The boy and I spend every Wednesday and Friday morning together, as Reiko is off at work and I’m the sole entertainer available. With the autumn in full effect, temperatures generally sit between 20° and 28°C before noon, which is perfect for the boy and I to enjoy a little trek to a park or three. When we first started going on longer walks, I’d bring him to what I call the “Super Mario Park”, which is about 1.2km from our home. This park is generally empty in the morning and has a large castle-like play area. There are tunnels, stairs, slides, zip lines, sliding poles, and more to play with, making it an excellent place to wear out a toddler. Unfortunately, the park has become rather unkempt this year and there are a pair of cognitively unstable young men1 who seem to have taken up residency near the swing set, lying on the ground and giggling at their phones like a pair of 12 year olds discovering porn for the first time. So, because I’m admittedly a little over-cautious at times2, the boy and I now visit a different park twice a week. I take him to where I like to go when out on my own; at the nearby Central Park, on the hill, seated under an open pavilion.
This park has been my place of comfort for the better part of a year. When the stresses of work or home become too great, I try to head out for a walk to the hill where I can listen to podcasts, enjoy a vodka-based beverage, and just relax. Very few people climb the hill, choosing instead to enjoy the large expanse of grassy area near the playground. This makes the hill seem like an unlikely private space in a densely populated suburban area, and I like it.
However, now that I bring the boy here once or twice a week, it’s become less private. Instead I’m sharing the space with him — inviting him to see where it is that I like to think and learn and contemplate. Because he’s still so young, there’s no way for him to understand why I come here, but he seems to enjoy it nonetheless. We stop by the nearby convenience store for a juice box and a coffee, then head up the hill to sit and watch the world go by. We describe cars, watch ants, observe stray cats, and spot Pokémon Go players from our vantage point 45 metres above the nearest road.
This will likely come across wrong, but I’m actually starting to genuinely like the boy. Sure, as my son he’s in my heart and I’ll do anything to protect him. But as his personality continues to develop, I’m seeing in him someone that I want to be around not just out of paternal love, but for friendship. I’ll always be his father. Being a friend, even if it’s only for a short time, would be an added bonus. We share an interest in cars and trains. He can successfully identify the make of a Japanese car from 100 metres and is getting better with the European imports3. He’s fascinated by insects and is intent on working in the kitchen. There’s all sorts of activities for us to do that we both enjoy. It took two and a half years, but I feel that we’re actually starting to bond as two people with similar interests rather than as a simple parent-child relationship. I wonder what sort of things he’ll be interested in as he grows up.
The boy has been incredibly interesting to watch over the last couple of years as his personality evolves alongside his interests. It will be incredibly interesting to see what interests he chooses to follow going forward.
I’d say these two guys are in their late 20s or early 30s. They’re clearly living within an alternate perspective of the world. One that I can neither perceive nor predict, which makes me uncomfortable when the boy is present.
The boy will be exposed to a lot of things in his lifetime. I will not protect him from everything. That said, so long as he’s 2, I’ll protect him from the possibility of serious physical harm. If I can’t reasonably predict what another human will do, I will not risk the well-being of my only child.
He still finds it hard to pronounce “Volkswagen”, but he’ll get it in time.