Jodie is a busy mom and businesswoman who hates how much time her son spends on video games. Never could Jodie have imagined that a day would come when she would desperately wish for her son to stop ignoring his phone.
Eleven-year-old Ben was about to defeat the final boss in his game when his mom, Jodie, pried his phone from his hands.
“Give that back!” Ben lunged for his phone, but Jodie held it out of reach.
“You spend too much time on this thing. Every time I see you, you’re glued to the screen. You didn’t even hear me call you for dinner, did you?”
“Please, mom! I’ll lose everything if you don’t give it back,” Ben pleaded.
“It’s just a game, Ben.” Jodie shook her finger at him. “You need to spend more time in the real world so you can be successful; otherwise, you’ll end up just like your deadbeat father.”
“At least I don’t have a heart of stone like you.”
Jodie’s face went slack, and her lip quivered. “How dare you! I work hard to provide you with everything you want, and you don’t appreciate any of it. Go to your room!”
Ben sprinted to his room. He grabbed his Naruto comforter from his bed and crawled into his cupboard. He felt bad for upsetting Mom, but she didn’t understand anything! All she did was shout at him.
Ben traced his finger along the dim ray of light falling on his comforter. His hero would never give up on someone who was hurt. If he could use kindness to convert villains into good people, then Ben could make peace with his mom. She was probably as lonely as he had been since the divorce.
Mom was in the kitchen. She looked up when Ben entered.
“Mom, can we go to comic-con together?” Ben asked.
“Comic… what?” Jodie scowled.
“I don’t have time for that nonsense!”
“You didn’t even ask when it takes place,” Ben wailed. “You always shout at me for not doing things, but when I actually want to do something, you say no. You never want to spend time with me!”
Ben’s words haunted Jodie for the next week. It was difficult to find a balance between running her business and parenting, but she realized the truth in Ben’s words. She wanted her son to feel treasured, so she came home early one day to surprise him.
Jodie’s plan was to take Ben to the park. She also bought donuts for them to share. She checked her watch several times while she waited. As the time when Ben normally returned from school came and went, Jodie began to worry.
Half an hour later, Ben still wasn’t home. Usually, he would’ve been home and playing on his phone or the laptop by now. Jodie bit her nails. She never would’ve thought she’d miss the sound of video games, but she did. Jodie called Ben, but the phone just kept ringing.
The man removed his head mask, and burning rage flooded Jodie’s thoughts.
After thirty-seven calls, it appeared that Ben’s phone battery had died. His phone was no longer reachable, and Jodie was now frantic. She paced aimlessly between the sitting room and Ben’s room and finally ran to the garage and leaped into her car.
Jodie roared into the parking lot of Ben’s school. She was on her way to the principal’s office when she spotted some of Ben’s friends on the playground.
“When last did any of you see Ben?” Jodie called as she approached the playground.
The kids looked at each other and shrugged. Only one of them stepped forward.
“Last time I saw Ben, he was with a man in a chicken suit. He left school with him.”
Jodie’s blood ran cold. “A man in a chicken suit? What did he look like?”
“Uh, big, yellow, and covered in feathers.” The boy looked at his friends, and they all burst into laughter.
Jodie sprinted to the principal’s office. She was just in time to catch the principal as she was leaving.
“My son has been kidnapped, and you have to do something,” Jodie grabbed the woman.
The principal frowned at Jodie. “I’m sorry, but the school is not responsible for pupils after hours.”
“How can you be so uncaring?” Jodie wanted to shake the woman until she produced a better solution, but she knew it wouldn’t help.
Instead, Jodie returned to her car and started driving. She’d find Ben herself. It couldn’t be too difficult to spot a man in a chicken suit. She drove from one end of town to the other but saw no sign of her son.
Jodie was in tears. She was about to pull into the police station when she spotted a poster stuck to a wall. Jodie braked in the middle of traffic. Cars hooted behind her, but she didn’t care.
“Comic-con,” Jodie whispered. “I didn’t even ask when it was happening, but it’s… today! Ben must be there!”
Jodie stepped on the gas and sped to the convention center where the event was taking place. “Thank God for that sign!”
When Jodie entered the center, she quickly realized that finding Ben wouldn’t be easy. The place was packed with adults and kids dressed in various costumes, some so complex they looked more like lifesize puppets.
Jodie made her way to the outdoor area and climbed on some boxes beside one of the stalls. She scanned the crowd of fantastical creatures. There! In the distance, near the stage, she spotted an ugly chicken suit. It was vaguely familiar, but Jodie focused on the child walking beside the chicken.
She leaped down and started shoving her way through the crowd. The stage was getting closer. Jodie sidled around a big, red dragon, but she stumbled over its tail and landed in the mud.
People pressed in around her, and Jodie struggled to get to her feet. She worried she might be trampled, but then two fluffy paws reached out and helped her up.
“Are you okay, miss?”
The bright pink leopard that helped her up pressed some wipes into Jodie’s hands. “Take these so you can clean up.”
“Thank you. I’m looking for my son.” Jodie scanned the crowd, but now she couldn’t see the ugly chicken anywhere. “He’s here with a chicken.”
