Thursday, July 25th was the first time I freaked out about becoming a dad. This was a most curious development coming at essentially the halfway mark of our pregnancy given that my MO as an adult has been swimming in a vast ocean of anxiety. Somehow for four and a half months, I had managed to stay cool, calm, and collected. I just knew it would inevitably all come crashing down in glorious fashion, and, boy, did it ever.
The night started simply enough. I went to a friend’s house to help him take care of his kids and enjoy some post bedtime libations. Aside from there being two small, excitable children prowling the grounds, it was a fairly unremarkable evening. Pizza was had, balloons were kept from touching the ground, bedtime stories were read, and sweet good night hugs were given. To celebrate our victory over the twins, we enjoyed a pour of Weller 12 and discussed what being a dad was like. I went home to finish off Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, and that was to be the end of that. Only, it wasn’t. Somewhere along the line, I realized this wasn’t just a mythical baby I would be having. No, it was a tiny actual human being that was dependent on me to protect it. Surely, I knew this all along, but it never actually struck me until that very moment. Hell, I even started to worry if I was a good enough person worthy of such a responsibility. What if it wasn’t just enough to protect them from others but also from my own self ruining their lives?
Friday, July 26th was the day Fire Emblem: Three Houses was released, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. While my trademark panic and anxiety had finally taken up residence in my brain once more, and my wife was in the midst of a lengthy string of night shifts, I needed something to help take my mind off of things and this Hogwarts-inspired military school world was just the ticket.
Almost instantly, I was drawn to the Golden Deer House and their charismatic, least cop-like leader, Claude. If I was going to spend countless weeks trying to save the world, this is the group I wanted to spend that time with. Soon, it dawned upon me that, aside from the experienced warriors, Claude and Leonie, I viewed all of my other students as my children, who I had to protect at all costs. A new, super healthy daily routine quickly formed of getting super anxious and stressed in real life then retreating to Fire Emblem for hours to make it all melt away. Early missions made it clear, my poor anime children had no idea how to survive in the horrors of this world, and it was my duty, bound by the love of a parent, to protect them. My new life’s goal of keeping my children alive at all costs became readily apparently during a 3 hour marathon of restarts occurring on just the second day owning this game. Still, there was something extremely comforting about being able to rewind time using a Divine Pulse once you knew how things would play out. It’s like I could see the future, and then choose the best path for my kids without fear of consequences other than taking up more of my free time. Hell, even my possible movements were conveniently laid out in colorful blue and red grid tiles that I would soon find myself dreaming about in yet another welcome relief from my growing fear and doubt about parenthood.
My main tactic early on, was to send my overpowered main character deep into the fray and let him draw as many attacks as possible, so all my precious children would have to do was clean things up and survive. Slowly, I would learn to trust the others more and more and let them venture out on their own. How were they to ever grow stronger and learn if I didn’t let them experience life firsthand? I couldn’t take care of them forever especially as enemy forces got bigger and faster. I could, however, get them to love me more and more by presenting them with a never-ending stream of gifts between battles, a tactic I think will work in real life, too.
One day they’d need to survive without me, and midway through the game a five-year time jump proved this to indeed be true. Perhaps the most emotionally satisfying moment in the entire journey was seeing how much each and every one of my beloved kids had grown and thrived in the time without me. I had kept them alive long enough, and now it was time to truly let them shine.
My Practice Kiddos
The weakest of my children, Ignatz, also reminded me the most of myself. He was a nerdy weakling, who I’m still surprised even had the strength to draw a bow. Of all my charges, he was the most likely to fall in battle. He was a lover of the arts and had no desire to be a warrior other than trying to make his dad happy. I will never forget the first battle that Ignatz won MVP for, swiftly taking down foe after foe from the safety of some bushes. The once liability had grown into someone who could be depended on.
Then there’s Hilda, the most seemingly selfish of all my brood. While her social interactions seemed to be exclusively tied to getting others to do her work for her and napping, I could tell that, deep down inside, she secretly cared deeply about everyone and would do anything for them. Plus, she would sometimes chant “Hilda! Hilda!” after defeating a foe. How was I not supposed to love that?
Next up, we have Raphael with an obscenely healthy appetite and a lack of brains that only a parent could love. Raphael is an absolute beast, capable of both dishing out punishment and taking it. Of all my children, he was the one I most trusted to stand in the line of fire and take on incoming enemies to protect the others. One of my biggest fears is that my future child will turn out really dumb, but if they end of caring for their friends and family like Raphael does, then maybe it’ll be ok.
The quietest and most restrained of all my Golden Deer kids was Marianne, the healer. In school, she kept to herself mainly talking to birds and the inquisitive Raphael, and things weren’t all that different in battle. She’d empower those around her with her wonderful Gambit to move even further away from her while she’d roam the battlefield alone, healing them from afar. Despite her relative seclusion, few of my battles could have been successful without her assistance.
Then, there’s the seemingly insufferable noble, Lorenz, who appears to be the least liked of all the characters in the game. Still, I found myself loving him. Deep down, I knew he yearned to blaze his own trail outside of his cowardly father’s way of only caring for himself and the rich. When he came to me after class one day and asked if he could switch from studying to be a lance-wielding knight to focus on dark magic, I instantly said “yes”. It was time, for once in his life, that he was able to follow the path he wanted.
Last, but most certainly not least, we have the youngest of the clan – the tortured (literally) Lysithea. At first, I spent almost as much time struggling to keep her alive as I did with Ignatz, but by the end, she had grown in to my most powerful warrior. When it came time to take down the evil emperor, her name was the first that popped in to my mind, and she managed to one-shot an entire empire and help usher in a new age of peace and unity.
Seventy game hours and several real world weeks later, I’m much more at peace with the upcoming challenges of fatherhood (for the time being at least. I’m sure there’s at least one or two more good freakouts on the horizon). I mean if I could keep an entire squadron of kids alive through hundreds of battles, I can surely handle one kid doing normal kid things with the help of my amazing wife, right? Now I just need to figure out how to project blue and red grid movement lights from the little one once she arrives…