Matt Heath 's Opinion

Matt Heath is a radio host on Radio Hauraki and Herald columnist

Matt Heath: Father-son bonding best done with Xbox controllers in our hands

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No nature walk can compete with conquering Halo4 together.

Most parents believe kids should spend as much time as possible engaged in healthy outdoor pursuits. Photo / Thinkstock
Most parents believe kids should spend as much time as possible engaged in healthy outdoor pursuits. Photo / Thinkstock

My sons are 4 and 7 years old and, like so many kids today, all they want to do is play video games and watch downloaded movies. If they could, they would spend all day, every day staring at their many screens. Luckily for me that's what I like doing too.

Most parents believe kids should spend as much time as possible engaged in healthy outdoor pursuits. I disagree. I prefer quality father-and-son time in front of the telly or iPad.

Last week, my son Charlie and I finished the Xbox game Halo4 on the hardest setting. I've never felt as close to my son as I did at the moment we activated the bomb and destroyed the Didact. As the game credits rolled he turned to me with a big proud smile and yelled "Daddy, we did it!". Together Charlie and I survived a brutal adventure through time and space as a team.

It was a beautiful, life-changing moment all thanks to an incredibly violent R-rated video game and a pile of junk food. Thank God we didn't waste those precious game-playing hours on a nature walk.

Imagine if we had taken the dog to the beach that day. That moment would never have happened and, worse, I would be cold, wet and bored.

That's not to say I don't provide my kids with fresh air and exercise. I keep them fit by forcing them to race each other round the couch between games. Two hundred laps is good for them and entertaining for me. Fresh air isn't a problem because like most people we have windows.

Strength training comes from fighting me in epic WWE-style battles on the big fluffy mat in the lounge. The other day Baz, my 4-year-old, body-slammed me from the kitchen bench when I wasn't looking. All I heard was "you're going down Dad", then I hit the ground hard. My baked beans and sausages on toast went everywhere, but I wasn't angry - I was proud. You have to be in good shape to take down a 90kg man at the age of four. They're not climbing the Routeburn Track every weekend but my boys are in fantastic shape. They have, however, developed a real love of the world around them, not by grimly tramping through soggy bush but by watching Attenborough documentaries. I see very little point in teaching my kids about plants and animals when David cares about the Earth far more than I ever will. His Natural Curiosities series which is on at the moment is brilliant. They know all the planets of the solar system from watching Brian Cox and his Wonders of the Universe, House of Cards is teaching them American politics, and they know all the Black Caps' names because I make them watch the cricket.

I'm not suggesting my style of parenting is right for every father. Sporty Dads should make their kids play sports. Dads who love the outdoors should force their kids to go outside. Parents like myself who find nature boring should spend entire days inside with their children watching Christopher Nolan's gripping Dark Knight Trilogy.

A friend suggested the other day that I'm turning my children into little versions of myself for my own selfish entertainment. Surely that's a good thing. I'm a happy, friendly guy with a good career. I've never burgled a house or committed a murder. I'd be very pleased if my kids turned out like me. Hopefully they drink less then I do, and I don't want them getting on the darts, but everything else would be fine.

My boys love me and I love them - it's win-win. As time goes they'll share more and more of my interests. This will bring us closer and closer together. Their knowledge of movies will grow to rival mine. We will never be short of conversation topics. The family home will evolve naturally into some kind of student flat. If everything goes to plan, in 15 years my little boys will become my best friends. Having said that, they will probably rebel, disappoint me and become Bear Grylls.

Matt Heath co-hosts the Radio Hauraki breakfast show with Jeremy Wells and Laura McGoldrick, weekdays 6am-9am www.hauraki.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

Matt Heath

Matt Heath is a radio host on Radio Hauraki and Herald columnist

Matt Heath is a breakfast radio host on Radio Hauraki, and a television producer, writer and director. He made a name for himself with Back of The Y Masterpiece Television, Balls of Steel UK and the feature film The Devil Dared Me To. Matt was guitarist and singer for the band Deja Voodoo which released two top twenty albums. He is currently a producer on Best Bits, a cricket commentator for The Alternative Commentary Collective, and the director of Vinewood Motion Graphics. Matt is a father of two living in Auckland City.

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