Hollywood endings, as we all know, are limited to the movies and by our willingness to suspend our disbelief – almost never in real life. For this reason, actors, or I should say the best actors, are able to immerse themselves convincingly into various roles and personas so that we are tricked into thinking they really are who they are pretending to be. Keeping this in mind let me say that there is nothing more exciting as a parent than watching your child explore and interact with the world around them. This includes their face lighting up at a new discovery. Beaming with pride when they learn to stack the Legos so high they can’t reach the top of the stack. Learning new words and shouting them to anyone and everyone they meet on the street. Basically, accomplishing anything and everything that draws the “ooos” and “awws” from the parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents. This feat-enhancing form of parental flattering is augmented by the presence of the aforementioned audience and creates even greater performances – until the camera (or Skype video chat) stops rolling.
That is when my son’s alter ego – the Demolition Man – comes out to play and takes over from the Bob The Builder version of my son who just exited stage-left.
This newest cast member is a mix of Curious George and The Incredible Hulk with a good dose of MacGyver ingenuity sprinkled in.
The Demolition Man’s appearances all start with an eerie silence followed by a rapid succession and crescendo of audible cues such as crackling, thumping, bumping, crashing, splintering, banging etc. Long pause. Gleeful and delighted cackle. Grand finale noise combination (in no particular order) of “Whoop!” “Thump!” “Bash!” “Crack!”. Silence. More gleeful cackling. Jazz hands (OK so that is a visual cue, but I swear I can hear it!).
My wife and I exchange a sidelong glance and do a best-of-three rock-paper-scissor session before one of heads of to investigate. It doesn’t take long to get to the scene of the crime (remember we live in one of those closet apartments that are rampant throughout New York) and as it swings into view your blood starts to boil.
You try the whole “breath and count to 10…” routine, but as you take in the devastation – millions of tiny pieces of (fill-in-the-blank) are scattered, splattered, splintered, smeared across the floor, walls and ceiling – your frayed parenting nerves take a major hit. There is Demolition Man smack dab in the middle of the eye of the storm holding the last surviving piece of the Lego Firefighter House that he just pulverized, babbling away all content and satisfied with his handy work. He looks up at you with that grin, you know the one that could start a war it’s so smug, and just as you are about to have a full fledged conniption, Demolition Man is gone – vanished into thin air.
There in his place is Super Cute and Cuddly Boy and with a twinkle in his eye and that honey drip voice he looks you straight in the eyes and utters the most disarming phrase in parenthood: “Daddy?” The delivery is perfect. Timing, posture, nuance, syllabication – forget the Oscars this is the big leagues. And just like that, I find myself in that classic Hollywood ending as I scoop him up into a hug and toss him high into the air as the sun dips behind the horizon just behind him and he giggles with glee and… Hey, wait a minute!