I have two boys, 8 and 11 years old. Tony, the 11 year old, loves video games. He has a Sony PSP which he plays a lot. Far too often in my wife’s opinion. He’s constantly blowing his allowance on buying and selling games at a second hand store down the street from our house. But he also plays soccer on a team and does his homework, so it’s not all bad.
Andy last week decided that he really wants a dog, and he wants to buy it with 50,000 to 100,000 yen of his own money, made 100-150 yen at a time by helping around the house. He has suddenly become the model son, helping out washing dishes, vacuuming, and housecleaning without being asked, but extorting as much money as he from us afterwards.
We took him to a pet shop on Saturday to look at the dogs, and he really liked a yappy little brown chihuahua that was going for only 50,000 yen. Every time I commented on how much cheaper that one was compared to all the others, my wife turned to me and told me to STFU under her breath. Personally, I’m a fan of much larger dogs, preferably one that could eat a chihuahua for breakfast.
My wife told him (and me) that she’ll think more about getting a dog when Andy’s in the fifth grade, which is a euphemism for “when hell freezes over,” but to Andy that just means he has plenty of time to save up enough money. I’ve suggested a few alternative animals for pets: a penguin, a snake, a poo-flinging monkey, a chicken or a hamster that’ll make his room stink like rodent piss. But for him it’s chihuahua or bust. Mommy’s vote is for the latter.
Tony has been spending every waking moment playing Monster Hunter on his PSP, and he’d even play it in his sleep if we let him. It bothers me to see him wasting his formative years slaying imaginary monsters, so last Monday I very lovingly confiscated his PSP’s battery and told him I’d give it back after he read a book of his choice in English. He chose The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary, which he chased me around with every day until we finally finished it together on Saturday afternoon. Immediately he went back to putting his young life on hold to spend hours and hours slashing more monsters and collecting bigger and more deadly weapons, so last night I asked him for the battery again, and he gave it up with barely a whimper. After all, there’s still Smash Brothers on the Wii and Animal Crossing on the Nintendo DS which he can use to waste his life.
This morning I sent a text message in English to his mobile phone: Your PSP battery is in the top drawer of your desk, inside the blue Oreo chocolate candy box. It he can decode the message, he can have the battery back. The messages will get progressively harder from now on, and eventually he’ll have to start answering questions. By the time he reaches junior high school, he’ll be decades ahead of his classmates in English ability, and he’ll thank me for being such a prick.
This week is Golden Week, when a slew of national holidays fall within days of each other and the entire country takes off work en masse. Unfortunately, this year next Saturday and Sunday are two of the four holidays, so the only days I have off are yesterday and next Monday. It’s better than nothing, so I’m not complaining.
Yesterday was a beautiful day and Tony, Andy and I were home. There was no way I was going to let the kids stay inside playing video games (Tony: Monster Hunter for the PSP; Andy: Animal Crossing, Super Mario Brothers, Yoshi’s Island, and Bimoji Training on the DS), so I dragged them kicking and screaming to the local park to play catch and wade barefoot in the little man made stream.
There’s nothing like the smile on Tony’s face when we play catch. I need to put more effort into playing outside with him. It sure beats the zombie-like expression he has on his face when he’s under the hypnotic spell of his PSP, and the guilt I feel for letting him zone out like that for far too long. Andy, like me when I was his age, can’t catch a ball to save his life so he either watches from the sidelines or goes off to do his own thing. It doesn’t bother me in the least that Andy isn’t athletic. He likes to make up his own games and enjoys playing with other kids, as long as whatever they’re doing doesn’t involve ball catching.
While they played together, I foraged through the park for things to take pictures of with my new camera. There aren’t too many flowers in the park this time of year, but I did find a few bushes with bees buzzing about. Up a path through the wooded hills in the middle of the park there’s a restored 17th century house called the “Old Nakayama Family Residence,” designated as a cultural treasure by the Ibaraki Prefectural government. I won’t go into details about its history. Basically, it’s a big, old house that people come to see and there’s some old stuff inside it from that era. I waited with my camera on a tripod for about half an hour for a chance to take an HDR shot with nobody getting in the way.
Before heading home, we stopped off at the little restaurant on the park grounds for some overpriced eats. $1200 yen for two soft ice cream cones and three bottled drinks. My fault for not being able to deny my kids their right to ice cream on a spring day. What a racket they’ve got going there.
We went home and I made the boys a late lunch of their favorite spaghetti (Prego sauce out of an industrial sized jar bought at Costco). Tony, when you put food in front of him, has to be reminded a hundred times to shut up and eat. Man, that kid is skinny. Afterwards I fell asleep until 11pm, then stayed up till 3am messing around with Photoshop and uploading photos to Flickr. The end.
In other news, our washer/dryer is broken and laundry is piling up, but the good thing is Sanyo recently announced a defect in that model so we’re getting it
fixed replaced for free. As a homeowner, it feels a bit like winning the lotto.
With the money I just received from my parents for last Christmas (we’re a pretty laid back bunch), I bought a Canon EOS Kiss Digital X camera, also known in other countries as the EOS Digital Rebel XTi or the EOS 400D. It’s the most popular model among users of Flickr.com, so choosing it over all the other cameras on the market was a no-brainer. Also, I already own a set of autofocus lenses from my 20 year old 35mm EOS, so upgrading to digital wasn’t too expensive. For over ten years I’ve been looking forward to the day I finally own a digital SLR that takes pictures equal in quality to 35mm film.
Here are the first pics from the new camera. (Click thumbnails to enlarge.) This is how my family spends every night at home before bedtime.
Last weekend, like most weekends, Tony sat in my lap while playing Counter Strike on my PC. This is our bonding time. I use it to teach him new words and phrases in English, and when he play CS he seems to think in English more than usual.
I asked him, “Do you know any bad words in English?” He thought for a second and exclaimed, “Dingleberry!” He likes that word a lot, but I told him it’s not that bad. So I asked if he knew any words that would get him smacked if he said them in front of Baba (my mother.) The best he could muster was “Fat girl.”
It makes me proud of myself to realize that for the past 10 years I have been so patient and careful of a father that I’ve never cursed in front of or at my kids. I’ve never lost my temper when they leave on every goddamn light in the house, I’ve never threated to kick their asses for goofing off when they’re supposed to be getting ready for bed, and I watch my language when I’m playing video games with them. But once they hit their teens and start really screwing up, I wonder how long I’ll be able to keep their ears safe.
Tony’s pointing me out to his friends, waving and trading funny faces with me. Just like how I sometimes miss the two year old Tony now, I know there will too soon come a day when I’ll miss Tony the 10 year old. My kids teach me the importance of always appreciating the present moment.
While the boys take swimming lessons, I sit up in the spectator’s area with all the little kids who chase each other around barefoot and their parents who talk amongst themselves, stare into space or read.
I’m killing time by listening to Otofuke on my iPod and reading the Japanese translation of Catcher in Rye. It’s slow and painful to have to look up 4-5 words on every page, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. One day, far, far in the future, I’m going to finish reading this book.