It is nearly a month that I arrived home and there is this episode that is still very vivid on my mind and I think it will take years to shift, because it was like a tragic comedy of parenthood.
I was at the playground in a sunny afternoon I would say a perfect afternoon not too hot, not too windy, watching my little one explore his surroundings and wondering what was he thinking or imagining in that head of his.
As my son approached me with a stick in one hand and some leaves in the other with his sandals covered in mud, a football came straight our way. It did not touch me or my son but it did scare us because it was unexpected. My son was delighted with this sudden apparition of a ball and as you can imagine I looked immediately for the owner.
Yes, you imagined well, the owner was a young boy of about 8 or 9 years old, in a sleeveless t-shirt, shorts and trainers.
– “I’m sorry” he muttered
-“No worries “I replied.
The boy noticed my son’s interest on the ball, so he kicked the ball towards him, a bit rough so I explained to the boy to do so a bit more gently so my son could play without getting hurt. So he did, and for 5 minutes both of them were enjoying the play. But the sleeveless t-shirt boy soon got bored of it and in a very straight forward way he went to kick his ball away from my little one.
My son saw himself without the ball and without someone to play with and the disappointment in his face was such it broke my heart. Quite promptly his football came out of the bag underneath the pushchair and I started to play with him and peace was restored until the next twig or leave would distract him (as it normally happens).
Whilst my son was running around I was observing this young boy – the sleeveless t-shirt one – who was somehow trying to play by himself but obviously was quite bored and in complete truth he did not know what to do with himself.
He was kicking the football up, to the sides, towards the bushes, towards the road and … towards a gentleman who was sitting on a bench embedded on his phone screen and typing like there was no tomorrow who I soon gathered was the father of the sleeveless t-shirt boy.
As the boy carried on kicking the ball towards his father, his father continued to ignore him, to the point that left me wondering why the father brought the child to the playground in the first place. Perhaps he thought he was going to get some time off to do whatever he was doing on the phone whilst the child was in the playground playing.
But the child did not know how to play on his own, and looking around there were no more children his age to play with him and to play with my little one proved somehow boring for him (not for my son!). As a fact, although that afternoon was ideal to be out in the park playing and enjoying the sun, the playground was somehow empty.
So, this boy continued to kick the football towards his father, his father continued to ignore him and occasionally shout at him to leave him alone. The boy continued kicking the ball around until the ball got stuck up high on top of a vine.
– “Dad” I heard him calling “the ball”
– “What have you done now?” “Can’t you see I’m busy?” “Do you really have to be such a nuisance?”
– “It is not my fault. The ball went up there on its own”
– “Nothing happens just like that”
– “Dad, get it down”
– “Why should I?”
– “Dad get it for me”
At this point I could see the father quite angry and his face was red, about to burst. The father tried to get the ball down, and in the end the boy climbed up the vine, shook some branches and the ball finally fell on the ground again.
– “Don’t do it again” Said the father getting back to the bench, with the phone in his hand. “As you cannot play, we are going to get a burger”.
– “But dad” said the sleeveless t-shirt boy “You said you were going to play with me”
-“C’mon, get in the car. We are going to get a burger”.
So the boy got into the car, the father put his phone aside and they drove away. I carried on playing with my son, who was happily getting very dirty with mud.
No need to say the blunt answer from the boy struck me as to how children are very honest when it comes to promises and how we, adults try to deceive them time and again. Perhaps the father did have the intention but something overcame the intention and he had to postpone the play and get on his phone.
But then again, wouldn’t it be better to tell the truth to the child instead to forge expectations?
Oh well, lessons to be learnt.