“Dad, I don’t like Star Trek,” my son said to me.
And right there, at that exact moment, is the moment my heart shriveled up, and the world became a cold dark place.
“You are dead to me,” I told my son.
I turned away trying to hold back tears. I buried myself in my work; making his lunch so that my traitor of a son could have something to eat today besides his father’s disappointment.
“It’s boring, dad,” he said.
Boring? Star Trek is boring? Motherfucking Captain Kirk boring? This is blasphemy.
“Minecraft is boring,” I said.
I usually add three pieces of salami to his lunch sandwich. This time I only added one and didn’t put on any cheese. Cheese is for Captain Kirk people.
“Minecraft isn’t boring,” he said. He threw a bag of chips next to his lunch bag. It skidded over the countertop and tumbled to the floor. I hope the dog eats them. “And besides,” he added. “I don’t like Minecraft right now.”
At some point, I messed up being a father. I don’t know where, and I don’t know when. I thought I was doing OK. I’m all right, yeah? I gave up a career to guide these little buttholes into adulthood. I was middle management. I arranged a lot of very important papers, and I had an office. What’s next? Is my almost-12-year-old daughter going to tell me that she wants to change her name to Magenta and dance her way through college? I am a failure.
My son put his hand on my shoulder, and I tried to hide that it was shaking. Inhale, exhale – let the pain bleed off of you. Don’t show how hurt you are.
“Star Wars is way better,” he said.
He’s 10 years old, and this is what he has figured out in life. Star Wars is better than Trek. I gasped and I put his sandwich into a sandwich bag. I did not cut off the crust.
What got us through? Let me tell you, Star Trek: The Next Generation!
“What about Jean-Luc Picard?” I asked him. “What about Worf and Data? What about Riker and his beard?”
I pushed his hand off me. That hand feels fraudulent; like something foreign and fake. It’s not a sign of love. He’s trying to ease the blow. We are a Star Trek family. We have always been a Star Trek family.
“I don’t know who those people are,” he said.
“What! What!” I said, letting all the emotion out. I can no longer hold it in. “You were raised on Star Trek. Trek! At your 3 a.m. feedings, who do you think did that? Me, that’s who!”
Let it out. Let it all out.
“And what do you think we watched? What show got us through all those hard times? Let me tell you, The Next Generation. That’s what got us through it. That is what kept us sane.”
My boy takes a step away from me, and I see his face fall. A sigh escapes him. He looks at me and I see what he is thinking. He thinks that I am a lost cause. I am an old man that has gone senile. He’s wrong. I’m right. I am not crazy. I know who I am. It is he who is senile. He has forgotten where he came from.
“Dad …” he begins. I don’t let him finish.
“And when you were sick, when you were young, we sat on the couch together and watched the original episodes. Hell, boy, we even made it through Deep Space Nine together! Deep Space Nine! I know it’s awful, but we made it!”
“It’s boring, dad! Boring!”
“It’s not boring! It’s the ultimate dream of all of humanity!”
I finish packing his lunch, and I don’t zip up in the bag. I throw it at his chest. I can’t even look at him now. The boy has a smile on his face. A smile. Where did I go wrong?
My daughter walks in. She’s oblivious to the tension in the room because it has nothing to do with her phone.
“Hey, Dad,” she asked. I am grateful for the distraction. My daughter, my first born, she’s a good girl. She loves her father.
“Yeah, baby,” I said.
“Who’s playing in the Super Bowl?”
“Why?” I said.
“One of my friends asked, and she wants to get together for a party to watch it.”
“The Eagles and the Pats. We hate them both but especially the Eagles. All Cowboy fans hate the Eagles.”
“Dad, I don’t like the Cowboys.”
I am a complete and utter failure as a father.
A version of this first appeared on Hossman At-Home.