Me, myself & Vanessa

Two years and nine months ago I became a father. Which, being a slightly overweight forty years old that stopped doing regular sports stuff a decade ago, quickly became a death sentence for my back. But it’s also the best thing that could happen to me. Really. I love it. When I don’t hate it. Sometimes, yeah, it happens, as any parent knows, but mostly I love it.

And it terrifies me.

Seeing her grow up so fast, constantly learning new things, adopting new behaviours, learning languages (we are tormenting her with Italian, French and English, because we are sadists, I guess) is amazing. I mean, I’m pretty sure most of what I see with her is quite normal, in the sense that it happens with any kid, but it really is amazing. And it’s scary. It became clear to me a few months ago: she’s us. Slowly, she will become someone else, by reinterpreting everything and also by getting much more stimuli from the outside world. And she is already starting to do that, of course. But she is us. Everything she does or says, everything she wants, everything she doesn’t want, she takes it from us. It’s incredibly fascinating. And scary. When se screams, when she laughs, the stuff she says, how she says it, what she does, what she wants… it’s always something she saw me or my wife doing. And since I’m the stay at home daddy, in many things it’s me. Isn’t it great? I mean, it’s obviously an enormous source of pride and accomplishment. But, of course, it’s also an enormous source of guilt and remorse. Because she does stuff she shouldn’t do. And it’s my fault. Jesus.

Naturally, she’s quite interested in computers, smartphones, TVs, videogames and stuff. I think that happens with any kid, of course, but she’s spent all her life with me (Jesus) and she saw me spend so much time in front of that stuff. Of course she wants to watch TV with me. Of course she wants to watch me play videogames. Of course she wants to sit at my desk and do stuff with my mouse and keyboard. It’s only natural! And I’m a geek, so I’m not scared of technology, videogames and stuff. But at the same time, I’m… I don’t know, prudent?

I don’t want her to spend hours holding a smartphone in her hands, so I only give it to her for a few minutes in “emergency” situations. Like, I don’t know, if the plane is landing, she is screaming and every other option didn’t work. It doesn’t happen much, she is quite good when we travel, but still. I do have an old smartphone with “kids stuff” installed on it but I try not to give it to her, even though she wants it. A lot. She even takes other small objects and plays with them imagining they are phones, “taking pictures” with them. It’s so cute. ♥

And that’s one thing. Then there’s the TV. When she was very little I watched countless hours of movies and TV shows while trying to make her sleep after she had her milk in the middle of the night. She was hanging from my neck in that crazy scarf-life thing we use with little kids. That was also our traditional solution for when she wanted to be in my arms but I had to work. Anyways, TV: she didn’t watch it, I did. It was nice. Then she started paying attention to the moving pictures, so I started limiting the screen time and selecting more carefully what to show her, even though for a long time she clearly didn’t understand what she was watching on the screen. American Horror Story wasn’t viable anymore. For a few months, she had lots of fun with action stuff, being hypnotized by highly choreographed fight scenes and madly laughing while watching firearms explode. But now that’s gone. That kind of action became boring for her. I guess that’s good? I don’t know. I’m clueless.

  • Sidenote: I’m writing about all the stuff she likes or doesn’t like and maybe it sounds like she’s constantly in front of screens. She’s not. I’m serious when I talk about limiting the screen time. It may be hypocritical, coming from a dude who spent most of his life in front of screens, but here we are.

Right now, she loves Simon’s Cat. I mean, she LOVES it, really. I’m not sure if it’s because she’s had cats in her house since when she was born, but she adores it. She calls it “Cat” and it’s unconditional love. She also really likes Aggretsuko. She calls it “Fox”, even though the main character is a raccoon. It’s my fault. Sorry. Apart from that, she likes a silly TV show on french TV about people doing karaoke for money (or something like that), mainly because she really loves music, and she likes to watch the weather forecast (“Meteo!”), but that comes from the fact that mommy loves weather forecast.

Oh, yeah, music. A constant since when she was a newborn. For I don’t know how many months, the Spotify top hits by Florence and the Machine were the best way to make her sleep. Now she’s got more varied tastes, I guess. This is her playlist (she asks for specific songs and she also selects them from the app on smartphones and PCs, if I let her) and these sixtysomething songs are basically all I/we listen to (with additions once in a while, of course):

Recent hits she constantly wants to listen to: Patricia (Florence and the Machine) and the Italian national anthem. Basically every song in the list, anyway, had its moment of glory and heavy rotation.

And then there’s the whole videogames thing. When she was very little, she watched me play stuff while she was hanging from my neck. She liked Oxenfree, I guess because the colors where cute, but she didn’t care about Firewatch. Actually, it made her angry. Maybe first person isn’t for her? I’m sure there was other stuff, but the single game I can remember really actively exciting her for the first time was Rime. She loved watching that kid jumping up and down and she was constantly screaming at him and myself to warn us when the giant bird came to grab him. From then on, she started actively watching me play, even though, as I said, I try to limit it, one way or the other.

One constant has been Mario. I think she saw him for the first time while I was playing Super Mario Odyssey and she fell in love. It was “Maio” for a long time, but now it’s “Mario”. Oh, by the way, she moves around the accent for the name based on the language of the conversation. If she’s got a french person in front of her, it’s Mariò. Anyway: Mario, love at first sight. She imitated his dancing when he found a moon. She screamed his name every time she was passing by my desk and she saw him on my monitor, maybe because of an advertising or an article. If I propose her to watch me play a Mario game (Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is another hit), she’s always game. Plus, an old Yoshi plush has been her favourite for a long time and when she realized that he’s Mario’s friend… jeez. And now that I brought back from E3 a Mario plush and a lifesized Cappy, well… the other day she was putting a nappy on Mario. Basically, she was playing Yoshi’s Island.

Yeah, I like doing this silly stuff with her pictures. These are the only pictures of her I post on social networks. I’m a silly person.

She’s always interested when she sees a screen turned on, but I’m happy to report that she doesn’t necessarily get hypnotized. There’s a load of stuff she doesn’t like and she walks away from. She even hates some videogames (Shift Quantum is a no-no). But recently she loved watching me play the first two Uncharted. She even evolved between three different names, for them: at first it was “Other stuff”, then it became “Drake” and finally “Uncharted”. She particularly loved all the platforming, while she got easily bored by the shooting parts (what a change from a year ago!) and she was really worried when the spooky stuff appeared in the final third of both games. I decided to stop playing in front of her, because of that. Platforming, I think, is what mostly attract her and in fact she recently really liked Rifter and Light Fall. She called the latter “Light Moon” because, well, there was a huge moon in the background and she really loves the moon. The real moon, I mean.

And finally, the recent hit has been Rayman. Oh, god. I played Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends and she loved them. Like with Super Mario Odyssey, her favourite part was dancing with the characters at the end of levels, on the victory screen. But she also loved the Wii U touch screen for Rayman Legends: she could pop soap bubbles while I was playing on the TV screen! She is still asking about it even though by now it’s over. But she also understands that stuff comes and goes and she is already curious about the next thing. And you know what the next thing is? We started watching Halt and Catch Fire together. Really? Really. Call social services.

Oh, yeah, she adores books. She had her “I’m gonna destroy every magazine you put in front of me” phase and I let her do it with specific stuff (while protecting my preciousss possessions), but that ended pretty soon. When I read, she sits down with me and “reads”. She goes through books and magazines, asks about pictures and clearly suffers because she still cannot read them. Even though she can read single letters and a few words she learned from the titles of her favourite songs. I guess that’s good.