“Daddy, watch me!” he called to his preoccupied dad, who sat on a bench inspecting his cell phone.
“Daddy!” the young boy called again, jumping stones between the restaurant and the parking lot, as the family waited their turn for a dinner table. His father ignored him while his mother leaned wearily against a post and told her son,
“We’re not looking at you.”
A waiting crowd gathered outside as the dinner hour advanced full swing, but the only audience the young boy attracted was a tense grandmother with her heart in her throat who watched the drama from an opposite bench.
Soon the boy gave up hopping and wandered back to his mother. The grandmother’s eye caught movement a nano second too late to look away, and instead watched helplessly as the father suddenly gave his son the attention he craved—the back of his hand to the boy’s mouth.
“You watch what you say,” he barked at him, and the boy dissolved into embarrassed sobs and buried his face into his mother’s blouse. The father never looked at his son again, continuing to read important updates on his cell phone from his judgment seat outside the restaurant.
Looking into her weeping son’s face and the uncomfortable face of the stranger who watched, the boy's bleeding mouth inspired her for the first time to speak to the father.
“Maybe he’ll learn it’s not that hard to follow rules,” he responded unrepentantly, eyes down, interested only in the face of his phone.
Disgusted, the mother disappeared through the glass doors beside the father. Left alone, the once cheerful boy stared ito my sympathetic eyes and wiped his own, his gaze exposing another block of resentment in the wall his father built. Then he turned and followed his mother inside.
Every adult was once a child. Every angry man was an angry boy. Every disillusioned woman was a heartbroken girl. Children don’t bounce back—they build walls. They act out later. They give up on people, learn to rely only on themselves, and escape.
Sometimes they even escape on cell phones.
The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little Boy Blue and the Man In The Moon,
When you comin’ home, Dad?
I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then, son,
You know we’ll have a good time then.
He'd say, "I'm gonna be like you, dad,
You know, I'm gonna be like you."
(Lyrics by Harry Chapin)
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/wicker-furniture/8422945845/