I bet I’ve never mentioned that Mark’s real father is a superhero and that my other child is a world-famous YouTuber.
Yes, this is our family in a parallel universe described to second graders at recess. Unfortunately for Mark, an unlikely character stepped into the fun fantasy world where most of the action takes place—mommy.
My codename is “killjoy” in the multiverse.
Last week, Mark’s school held the “annual meet the teacher BBQ” (sic). Parents aren’t actually introduced to the teacher BBQ—hyphens comes in handy, people. However, we’re encouraged to buy cans of soda, hot dogs and burgers from the food truck parked in the schoolyard and maybe pop into our child’s classroom where a tired teacher is trying her best to handle the constant flow of parents who want to be told everything they need to know in five minutes or less. I don’t understand why the school doesn’t set up a thirty-minute conference for the whole class, it would be much easier—oh right, it’s a marketing ploy to trick us into buying food.
So Mark, Feng and I were waiting to chat with teacher #1 (he has three teachers this year) when a kid came up to me.
“Mark’s mom… where is Mark’s dad?”
Once I digested the awkward phrasing—“Mark’s mom… oh, right, that would be me”—I pointed to Feng who was looking at the artwork displayed on the hallway walls.
“This is Mark’s dad.”
“Huh. Are you sure?”
I could have taken offence but the kid was six so I just assured him that yes, I was 100% sure he was Mark’s dad. Eh, who am I to judge? Maybe he was on a mission to find candidates for his parents’ paternity testing centre.
Then another kid asked me for “Mark’s dad.” That’s when I should have smelled something fishy but it was finally our turn to meet the teacher so I forgot about Feng’s surprising popularity in Grade 2.
A few days later, I bumped into my favourite neighbour (not her!) and her son in the street. He is in Mark’s class this year.
“Mark’s mom… is it true that Mark has another dad?”
“But you know Mark’s dad!” my neighbour protested. “You saw him last week at school!”
“But I mean his other dad. Like, the real one, the one with a mask over his face.”
“This is definitely Mark’s one and only dad. I think he lied to you.”
“Just call me Juliette. My name is Juliette. Look, it says ‘Juliette’ on my wallet.”
“I can’t read cursive. Is Guava Juice Mark’s brother?”
“YouTuber,” my neighbour sighed. “Damn YouTube. I hate YouTube.”
“Mark doesn’t have a brother. Okay, I think I’m gonna go home and have a little chat with him…”
And so I did.
“Mark, you can’t lie to your friends! This is just stupid.”
“But I have to! Otherwise, they don’t want to be my friend. I can’t just like… PLAY ALONE!”
“You know what’s gonna happen? They will find out you’re lying and then they really won’t be your friend. What don’t you share real stuff with them? I mean, your life is interesting. Your dad is Chinese, your mom is French, you’ve been to France, China, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile, you’ve swam in two oceans, you…”
I didn’t know what to add. I mean, Mark is a cool kid to me but frankly, I have no idea what makes a kid “cool.” Seldom I have heard a temperature being associated to my name—I’m not “cool” and I’m certainly not “hot.”
“… you saw an elephant!”
“Mom, it’s not real.”
“They don’t believe me.”
I reviewed possible coolness factors. Mark can make coffee. His grandparents let him watch The Exorcist. I let him watch It. He partied at the Rio Carnival twice. He took planes, boats and trains. Eh, I’m a semi-famous blogger!
Okay, probably stuff he shouldn’t brag about at school.
Any chance I could get a side job as a firefighter or a cop for coolness factor? Like, a really part-time position… I can probably be available for a couple of hours every… ahem, few weeks.
Oh, never mind.
“Mark, the point is, don’t lie. They will find out and be hurt. Now if they ask you again about your famous brother or your heroic dad, just admit you were joking and move on.”
“Did you tell my friend I lied?”
“What did he say?”
“He laughed, started to climb a tree and his mom yelled at him. And that was it. I mean, it’s not a huge deal right now. It’s the beginning of the school year. Just stop telling lies, okay?”
“… Mom? Do you think my friend was lying when he said he was at least ten years old?”
“Is he in your class?”
“Then yes, he was lying. He’s six, at most seven. By the way, what’s daddy-the-superhero’s superpower?”
“Oh… he’s invisible.”
Of course. Genius.