I love my son Max. I love him more than I could love anything in this world. More than mid-90s Stamos hair. More than track 10 on Adele 25. Even more than Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream (the one with Stephen Colbert on the package). And there’s nothing I love more than spending quality time with my little guy. Whether we’re reading a book, watching a movie, making a messy art project, going to the zoo and the beach, swimming, wrestling, kicking around a soccer ball, racing each other at the park, filming YouTube toy-review videos, going to the arcade or even just cuddling — Max time is my favorite time of day.
That is until he utters those six dreadful words.
“Dada, will you play with me?”
Unless by play he means binge watch the new show on Netflix, the answer is no. As much I’d like to be the kind of father who happily crawls around the floor playing with Matchbox cars at 5:12 a.m. — I’m not that guy. And I don’t want to play dinosaur catcher, ninja fighter, or zombie-killer the second I walk through the door after a long day of work.
PAUSE: I can already tell this is going to be one of those articles I file under “stuff I think about but probably shouldn’t publish on the Internet.” But I don’t care. Go ahead and judge me. I’ll get through it. (If I can get through season two of Transparent, I can get through just about anything.)
Now where was I? Oh yeah… mind-numbing games I loathe playing. I’m also not a fan of being a shopper at my son’s crappy make-believe store that only sells me toys I’ve already bought him. I don’t want to pretend to be Superman™, Spiderman™, Batman™ or Fartman. (Wonder Woman™? Now that’s a different story.) And most of all, I don’t want to be the bad guy who gets put into a secret jail. (Spoiler alert: The jail is actually the hall closet, where I’ve already spent many years hiding.)
But herein lies the problem — Max is obsessed with playing with me. I’m talking morning, noon and night. Literally all the time. And just because I don’t necessarily enjoy it doesn’t mean I don’t feel compelled to do it. It’s part of the job. It’s what I signed up for when I became a father. I mean, come on, we all know how important playtime is for our children’s development. It’s how they learn about themselves, their environments and the people around them. It’s how they first discover self-control and the ability to take turns. There are even studies suggesting that children who play make-believe or board games with rules are more empathetic, less physically aggressive and more cooperative with other children and adults. Who can argue with that?
So MAN UP and deal with it is what I keep telling myself. But it’s not easy. And sometimes I disappoint him. And that makes me feel awful about myself. But there are only so many times I can play super lame, repetitive games like Chutes & Ladders™ without wanting to gouge my eyes out. And don’t get me started on Hungry Hungry Hippo™ (ironically my nickname in college). If only it were easier. If only there were a family-friendly board game that didn’t suck.
Well, I’m happy to say, I found the first board game that doesn’t.
It’s called Silly Street. I know, the name alone kicks Candyland’s butt. A good friend at work told me his kids love it and he said it’s the most parent-friendly game on the market — especially for those who lack patience. I thought, this was made for me! So I went to Amazon and ordered it faster than it took Orlando’s “Bloom” to go viral. (Side note: meh).
Silly Street is all about building confidence and character. Two things I failed to develop as a child (just ask my shrink). It’s a board game that encourages you to get up and move around and lets you be super creative and just plain silly. Silly Street combines the best parts of the games your kids already love like Chutes & Ladders™, Charades and Where’s Waldo™. It’s basically the holy grail of family board games… the only game I’ve ever played with Max that amuses me as much as him.
Here’s how it works:
Your child literally gets to put together the lively and vibrant playing board because it’s made of oversized puzzle pieces (fun right out-of-the-box). Once the board is set up, the contagious fun commences. You begin by drawing a card and performing the action to move your game piece down the giant Silly Street board (adorned with colorfully fun artwork and illustrations). The action on the card is the best part because you’ll be asked to invent stories about little characters in silly situations, jokily interact with other players, interpret hidden images on the board, and perform dramatic reenactments of animals doing zany things (like surfing on a pillow, which Max loved — see photo below).
What your offspring won’t realize is that as they play, they will gain all sorts of benefits from the many types of play built into the game. Things like confidence, empathy, grit and creative problem solving. But best of all, it gets everyone away from the TV and forces kids, friends and parents to be social. Silly Street is perfect for preschoolers on up — even grownups will love it. Seriously, once the kids are asleep, it’s the kind of game that pairs really well with a nice red wine. Just sayin’.
So what have we learned, folks?
Game play doesn’t have to suck. It can be full of LOLs, giggles and one-of-a-kind memories with the ones you love. So send Operation™ to the ICU. Tell Chutes & Ladders™ to F off. Blame Candyland™ for contributing to America’s obesity epidemic. Then, do you and your family a solid. Take a wild ride down Silly Street. It’ll be the best twenty bucks you’ll ever spend (well, legally).
Oh, and for those of you who, like me, feel the ongoing pressure to organize, oversee, partake in and enjoy playing with your kids — cut yourself some slack. Our job as parents is to provide our kids with shelter, food, clothes, an education and love. Whether you want to add joining them for Hide and Seek, Pokémon GO™, or Human Pinball is entirely up to you. Not adding them, however, doesn’t mean we’ve failed our children. It just means we’re human.
To help find your path to fatherhood through gay adoption, surrogacy or foster care and for more parenting blogs check out the GWK Academy.