It was the best of spring breaks, it was the worst of spring breaks. Two weeks. Yep, my kid’s private school takes off not one but two weeks. Did I mention it was two weeks? In March? When public schools aren’t out? When there’s only one week of sports camp offered? When babysitters–such as but not limited to my wife–are themselves in school or otherwise unavailable?
So, last week I spent five mornings with my kid. He’s six, an only child and easily bored. It was a challenge but I decided to make it fun. We had adventures. One of them took us to the Liberty Science Center, a museum for kids in Jersey City. He loves science. Perfect, I thought.
It was the best of spring breaks, it was the worst of spring breaks. The LSC was mobbed with school groups, loud, raucous and restless. My kid, who is adopted, suffers from PTSD. The noise and milling children at the museum took him instantly back to his orphanage. The effect was familiar: He mentally and emotionally detached from me. He ran from exhibit to exhibit, frantic and unfocused. He could not hear my voice. If I glanced away I lost sight of him.
I asked myself, why am I here? What was I thinking? Trapped in Jersey City. Only a few map miles from home in Brooklyn, true, but in traffic miles an epic journey away. I felt lost, helpless and responsible for a kid who was himself lost and helpless. How could I reach him? He was only a few feet away but might as well have been on the Moon.
Then I remembered why I was there. I love my kid. I love him more powerfully than I’ve ever loved anyone or anything. Why is it that? He’s my kid, sure, but it’s more than that. This particular kid owns my heart because he’s so much like me. That’s odd to say since we’re different races and he’s good at math, but it’s true.
He’s a kid who is dislocated. So was I as a kid. It was in ways milder than he’s experienced but the effect was similar. I never felt like I belonged where I was.
I took my kid away from the noisy exhibits and to the cafeteria. We got food. We sat in a quiet corner far away from the school groups. We goofed around. I suggested we go to a movie in the Imax theatre. We saw a movie about the Ice Age, wooly mammoths and their extinction. He was rapt. Afterwards he asked a hundred questions. He’s seen death, this kid, and the movie stirred him in deep ways. He feels like a saber toothed tiger, sometimes, ferociously alive yet like he’s being sucked into a tar pit. I get it. We talked.
My kid and I are the same.
So are you and your protagonist. [Read more…]