Mario Day: Ways to score big bonding points

Mario Day: Gaming is usually not something kids and parents see eye-to-eye on, but Mario Day gives one mom the chance to reflect on bonding with her son over the characters of the popular Nintendo game series.

Lisa Suhay
Quin Suhay shows off his homemade Mario plush toys on "Mario Day," an international day for celebrating the popular character from the Nintendo video game.

Today is Mario Day, named for the classic Nintendo game character who spawned his own series of adventures, which presents an opportunity for parents of gamer kids to boot up the bonding in some very unique ways.

Mario Day is a pseudo-holiday, celebrated on March 10 because somewhere, deep in a teen lair somewhere, a gamer looked at a calendar and saw it was “MAR.10” which looks suspiciously like MARIO.

And thus Mario Day was hatched.

Mario is the pizza-loving plumber who first appeared in the game “Donkey Kong.”

So far, the best celebration I’ve found was hosted by the DC Public Library in Washington last Saturday and involved kids from local art programs creating various projects and eating Mario-themed cakes.

Today, my 10-year-old son went to school wearing his favorite Mario shirt and a red Mario cap made by my mother.

He carried with him some of the “plushies” (stuffed toys) we made together of various Mario game characters.

While some may roll their eyes at me for encouraging my son to Carpe Mario Diem, I think it’s important to find unique ways to participate our kids’ interests.

My motivation comes from my husband Robert’s favorite story about a failed attempt made by his father to bond with Robert’s younger sister Kelly when she was little.

The story goes that when Kelly (now a new mom of a little boy named Baxter) was a child, their father tried to sit down on the floor and engage her in some Barbie action.

He was rebuffed, as only a scandalized little girl can manage.

“Nooo!” Kelly howled, according to family lore. “Daddies don’t know how to play with Barbies!”

This has become the buzz phrase in our house that’s used whenever one of us tries and fails to make an inroad into one of our sons’ interests.

“Mommies don’t know how to do LEGOS!” and “Dads can’t skateboard” are two laments we have heard when we tried to get in on their play time over the years.

I admit that last year I didn’t know a Yoshi (the little dragon-looking character that Mario rides) from a Goombah (a brown, snaggletoothed bad guy) until our son Quin announced that he was embarking on a solo sewing project and needed me to take him to a craft store.

I don’t sew. In my world, sewing is something that happens to other people.

However, Quin was supremely confident because he had studied a series of videos on YouTube “How to make your own star plush” by a man from England calling himself Goomzilla (after the Mario game bad guy Goombah).

“I want to make a Luma,” Quin said. “It’s a star. How hard can it be?”

Beware the words “How hard can it be” when uttered by a child with an obsession of any kind.

This goes for little girls who want daddy to build a tree house or a doll mansion, or boys telling mom that a soapbox derby car is a snap because they saw “The Little Rascals” do it.

Therefore, I watched the how-to video with great skepticism and realized it actually looked like something even I could manage.

So we hit the store and bought felt, thread, and needles. Apparently, we also needed a pin cushion that looked like a tomato because Goomzilla had one. So we got that too.

A few hours later, we had two Lumas, one by Quin and the other by me.

I thought it was over.

The next morning, Quin had a sales pitch all ready, complete with video tutorials for making Mario mushroom plushies.

We graduated to mushrooms and I knew we weren’t going to stop until we reached the summit of making Mt. Yoshi, thanks to Goomzilla.

“Come on Mom! We went this far together,” Quin coached.

The kid had me hooked with the magic word parents long to hear from kids of a certain age, “together.”

When one of my four sons comes to me with a chance to do something “together,” I am willing to make that parental stitch in time to save nine.

By that I mean I would rather do the work to bond now, than wait and try and connect with my son at teenage or beyond when he’s locked in a dark room with a game console and a bag of Cheetos.

The really interesting thing I learned from this is that my sons had all wanted to get me into gaming, but failed.

Seeing their younger brother’s success at bringing mom into Mario’s world, they pounced on me, asking for plushies of their own.

They’re teenagers, but this was the chance they’d been waiting for: to open a gaming dialogue so I would see and relate to the passion that often leads me to shout, “Stop gaming and read a book!”

I still shout that, but now I say, “I’m so excited that you finally got a Shiny (Pokemon), but you still have to get to a place where you can halt the campaign and take time to read or walk the dog.”

They realize my gaming knowledge is child’s play compared to theirs, but they respect that I make the effort to engage in something they love.

I also know that in honor of Mario Day, I am making pizzas shaped like giant mushrooms with pepperoni for the spots. Now that’s bonding.

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