A few of you reading this blog had already pointed out to me that the timelines between when my son Isamu was born and when I had met Namiko didn’t quite match up. And while I have eventually explained the discrepancy, some people are still asking me why I referred to Isamu as “my” son when I blogged about the reality of Santa Claus, when it is clear that I am not his biological father.
This question reminded me of one of my first da—outings with both Namiko and Isamu in 2005. We were taking advantage of the “Indian Summer” in the Bay Area to go kite flying in Crissy Field. Namiko was deftly handling the kite string while I sat on the grass watching. Isamu was next to me, strapped in his shaded stroller, gurgling and laughing as his tiny hands reached out and tried to follow the movement of the kite as it swooped and danced in the Saturday afternoon sky.
Then it happened. Most likely a combination of a very strong Pacific wind and my selection of a very old kite string. Suffice to say, the kite broke free from its restraint and pinwheeled off to the far side of the field.
I was momentarily distracted by the sight of Namiko’s shapely form running after the errant kite, until I was reminded of a special ability that is likely inherent in most 11-month-olds: the power to sense the nearby presence of the mother, as well as a built-in alarm system that activates when the mother is physically out of range.
I quickly unstrapped the crying child and brought him to my shoulder in a feeble attempt to comfort him, and to my surprise he calmed down immediately. Isamu then turned towards the kite, still in the air. He pointed and giggled at it while it continued its slow spinning freefall.
It was then that a pair of older women paused in their powerwalk to admire Isamu. They approached us and made cute faces and waves, all to the child’s delight.
“Your son is beautiful,” one of the women said.
And in some Schrödinger-inspired parallel universe, I responded with: “Oh, he’s not really my son. He belongs to a woman I’m dating. Well, she wouldn’t exactly say we were dating, but we go out often. And we have kissed a few times. So we are more than friends. Um… she’s not here right now…” And most likely I was faced with some perplexed stares, with one of the women perhaps reaching for her mobile to report what she perceived to be a kidnapping in progress.
But in the world we know as ours, I simply replied, “Thank you.”
Now, one of the reasons I said that was because it was easier (and I didn’t want to be hauled off to jail). But another, more important reason, is that I actually did feel very proud of Isamu at that moment. The way he smiled, and laughed, and made the women gush as they resumed their exercise with a cute little “bye-bye” wave. I had to admit, I used to have an indifferent attitude towards children, but ever since he first snatched my finger, Isamu had stolen my heart.
A short while later, Namiko returned with the stringless kite.
“Everything okay here?” she asked. Isamu was still in my arms, playfully tugging at my hair.
“Just fine,” I said. “He cried a little when you ran off, but…”
“Oh, yeah. He does that when I leave him at day care. Usually takes him an hour to calm down…” her voice cut off as surprise immediately surfaced on her face. “Wow, he must really like you. He’s not even reaching out for me to take him.” Her voice had a slight hint of disappointment lining the amazement.
“Well, the feeling’s mutual.” I said. “Do you want to take him while I restring the kite?”
“And interrupt this big male-bonding moment? No way!” she smiled.
I’d like to believe that’s when Isamu first considered me as a father to him. It’s definitely when Isamu first felt like a son to me. As Isamu grew, he’s always known the truth about his parentage, but we don’t see a need to diminish the importance of our relationship with more technically accurate terms like “step-father” or “step-son”. While I may not be his father, I am Isamu’s dad.
And while Isamu may not be my flesh-and-blood, he is my son.