I like the scene in Terminator 2, where Arnold, now the good Terminator, is playing with John Connor, the boy who will grow up to save the world, while the boy’s mother watches them. She muses, in voiceover,’ Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The terminator wouldn't stop, it would never leave him. It would never hurt him or shout at him or get drunk and hit him or say it was too busy to spend time with him. And it would die to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers that came over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only thing that measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.’
I could say this scene is a foundational principle of my dadhood, but it’s closer to the truth to say that it sticks in my head like a broken record. Something about this ridiculous science fiction feels true. That is what a dad must do, I think. At least, that’s what he should try to do: protect the kid. Eliminate cyber-bots and/or bullies, defuse plasma bombs and/or common colds, but be sure you maintain a secure perimeter around that child.
Aspiring to be a metallic, super-bodyguard-bot seems like a reasonable goal.
But I think, somehow, I’ve let my intention to be like Arnold slip a little bit. Especially as regards V. When she came into our lives, she was a chubby, strong kid who seemed fearless. She didn’t look like she needed protection. But we were wrong about her. Maybe I can try to be Atticus Finch for Adinah, but V. needs more Terminator 2 from me.
She tries to do everything her big sister and the other 7-year-olds do. But she’s 3. She hollers a blue streak when I say, ‘No.’ And she’s been known to shout down playground bullies several years older than her. But she’s also afraid of loud noises and almost every animal besides caterpillars.
Sometimes V. falls down, scrapes her knee, and doesn’t even blink. But she’s still a princess, a sensitive flower. She looks so pretty in a summer dress, even though she’s gonna be covered with chocolate and glue and mud in twenty minutes.
And she needs more looking out from me.