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Bonding with another father

On Friday I was immersed in a marathon script-writing session with two other writers as part of the Boston 48-Hour Film Project. It’s an awesome tradition where you get to make a movie in the span of 48 hours. Always good fun, and this is my second time doing so in as many years.

One of the other movie folks – maybe a production type, or an assistant to the director, or whatever – is a fellow named Jason, and we talked a lot about kids at the end of the marathon writing session. As it happens, he has a 7.5 year old child, and I could see his eyes moisten when I showed him a photo of my little boy on my smartphone.

We joked about all kinds of things about being a father. One thing was how the kid somehow knows – just knows - where your balls are and always stomps on them with his feet, or knees them, or whatever else. It never fails. As a father your balls always take a good beating at least once or twice a day.

He told me that it was instinct – they do it because of evolution. They don’t want other kids in the picture, so they go after the source of any new kids, which of course is our balls. It’s their way of making sure they’d be the only kid in the family. That’s pretty funny.

I tell him how awesome it is to be waken up by the kid. Sometimes a gentle shake on the shoulder or a pat on the head, other days a violent nose grab or a hair pull, but one way or another your eyes open and there’s the little tyke, grinning ear to ear in your face. It’s an awesome way to wake up to the day.

“The second best way to wake up in the morning,” he tells me. It takes me a second or two to register, but then I realize it. I laugh loudly and we shake hands. It’s a real bonding moment.

Seriously, one of my favourite things about being a parent is the way we bond with other parents out there. I wrote about this in an earlier blog post – it’s like being fellow soldiers. Fellow warriors. We see each other doing our thing, and we nod at each other with a curt smile, like: “Hey buddy, I see you and I know!”

Yup, I know. And it’s awesome.

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Captain America

As is the main feed of any parent’s Netflix display on their TV, ours is absolutely littered with cartoons and kiddie TV shows. Not Barney and Pokemon, mind you – those are absolutely forbidden from gracing our dear TV screen. Rather, we have gone through anything and everything that we haven’t really heard of before but think it might be beneficial to our child’s intelligential (is that a word?) well-being: Super Why, Edewcate, Baby First TV, Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood and so on.

Our kiddo loves this stuff. He also loves the dorky, early-child cartoons with cute little bees buzzing around and talking to each other, but unfortunately it has zero entertainment value for my wife and I.

So what we try and do is find some in-between stuff that we can enjoy as well. The two big ones are Scooby Doo (well, of course!) and Marvel Super Squad – a sort-of kid’s version of the Avengers with all the main players such as Wolverine, Captain America and Iron Man but with oversized heads and hands and feet, looking like some kind of child versions of their adult selves.

It’s actually pretty clever viewing. The dialogue is quite quirky and often quite funny, and even the bad guys such as Dr. Doom have their funny lines. Even I enjoy it.

We’ve even found toys of each of these characters and the boy loves them – he takes them with him to his bath every night, insists on clutching them when we go out for a walk or when he sits in his chair at dinnertime.

Yesterday, something happened to Captain America, though. Being the faithful father I am, I took little YY to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where they have a biweekly thing for little kids to play with crayons and all kinds of fun stuff while roaming the hallowed halls of the gallery itself. We had a great time – total cultural immersion, I got to see some amazing paintings, portraits and sculptures (one of two or three cherubs scaring the heck out of little YY in the process) and he got to play on the floor with crayons and mold some clay in one of the studios as well.

As was expected, on the way home, he fell asleep in the stroller just 15 minutes away from the house itself. While happily marching along, I realized to my horror that he fell asleep while clutching Wolverine in one hand and Captain America in another.

I checked his hands and sure enough, Wolverine was still there. Captain America was nowhere to be found. Sadly realizing that the good Cap’n was probably sitting on a sidewalk somewhere several blocks behind me, I walked on, just feeling a bit too lazy to go all the way back looking for it.

Needless to say, poor YY was devastated. He was happy to have Wolverine, but with tears in his eyes and bawling wildly, he would scream at me: “CAPPEN AMERRRRRKA! CAPPEN AMERRRRKA!” over and over again, before falling to the floor in a clump.

This broke my dear heart. Thoughts raced through my mind. Was I traumatizing this poor child? I can’t just explain to him what really happened, so I tried to divert his attention to other things. Food. Books. TV. Whatever.

But he went on in his endless obsessive mantra: “CAPPPPPPENNNNN AMERRRRRRKA!!!!!!” he’d shrill at the top of his voice.

FINE! I decided, thinking it best just to go back out and actually look. “Hey kiddo, let’s go look for him. He’s at the front, I’m sure we can go out to the front and see if we can find him.” So in the stroller he went, and off we went.

After some 15 minutes of searching the sidewalks, I saw a familiar red and blue thing on the ground. Right there, where cars drive into a gas station. Only the legs. No body to be found. Captain America’s legs.

Oh, my, God. I felt horrible.

I picked up the legs and gave them to the boy, explaining that it was Captain America – or really, what was left of him. Is that what WW2 was like? Your hero returns from battle missing some or all his limbs, and you’re supposed to embrace him like nothing happened? Well, I tried to sway little YY into accepting the legs, and just the legs.

“Ah… Fix! FIX!” he would say, pointing to the legs.

“I can’t fix it. That’s the way he is now. I’m so sorry,” I said in response, still feeling like a rotten father and feeling all the horrific pain that must be going through this poor child’s heart right now.

I could only crouch down to my knees and just hang out with the boy for a few minutes in quiet contemplation, as the cars drove on by and as the schoolkids marched on behind me. Probably one of those kids found the upper half of Captain America’s body and took it home with him.

Well, it’s a day later and little YY has kind of – kind of – accepted the fact that we only have Captain America’s legs and nothing more. It’s darkly funny to see him playing with Wolverine and half-of-Captain-America like that. But I guess he’s happy.

What he doesn’t know is that, very likely, a brand-new Captain America will probably show up in the next week or so. What he also doesn’t know is that this new Captain America is not a separate being, but rather a “fixed” version of the old one. Back from battle, back from the front, and ready to party.