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By:  Jeff Stimpson

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Games People Play 

Alex does enjoy his games with mom. One of her favorites is Pay Your Toll, in which she pins Alex between her two outstretched legs and insists he pay to get free. Jill also reads to him and dances with him and, at bedtime, never misses with a blanket and a cozy yet rollicking round of Bear In a Bear Cave.

I was holding Alex at a family gathering last year when I decided, noticing the sparkle in his eye, to play one of our games: Elevator Accident.

"Hey Alex. Know what?" He looked at me. "Cable broke."

I dropped my arms an inch and for an instant he was in flight. Catch. Huge smile. Big favorite.

"Dad game," commented cousin Carol.

Yes, dad game: a hint of danger, an undeniable thrill, a macho moment, risk faced and conquered. The long bomb, the desperate shot, the highlight move.

Alex is a guy. He loves the plastic Fisher-Price cars we bought him this morning; something in his head knew to rev them across the floor. He also loves doors and hinges, and insists on studying things to see how they work. Non-guys, however, have commented on the games I play with him. Once in front of grandma we played The Death of Nelson (borrowed from Monty Python), in which I held one of his small stuffed animals above my head and then let it fall to the mattress of his crib while exclaiming, "Kiss me, Hardyyyyy...!" This game always ends with a thud from the stuffed animal and a giggle from Alex. Alex has little regard for stuffed animals.

I honestly thought grandma would be entertained too, as she likes history. "Teaches him that violence is funny," she said.

Well, yeah. That's been the fun with Alex ever since finally got home from the hospital. Among our other games:

--Upside-down Boy: Also known as "Got Any Money?" Holding Alex by the waist and shoulders, I turn him upside down and shake him gently as if to get change to fall out of his pockets. Significantly, this was originally mom's game.

--So Mean: Name originated when I played this once with Alex, got exhausted and couldn't continue, and Jill told Alex daddy was "so mean." Always begun by Alex. He approaches me with his arms and face up. He smiles big and makes his request sound ("mah!"). I take his hands in mine and swing him to the ceiling, first one side and then the other, beginning each descent with the phrase "So mean!" It's fun to watch his face ignite and the air get under his hair during the plunge. Comments Stacy, our babysitter and a mother of a one-year-old, "I can't watch this."

--German Sentry Beanie Baby: Using the theory that no German sentry in any war movie ever succeeded in warning anybody about anything, I stand a Beanie Baby on the railing of Alex's crib and say, "Hey Alex! German sentry Beanie Baby!" A shot rings out, and the Beanie Baby twirls and falls at Alex's feet. Always a laugh for a guy, just like in the movies.

(These stuffed animal games do have to stop. As Jill notes, there's probably little difference to Alex between the Beanie Babies and his new little brother.)

--Strafing Run: Using my two index fingers, I gently poke twin parallel lines up the length of Alex while making spitting noises that sound, at least inside my own head, like the machine guns of a fighter plane. A favorite of Alex's since the intensive care unit.

--Sacked: I crouch in front of Alex and backpedal rapidly in little steps. Alex advances until almost running, then I lunge forward and take him down in a bear hug. We repeat until Alex is very, very tired.

--Suck Out Your Brains!: I nuzzle his hair and make loud sucking noises on the top of his head. What's wrong with this, really? It's horror-movie kind of affection, and one of the best times I ever had with my brother was over a cheap rented slasher movie and a bucket of wings. ("You were a lot older then than two years old," Jill notes.)

--Ever See Alien?: I hiss while grasping his face gently with palm and splayed fingers.

Bath games include: Splashy, in which he slaps the water violently, and I defy you to find a kid who doesn't; Got Yer Leg, in which I grasp him around one thigh and haul him the length of the tub (he usually grabs my hand to start this); and Full Laser Fire on Baby, using the water spout from the pink plastic elephant. Yes, the pink plastic elephant.

Are these games violent? Maybe, but I wonder how much violence you can teach a kid who had a spinal tap without anesthetic when he was a few days old. Are all these games fun? Ask Alex.

 

Copyright 2000/2001/2002. All rights reserved.  

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