I met Lisa in the summer of 2002. Jacob had just turned three. I never had any children of my own, and I had no real experience with kids. I was about to turn thirty, and outside of my first marriage, which lasted four years, I’d mostly been independent. For the purpose of this blog post, independent means single and self absorbed. Picture Hugh Grant in “About a Boy” only uglier and with a smaller budget. I was an island.
What I didn’t know about kids at the time could have filled a library. One of the things I didn’t know was they’re always chucking their most beloved possessions out of car windows or into animal habitats at the zoo. Then they’re devastated because they’ve lost whatever item they just threw away. Even back then I was wise enough to know toddlers aren’t smart, but that kind of behavior indicates a special level of not smart.
One day, shortly after we started dating, Lisa called to tell me Jacob had tossed his stuffed Mojo Jojo toy out of her car window on the way to daycare, and he was heartbroken. Now we’re into comfortable territory for me, problem solving.
Problem: Toy has been tossed out the window of a moving car.
Challenge: Replace toy.
Risk of Failure: Low
Reward Potential: Huge
Difficulty Level: 5
The next day was Saturday, and I set out on my journey. I went to Toys R Us to buy a new Mojo Jojo. FAIL. I tried Wal-Mart. FAIL. So I called Lisa and probed a little on the origin of Mojo Jojo. It turns out one of Jacob’s grandparents had pulled the toy from a claw-machine while on a road trip.
Revised Problem: Tossed Toy came from a claw machine in another town.
Challenge: Find the same toy in a claw machine locally.
Risk of Failure: Medium
Reward Potential: Still Huge
Difficulty Level: 7
So I hit every pizza place, family-friendly restaurant and bowling alley within ten miles of my apartment. I’d park, go in, check the claw machine contents and leave. FAIL. FAIL. FAIL.
That night I picked up Lisa to take her out. I asked her to show me where Mojo met his fate. We drove to the place, and there in the gutter was the beat up, wet, stuffed little green monkey. We had found Mojo Jojo. I didn’t want Jacob to be reunited with a filthy toy. So after our date, I took Mojo back to my apartment and ran him through the washer and dryer. The next day I brought him to Jacob. I handed the toddler his long lost friend and awaited my reward. Imagine the joy on a child’s face on Christmas morning at finding a puppy under the tree. Jacob’s reaction was the polar opposite of that. He couldn’t have cared less.
So I kept the damn toy, and Lisa and Jacob kept me. We’ve all been together more than a decade now. Jacob has called me Dad for most of that time. We are a happy little family. And I keep Mojo Jojo in my study to remind me of why I left my island.
“Every man is an island. And I stand by that. But clearly, some men are part of island chains. Below the surface of the ocean they’re actually connected.”