This was originally published on thesquircle.com in July 2013. I am bringing all the Dad Blog stories over to modernfatheronline.com
I recently wrote about our eldest son getting into Lego’s Ninjago and how I thought that he was not going to develop the same imagination with this genre of Lego as what my generation did with the basic Lego we had as children.
Whilst I might not have made it 100% clear in that article, being “a lover, not a fighter” myself (thank you MJ) I would have preferred him to learn more about construction and building people’s dreams rather than tearing them down with his Ninjago battering ram. It was making him “all about the battle,” I wrote which was disturbing me as I was hoping to have a little pacifist on my hands.
One night, early in July, whilst his mum was putting his little brother to sleep I decided to sit on the lounge room floor with him and start playing Ninjago with him. As a follow on to a conversation I had with him over the weekend where he told me that I didn’t know anything about ninjas (hello, 1990 wasn’t just about Guru Josh thank you very much), I had to prove to him that I knew the way of the sword just as my sensei Master Splinter taught me, back when I was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan from when it first came out.
We have a brown leather lounge and seeing it is winter there’s a faux fur blanket that lives on the lounge so my wife can snuggle under it (I’m too manly for that). But crumpled up on the lounge, this made the perfect mountainous hideout for my two bad guys. As I started my comedic dialogue that would have gone well above Master 4’s head, my wife returned downstairs as Master almost-2 had already fallen asleep.
The dialogue was something quite cynical, much like the banter between our Renaissance inspires foursome; Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael which was a new direction for combatant cartoons and comics back in the late 1980s. And it played well with me as I was growing tired of the usual suspects hanging around and attacking Castle Grayskull with little new prose to speak of.
My wife was in stitches, and, ever since he was about 2, Master 4 has been able to read the inflection and tone within my speech and he knows when I am making jokes. Yes the laughter was rife under our roof last night.
Master 4 is one of those “head in the clouds” sort of kids; not quite in the Autism spectrum, not quite in the ADHD spectrum… I believe the technical term for what he suffers from is being a young child. He had his three little ninjas laying on the rug face up “sun looking” which I’m sure means sun-baking. Seizing the opportunity, I made my bad guys run down from the mountain to steal Kai’s Fire Mech (that’s the robot on the left) and Cole’s Earth Driller (that’s the vehicle on the right) because, well, that’s what bad guys do.
More comical dialogue ensured including the bad guys needing to stop for petrol at the Fisher-Price Little People’s garage – followed by a wash of the windscreen whilst he was there – and all the while Master 4 was still pulling apart random bits of Lego and sticking blocks on the torsos of some old mini-figures whose heads are well and truly lost (these were from my brother-in-law’s collection, at least 20 years old).
I retreated my baddies with their bounty to the sanctuary that was their mountain hide-away and then it twigged with Master 4 that maybe he should actively join in the game. He picked up his three warriors and headed towards me yelling “Ninjago GO” (I think the portmanteau of ninja and go are lost on him) and “come on good guys, let’s attack the bad guys.” But right there is where I had to stop him.
“Son,” I said, “have I got a little story for you….” (channelling my inner Eddie Vedder) “good guys do not attack the bad guys. Bad guys do the attacking; good guys do the defending (or try to sell you a television for a great price).” So I went on explaining the whole concept of the good guys versus bad guys scenario; well as much as you can explain to a 4-year-old a few minutes before his bed time. The crux of my allocution was that his guys were more like the police rather than an angry mob. Their job was to deliver a tactical response, and one that would lead to justice being handed out rather than of shock and awe attack of the Allies versus the Axis of Evil.
So he stopped. He thought for a second, moved closer with his little ninjas towards my secret lair. And then holding up Green Ninja ZX he spoke…
“Excuse me bad guys. You took my friend’s things without asking. You need to come and ask and say please before you take their stuff.” Hmmmmmmm….. I did not see that coming.
I made my bad guys have some funny dialogue about not giving the items back and I turned to him and in a bad guy voice said something like “and what are you going to do about that?”
“I will ask you nicely. Please can we have our things back?”
With nice manners like that, the heart of my bad guys had melted, and so had mine. Here I am thinking that Ninjago is making him angry, when in reality his is still the mild-mannered, sweet little boy we raised with good manners.
What have your children done that has pleasantly surprised you?