May 10 2013

Out of sight, out of mind

The rushing around stops for a moment! There’s time for a quick pause, maybe a cup of tea if you’re lucky. Either way, you need to recover some strength for the rest of the day. It’s the weekend and it’s only half way through Saturday. The exhausting engaged parenting, frantic taxi services, team sports, and creativity-expanding activities that fill just about every minute of your time have only just begun.

While the steeping tea quietly releases its regenerative magic, you quickly tidy the breakfast dishes to the distant clatter of the washing machine doing battle with the relentless forces of the Empire of the Laundry Pile. In that brief moment, you notice something you’re not hearing…

RJ… Your son… That concentrated source of entropy and chaos that devours your spare time like a black hole with an eating disorder.

You haven’t heard from him in at least two minutes. The playroom, normally filled with the sounds of industrial excavation through massive Lego deposits, is abnormally silent. The surreal battle cries (“Cheese!“) and random commentary (“You know what’s a really good idea?“) has stopped… and that is almost never a good thing.

Your heart leaps in your chest and you rush around the house and discover him tucked away in the corner of the living room.

RJ is clearly working on a project.

He has found a small aquarium, one that we’ve used in the past for raising frogs, and cup by small, plastic cup, he fills it with filtered water from the fridge. He disappears outside for a few minutes and returns with a few nicely shaped rocks from the garden. He pauses for a moment, heads outside a second time, and returns with a carefully selected decorative piece of wood. After another moment of contemplation he runs off again, dashes back, and a plastic plant is added to one corner. He takes a few minutes to carefully rearrange the items in the tank and eventually satisfied, he picks up the tank, places it in the middle of the room and pulls something from his pocket.

It’s small colourful container…. Relief… It’s just small jar of fish food… He opens it and sprinkles a few flakes into the tank… Waaaaidaminute.

“RJ, what are you doing? Do you have fish in there?”

“Yeah! Do you like them? They’re my newest pets!”

You stare intently into the tank for a moment. The flakes of food quietly bob across the calm surface, enjoying the serenity. You pause, also enjoying the peaceful moment, and watch as they gently float around, thoroughly unmolested by fish or any other small creatures.

“I … I can’t see them.”

“That’s because they’re invisible! Of course you can’t see them!”

“Oh… Oh!!! They’re great! I love them!”

“I know! They are great, aren’t they. They’re super playful!”

(later that day, after his sister gets home)

RJ: Hey LR! Have you seen my new pets?

LR: (wandering over) No! Show me! Did you get them today?

RJ: Yeah! They’re new today.

LR: (looking into the tank) Are they under the rocks?

RJ: No. They’re swimming around… Wait a second… There’s one!

LR: Uhh… What? How big are they? I can’t see them.

RJ: Well, you can’t see them because they’re invisible.

LR: (pauses, skeptically) You have a tank full of… invisible fish.

RJ: Yeah! They’re totally great! Do you want to feed them?

LR: … but … Uhhh…

RJ: (handing over the fish food) Here you go.

LR: … but… (pointing) They haven’t eaten the food that’s in there already.

RJ: I guess they’re not very hungry.

LR: So you have a tank full of invisible fish.

RJ: Yes.

LR: … and you’re feeding them food… That they don’t eat.

RJ: Yes.

LR: … and you can’t actually see them doing anything.

RJ: (subdued) Yes.

LR: … or do anything to them…

RJ: (quietly) Yes.

LR: (exasperated) So what’s the point, RJ? It’s just crazy. CRAZY! Why are you doing this!?!?

RJ: (frustrated) LOOK, LR! If I want to have pet invisible fish, and take care of them and feed them, that’s just fine. If YOU don’t have enough imagination, that’s YOUR problem. Don’t go picking on me because YOU don’t know how to have fun!

LR: (storms off) WHATEVER!

 (No pictures for this story… for obvious reasons.)