My wife has been away for a well deserved holiday in Croatia now with Xiaxue and the gang. So I’ve spent the past week with both my kids and what I thought might have been a really stressful week turned out to be a very fulfilling one.
You see when my wife is around both kids go to mommy for everything. Sometimes when I want to do something with them like put them to bed or feed them, they go “No no I want mommy”. So naturally when Shorty left she was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to cope and that I was going to be really busy with them.
She was right about the latter, but I ended coping just fine with the help of my parents and in-laws. Yes I was really busy but the one big reward is that I became the new “mommy”. Fighter and Penny came to me whenever they wanted anything and I had a glimpse of what it’s like to be their “everything”. Being their everything felt like a great power!
They say with great power comes great responsibility, and one night I took that great power for granted.
We were having dinner in Precinct 10 when Fighter asked me to take him for a walk so I obliged. We were having a great time just father and son, walking around the shops, him pointing out at everything he saw and asking me what it was.
Then I remembered something. That I had to make a call. I told Fighter that Daddy had to make a phone call and he played around by taking my phone from me and asking that he speak to that person instead of me. After fooling around for a minute I got on the phone and started talking.
In the background Fighter was walking around me, asking me things but I wasn’t present. I was focused on my phone call and totally ignoring him as he asked me everything. The phone call took no longer than 2 minutes, but 2 minutes was all it needed to break his heart.
In that 2 minutes, Fighter realized what was going on. He was being ignored. Even though I was physically there in front of him, I really wasn’t there at all. That we were sharing this great moment together and I ruined it by picking up my phone.
At first he shouted in frustration and swung his hands in the air and then finally he kneeled on to the ground with his head down.
I hung up and I asked him
“Fighter do you want to go for a walk now?”
He ignored me.
“Fighter do you want go see some things?”.
He ignored me.
I came closer to him and asked
“Fighter are you ok?”.
At this point he said
“I want to be alone”.
A part of me was surprised that he now knew the concept of being alone but seeing him on the ground like this was heartbreaking. So I took a moment to take this picture to remind myself how painful it was to see him like that.
I came closer to him only to be stopped by him as he said
“DADDY GO AWAY! I DON’T WANT DADDY!”.
I said okay okay and I took a few steps back.
It wasn’t good enough.
“DADDY GO AWAY !!”.
I then reasoned with him
“Daddy can’t go any further. If I go away then someone might come and take you away from me”.
I don’t know what triggered it but he then broke out into tears and came to hug my leg. I carried him as he let out a cry. Not the spoilt cry that he would give when he wanted something that we wouldn’t give him. This cry was the cry of heartbreak.
I knew then that I had let my phone ruin the great moment I was having with my son.
I apologized a thousand times as I hugged and kissed him. Then I took him for a walk.
We came across this empty seating area that had a big projector screen showing some tennis match. We walked up close to the screen as Fighter admired how big the people on the screen were.
Then I had an idea. Something I had done as a child.
While carrying him on my arm I raised my other hand and made a dog shaped shadow against the projector light. Cue the barking sounds.
For the first time since the crying, Fighter laughed and raised his own tiny fist to try to mimic my dog. Instead the shadow turned out to look like a tiny rock. It didn’t matter to him. To him that rock was a dog and our two rock and dog shadows were fighting on the wall with sound effects that would make Quentin Tarantino proud.
At that moment my phone vibrated from messages that I was getting. It was vibrating a lot too so it felt like I was getting a lot of messages. Maybe it was important.
I was going to reach for my phone when I stopped myself. If I picked up my phone again I would once again ruin this moment with my son. Instead I ignored it and spent 100% of my attention and focus on my son.
As I put Fighter to bed that night he was happy and smiling.
I once again apologized to him and I made a note to myself not to ever let my phone come in between my kids and I.
Already seeing us with our phones all the time has had some kind of influence on them. Fighter and Penny now both love to carry old phones around with them and pretend to talk on it like we do. Fighter too likes to bring out his tiny laptop and say “I working. Don’t disturb me. I earning money”.
I think it’s impossible to never be on our phones when they’re not around but I think it’s possible and perfectly reasonable to realize when I’m having a moment, and when to not let that moment be ruined by my phone.
The picture I took of Fighter on the floor. That is something that will now serve as a cautionary reminder for me every time I think of ruining a moment.