I've been given my first taste of filial rejection. Been cast aside by my own. I'm glad I was near the kitchen at the time because I found it hard to swallow and I needed something to drink to lube the old esophagus. Being spurned by one's own son the first time isn't an easy thing.
I mean, sure, there have been plenty of times when either boy has hurled himself out of my lap in favour of the softer, kinder ministrations of his mother. Or just wanted to be by himself. Or preferred a much more entertaining uncle or aunt. Those I can deal with and have always expected.
But now it's the neighbour kids. They're more fun to play with.
Last week Declan wanted to be a robot. He proclaimed this to me in very plain terms and stood gazing up at me with the most guileless eyes. He didn't even look like he expected me to do something about it -- he KNEW I was going to!
Once my sci-fi, geeky heart contracted in upon itself after blowing wide open with indescribable paternal pride, I did then immediately set to doing something about it. One square drawer from a small cardboard toy chest became his robot helmet. I grabbed one of my rolls of duct tape, a utility knife, and pilfered one of the many stray diaper boxes we have loitering around the house. A few minutes later and an armoured robot body encased my vulnerable son. A couple of the freshly hewn flaps from the diaper box, when rolled up and taped, made for excellent robot legs after holes were cut for pink, fleshy toes to protrude.
I had nearly finished the second of the cardboard robot arms when the doorbell rang. "Oh! It's the kids!" was all Declan knew to exclaim. He quickly kicked off the robot legs, tossed aside the colourful helmet, and wormed himself out of the body so he could run outside to play with the three neighbour kids who seem to have parasitically glommed on to us ever since we had our garage sale and they hung out in our driveway all day, every day, for three days. (I don't mind them. They're good kids. But they're over here knocking on the door All The Time.)
It took them a while to learn my name. They caught on right away to Declan, Tavish, and the energetic dog Jango. But until just a couple days ago I have been politely referred to as, "Hey! Mister, uh, Dude. Can Declan or Tavish come out and play?"
Once The Kids arrived at our front door, Declan underwent an immediate reprioritisation of what it was he wanted to do at that instant. And lo! It involved his father not one whit. Gone was the fervour that had my first boy sitting in the kitchen chair, staring raptly as I made a diaper box transform magically from mundane cardboard into the impervious casing that would protect the tender innards of my excited cybernetic machine-child.
With a simple, resounding DING-DONG, my ad hoc Dalek disappeared and the Declan that replaced him was also gone. Fled. (Well, I could see him playing with The Kids in our backyard, but you get my point.) It's already time to get used to being the Parental Unit and not Daddy quite as often. My mother's probably going to get a real kick out of reading this.
Speaking of robots...