Frustration station, what’s your stop? Bruce Ditman wants to know.
“When you’re a cat” I said I was half-joking but you weren’t. You’re eyes crash because you know you’re a boy and you’ll never be cat and I’ve made it worse and I suck. “When can I catch birds? With my hands?” “You can’t, dude. Lets go” I’m now parenting so poorly I’m practically daring you to behave.
You pass out on the train and I pass out with relief. I’ve written my phone number on your hand with this note “if lost, please call.” I never seriously consider sneaking off the train early, even though I’m sure someone would call when you got to our station.
Most days start out like an addict’s: That’s it. No more (yelling). No more (public scenes). Today is the day I make a change. We promise and swear that, from this moment on, we are changed men. But most days we fail. For the addict, failing is shameful but it’s also pleasurable. I get their motivation, the junkies’ drive to fix. To feel better. But for me, failure is shameful and agonizing. I don’t crave anger. I don’t crave feeling worse. Back when I quit smoking I used to dream about smoking. I never dream about shouting at a child as if they were an adult. When I close my eyes, I see another way. But, when I am awake, I can’t see it, anymore. I’m not an addict. I’m a parent and I’m falling and I’m flailing and I’m failing.
Tonight, as I write this, my ears are still ringing from the conflict of the day. It’s my fault (you’re too young for a trip to NYC). It’s my fault but (holy hell) you were tough. I don’t love you any less. I don’t want you to be aware of why you can’t run off in a city park our why you must stay close in a crowd. I can’t ask you to cut me a break or just go along. And, even though I wish I could, I can’t reason with you to help poor old dad make a special day special. You’re a little boy and you want to catch birds with your bare hands. Why should you care, why would I want you to care, about missing a train?
Those birds. You see them hopping around just out of arms reach—why won’t they just be still? But they won’t; for no good reason they escape you and you sob as though they broke your heart.
Come to me, little bird. I’m sorry I acted the cat. I just wanted to hold you in my hands for a minute. To be close to your soft feathers and silly puffed out chest—before you fly away.