“I haven’t seen a chicken,” the pink leopard replied. “You should ask if they can make an announcement to help you find your son. I think the info booth is that way.”
While Ben hurried up to the stage, Chris drew Jodie aside.
The pink leopard pointed back the way Jodie had come, but she had a better idea. Jodie forced her way through to the stage and climbed up. A security officer appeared to bar her.
“I need the MC to make an announcement,” Jodie pleaded with the security officer. “Please, my son is here, and I can’t find him.”
Tears ran down Jodie’s cheeks as she spoke. She was embarrassed and felt wildly out of place, but she needed to find Ben and wrap him up in a huge hug. Once she had him safely in her arms, she’d never let him go.
The security officer took pity on Jodie. He let her speak to the MC.
“Would eleven-year-old Ben please come to the stage?” the MC said.
“Your mom is looking for you and she’s very worried.”
Jodie stared out at the crowd from the stairs leading to the stage while the MC repeated the announcement. Minutes passed, but it felt like hours before Jodie recognized her son in the crowd.
Her heart leaped with joy until she spotted the ugly chicken next to Ben. The man removed his head mask, and burning rage flooded Jodie’s thoughts when she recognized her ex-husband, Chris. Now she knew why she remembered that ugly costume: he’d worn it to hand out flyers for a fast-food restaurant after he lost his job in a marketing company.
“Please, don’t punish Ben,” Chris said when he approached. “I just wanted to spend time with him.”
“Don’t be mad, mom.” Ben took Jodie’s hand. “You said you didn’t want to come, so I asked Dad. Look at the awesome Naruto costume he sewed for me!”
“I did not agree to let you see him.” Jodie shook with emotion as she glared at Chris. “In fact, nobody even told me about this arrangement. And you!” She turned her glare on Ben. “Why didn’t you answer your phone? I called so many times. I’ve been going crazy with worry!”
“I’m sorry, Mom.” Ben threw his arms around Jodie. “I was having so much fun with Dad I forgot about my phone completely. Please, won’t you join us?”
Jodie stared at her son in shock. Ben never forgot about his phone or his games. She’d despaired of his attachment to the device, and to hear him say this gave her hope.
“Yes, please join us,” Chris said.
Jodie looked from her husband to her son, who was staring at her with puppy-dog eyes. She could never resist that pleading look.
“But I don’t have any costume to wear,” Jodie said, gesturing to her dress.
“I might be surrounded by dragons and unicorns, but I feel like the weirdo!”
Chris reached beneath the wing of his suit and removed a bundle of fabric, which he presented to Jodie. When she saw the brunette wig with the distinctive buns on either side, a wave of tenderness filled her heart.
“Princess Leia. You remembered my favorite movie.” She then noticed the unevenness of one of the hems. “Did you sew this for me?”
Chris gave her a sheepish smile. Behind them, the MC announced the start of a contest, and Ben immediately insisted on participating. While Ben hurried up to the stage, Chris drew Jodie aside.
“Listen, Jodie, we need to talk.” Chris sat on the grass and invited her to sit beside him. “People marry and get divorced all the time. It’s normal these days. But while our love for each other has faded, we still share a child that we both love very much.”
“I know we’ve had our differences, but I respect you as Ben’s mother. I was happy for Ben to stay with you because you earn more money and have more to give him, but I still want to be part of his life.” Chris looked earnestly at her. “I have a good job now, and I want to see him at least once a week, please.”
Jodie swiped away the fresh tears coursing down her cheeks. Just when she thought she’d run dry after such an emotional day, it seemed her heart wasn’t done yet.
“This is important to me, Jodie.” Chris put his hand over hers. “Think of what a good example we can set for Ben by showing him how well we can cooperate even though we’re divorced. Seeing that we still respect each other will help him be happy when he marries one day. Don’t you want him to be happy?”
“Of course I do, Chris. I want him to be as happy as we once were.” Jodie looked into Chris’s eyes. She felt the familiar rush of warmth as he leaned in close. As she moved toward him to meet him for the kiss she sensed was coming, a big, red bird fell on top of them.
“Sorry!” The bird ran away, leaving Chris and Jodie to stare awkwardly at each other.
“We should go support Ben in the contest,” Chris said.
Jodie agreed. They hurried to the stage and arrived in time to see Ben giving the audience a thumbs-up while grinning widely.
“I never give up!” Ben cried.
“Naruto! Naruto!” Jodie and Chris chanted. Soon the whole crowd joined in their chant. On the stage, Ben looked like he was about to burst from happiness.
Everything changed after that day. Ben spent time with Chris once or twice a week, which gave Jodie more time to relax. Ben wasn’t glued to his phone anymore and spent more time with his family and friends. Jodie and Chris slowly built up a solid co-parenting relationship, which continued to get stronger even after they married new partners.
What can we learn from this story?
Clear communication is vital. Jodie and Ben argued about games because they weren’t communicating well with each other, while Ben and Chris’s failure to inform Jodie of their plans was very irresponsible.
Treasure your loved ones. It’s important to show those we love how much they mean to us by making time for them and being willing to set our own interests aside for their benefit.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.