Yesterday, I invited Zach to make a delivery run with me to another city an hour away. Between you and me, I was shocked when he said Yes. My feelings had been a little hurt before when I had offered and he turned me down. “What 8-year-old doesn’t want to hang out with his dad?” I thought. Millions, probably. But, I didn’t want to be a statistic.
In reality, I was in competition with Steve, the most recognizable character in Minecraft. What does this pixelated dude have that I don’t? Well, alot actually. To be blunt, a whole world is at his disposal (literally). And, he lives with his pets, which would seem cool for any boy. He’s capable of carrying over four hundred thousand tons of materials. He’s a Combat Master. A Master Craftsman. A Master Strategist. He can eat cakes with TNT in them and live. And, one of his pals is a dragon. Gulp.
Watch this trailer and you too will see what is putting your sons in a trance.
When Zach was turning me down, he was staying behind to enter the world of Minecraft. I would sometimes watch him from another place in the living room while I was supposed to be watching television. He would spend hours building with Steve. He might as well have been right there beside him instead of looking down on him from an iPad, moving blocks with his index finger.
It’s hard to own up to the fact that I haven’t been interested yet to know Steve. Part of this is because before when Zach fell in love with something it was more like puppy love. Mario went away fast. Ben 10 vanished. Transformers rolled out. Minions actually creeped him out eventually. But, Minecraft is on his walls. Its on his notebooks. On every T-shirt. If I knew more, he would be in every bedtime story. So, I guess I’m going to have to make the first move.
So, yesterday when I invited Zach to come with me, he ran out the door and jumped in the car. I beamed a little because I thought, The Williams men are on the loose. Not much damage a 40-year-old and an 8-year-old could do in a 1996 Buick Park Avenue, but this was going to be awesome.
Until 30-seconds later when Zach showed signs of utter boredom. I wasn’t imagining this. He had reclined his seat all the way back and asked if he could lay down. This was unbelievable. I wasn’t going to let him nap his way through this. Frustration started climbing its way into my brain. I was hurt and mad. Never would I let the fruit of my loins check out on me for some two dimensional game he could turn off at will. He wasn’t going to turn me off, too.
I tried all the basic questions to kick-start conversation. What’s your favorite subject in school? Do you like your teacher? Are you enjoying your Thanksgiving break? It all began feeling like I was interviewing a child star. And, he was giving quick answers. For heaven’s sake, how is it that I can talk more easily to my two girls than my only boy? They won’t stop talking and he won’t start. I have a fundamental anatomical sameness with him. We both think and feel and act like boys. Why can’t I connect?
“Tell me everything you know about Minecraft.” This rolled out before I knew I’d asked.
For a second, the heavens were hushed and angels were crowding in. Then, I saw a light come on in Zach’s eyes. He sat up straight. He looked at me. And, like a pro he started talking. His hands were moving to emphasize what he knew about the object of his obsession. This boy talking to me now was alive. He was interested. He was fun. He was an expert. I fell in love with him in two seconds. Only because I was stunned for the first second.
The cafeteria of emotions and thoughts ran through as I sat a foot away from him in the car and patiently listened to him talk. He is so smart, I thought. How did he get so smart so fast? Why is he growing up? Where is the baby I used to burp? Did I like that baby more than this Minecraft expert? The answer to that last question is No. I just hadn’t been growing with him. And, this was my chance before losing him.
For two whole hours, Zach talked about the love of his life. And life was pumped into our relationship. Sometimes I listened intently. Sometimes I checked out with goofy love feelings. It was Heaven. During the occasional break, Zach would ask, “Is there anything else you would like to know?” Then, I would throw another ball into the discussion, “Well, why does Steve…?” He knew it all. My little genius. And, I was relevant again. Deep sigh of relief from the driver’s seat.
It scares me at times that I might take a little boy to Italy next year and lose him in the process. I’m proud of the fact that our children will have an amazing cultural experience. The thought of the five of us engaging together in global service just electrifies me. But, I want to keep my son. I want to be part of the flame lighting process in his soul. I don’t want him to think of me some day and wonder, “Why did my dad make disciples in Italy and lose me in Italy?” That just kills me.
But, what if I can build, too? What if, like Steve, I can build a world. Actually, a bridge to my son. That’s all I care about. Then, the Williams men can take on the world.