The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Jeff Vrabel: Dad’s magical ‘Angry Birds’ abilities

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  • The thing that I love most is how the 8-year-old hands me ó me! ó the iPad to clear a level of ďAngry Birds: Star Wars,Ē like thatís something that I can do better. Like because I am a Grown Person with my own retirement account, flood insurance and cholesterol medicine (ha! just kidding about the retirement account, and possibly flood insurance) I possess magic Angry Birds-Flinging powers available only to graying people whose bones make weird noises when they get up in the morning.
    I suppose I should be thankful for this, that at the age of near-9 my son still holds me in enough esteem to shovel me problems he finds insurmountable and I, being a dynamic and powerful dad, will not hesitate to squoosh a junta of cartoon pigs who are wearing stormtrooper masks. I should also be thankful that we havenít encountered any Insurmountable Problems that involve, say, removing a snake from someplace confined and damp, or attending to something in or around an engine block.
    But most of the time, Iím just watching the kid squish birds. Actually, Iím sort of watching him, because my aging eyes cannot adequately track his fingers; all they see is hands moving, going from one spot to another without apparently visiting the space in between, like a skinny ninja who cannot remember to brush all of his teeth, and then some pigs explode. Heíll fling a bird and evaluate in mid-flight whether or not the birdís trajectory is pleasing to his little spongebrain, and if itís clear the bird isnít going to splat where itís supposed to splat heíll have paused, canceled and restarted the level basically before Iíve realized that the iPad is on. One would think someone with this kind of preternatural grasp on physics and trajectory would be able to walk up a door marked PUSH and not pull it, yet here we are.
    Besides, when an 8-year-old hands you something to do, he obviously does not wish you to do it. What he wants is for you to hold the iPad while he shouts a fiesta of instructions at you about what you should be doing, how youíre not currently doing it, why youíre so bad at this, and how baffling it is that youíre failing to follow such simple direction. Seriously, at one point he was like, ďUgh why arenít you listening to my INSTRUCTIONS!Ē which led to me making a really resonant point about how that feels, like hypothetically when you have to tell someone to sit at the dinner table like an actual human and not a monkey thatís spent its like on a secret government island populated only by monkeys, but delicious irony is wasted on third-graders.
    The problem is itís such PRESSURE to be looked at in this way, the kind of pressure I used to feel whenever someone would pass me a basketball, and by ďused toĒ I mean this past Sunday when I was playing horse with my son and some fifth-grader named Ben at the playground. I am not good at basketball.
    Page 2 of 2 - I also know that Iím only setting myself up for failure and further deconstruction of my status as my sonís primary male role model, because, letís be honest, youíve probably seen what happens when a dad attempts a video game. Itís pretty much what itís like when a dad attempts skateboarding. Best-case scenario is he just breaks an elbow or shatters a pelvis or something; worst-case is that the sense of melancholy that the son feels seeing such horrors with his own eyes becomes so burned into his brain that he turns to something much worse than skateboarding, like the tuba.
    I had a Commodore 64 growing up, and I donít want to sound too cool about it, but I was a pretty big deal in the Commodore 64 clique at my junior high school. One of my games had the ability to mimic human speech, if you can believe it. But on sporadic occasions Dad would come in, and ask what we were playing, and ask to sit in for a spell, and God watching him try to clump around with the joysticks during a fierce contest of ďSummer GamesĒ or flipping over a floating orb of death in ďImpossible Mission,Ē it was just like watching those videos where they try to teach dolphins to play basketball or something, and youíre screaming at the screen like, ďNo, dolphins, youíre fine just being dolphins DONíT TRY TO OVERREACH, GUYS!Ē
    Case in point: I once played ďHalo 3Ē with a 10-year-old son of a friend; my only memory is using a serious-looking ďStar WarsĒ-type vehicle called a Prowler to accidentally murder all of my squadmates by driving over them. At one point I unloaded about 50 rounds into what Little Jason told me, with disconcerting patronization and scarcely a look up from his ďWimpy KidĒ book, two boxes. At another point I spent three and a half minutes shooting up a corpse, but in my defense, that was because one time I walked by a corpse and like this weird green Yoda spider jumped out of it and started eating my leg, which is not something that you easily get over, hopeless Dad or not.
    Jeff Vrabel never did beat ďImpossible Mission,Ē and probably never will. He can be reached at http://jeffvrabel.com and followed at http://twitter.com/jeffvrabel.

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