directly into the recycle bin each day, grabbing anything that looks important as it flutters past.
It’s kind of refreshing, being cut off from society. At the grocery store checkout, I play a game where I get a point for each celebrity I don’t recognize. “LAUREN’S REVENGE,” the cover says. Don’t know who that is. One point!
“MACI FIRES BACK: RYAN WON’T DESTROY US!” Two-pointer!
But even without Madison Avenue’s help, Evan was bound to find out about the intrinsic awesomeness of video games on his own. It happened last weekend, when Evan discovered an old game on our iPad that I thought had been deleted long ago, called “Hungry Shark.” It’s not really meant for kids, though you could make the case that it is educational.
“Hey, Evan, whatcha playin’?” our friend Anna asked during a recent visit, noticing that the iPad was welded to Evan’s hands. Of course, he did not respond, because when a kid is focused on entertainment, you can only communicate with them via the pause button, which will provoke an immediate and forcible response.
As Anna moved closer, she was probably expecting to see Elmo teaching Evan how to spell.
Then she heard a swimmer scream. Hey, a shark’s gotta eat.
“Oh. Oh dear,” Anna said, looking at the screen, and then at me, to see if I was aware of what was going on. While we aren’t really wild about Evan playing this game, it’s not much worse than what he sees in nature specials — you’d be surprised how often the gazelle doesn’t get away.
Evan’s also crazy about sharks, which are, for the moment, even cooler than dinosaurs. We watch shark documentaries every night, which seems like a scholarly pursuit, so we consider Hungry Shark to be a lab exercise.
Besides, back when I was a kid, we didn’t worry about learning things all the time. We used “hand-eye coordination,” a concept invented by Nintendo’s marketing department, to justify wasting our lives.
In any event, Hungry Shark is teaching Evan valuable life skills, like how to devour people whole, leaving nothing but their blood in the water and their screams hanging in the air, which will serve him well if he ever goes into finance.
You can get a bigger boat with Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.