We play a game. It’s called “Broken Mousy Robot,” and it is exactly how it sounds. The gist is to pretend that we are quite literally broken mouse robots. You squeal in glee as we convulse in an attempt to conjure the perfect replication of a robot, that is a mouse, that’s tragically broken.
As the game progresses. you demand other animals. Because of this, I am a journeyman broken robot bird, tiger, kitty, doggy, lion, butterfly, and your all time favorite, penguin.
“Ridiculous” is one of those superlative words that gets thrown around too much, like the word “amazing.” There are times, however, when this word fits.
Our game is ridiculous. And I love it. Every second of it. In fact, I cherish it.
Few people can find the snaking path that leads beyond the walls of dignified behavior. You found the freeway. I will descend to the lowest dungeons of embarrassment just to watch your eyes sparkle. I gurgle the strangest noises and contort my body just to hear you laugh. I can’t help it. Your rapt, expectant attention intoxicates.
You extract every last shred of self-respect and toddler that shit into dust.
Your grandpa acts the same around his kids. Your aunts and I are adults and he still performs horrifying acts of embarrassment, publicly, just to make us laugh. Because of our game, I begin to understand. I don’t think he can help it. I believe he experienced the same with us, found it equally intoxicating, and never stopped.
To never stop; is this the fate of fathers who discover the secret joys of diving head first into their kid’s playful fantasies? Perhaps we find a place of complete vulnerability with our children and never want to turn it off. And why would we? When life often involves watching, measuring, angling, strategizing, worrying, saving, and remembering, a session of broken mousy robot heals.
Adeline, like my own father, I am afraid I won’t be able to stop when you are thirteen. You will go through a stage when you think me embarrassing, too much, too silly. At some point, you will become somber for a time, probably in college, when every social injustice presses heavy on your soul. You will also suffer heartache, painful introspection, and betrayal. You will take yourself seriously and demand respect! You should. It’s part of growing up and finding your identity in the midst of this broken and beautiful world.
If it ever gets too overwhelming, however, my gates will never be closed. The freeway is open. If you need to smile you will always be able to turn me into a puddle of incoherent noises and terrifying dance moves.
I am forever your broken mousy robot.