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The Secret to Invisibility · 5 October 2007

Unlike the character in The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells, I do not need a chemical concoction and secret apparatus to become invisible. All I need to do is be the parent who will most likely say, “No.”


When my kids want to have ice cream or stay up late or do something risky like ride their bikes to their friends’ houses, they almost always ask their mom. Even if I am the closest person to them, they will search high and low for her. Several times, I have been in the family room when the boys rushed in from outside calling, “Mom!” One of these times, I figured that they had something important to tell her. Maybe they found a snake or needed a bandage or something was so important that only a mother would truly understand. Maybe it was just something that I would not be interested in or they needed some task done that I they figured I would be ill-suited to do, like make lunch. After searching the whole house, they found their mother outside in the backyard. I did not hear what they asked but I did hear her reply as they walked by me. “Your dad was right there, why couldn’t you just ask him?” The kids just shrugged and looked at me as if I had just appeared out of thin air. Or more likely, as if they still did not see me and wondered what their crazy mom was talking about.


If this had been an isolated incident, I would not have thought I found the formula for invisibility. I would have just dismissed the whole thing as kids not seeing what is right in front of them which is a daily occurrence for our middle child. But similar incidents have occurred before and since then. Before that day, however, I did not realize that I was becoming temporarily invisible. I did not know that when it looks as if the kids actually do see me they really just see a shimmering of my apparent image and try to focus on that. Then, when they determine that nothing is there, they move on to look for their mom. I used to think that they were just clearing their minds of the question at hand so that I would not be able to use my secret mind reading power that they had so cleverly discovered. I used to think that I heard the faintest, “Dad, can we…” before their minds snapped shut. I realize now that my mind was playing tricks on me. Their blank stares were their wonder at almost seeing something that was invisible.


I finally realized that I had the secret to invisibility during that same incident when my wife continued railing at the boys, “Your father was right there the whole time.” I guess that they had just asked her for permission to go somewhere. Like I said, they seemed to ignore me and hunt for their mom. I realized during that incident that they really did not see me. Not only that, I knew why they did not see me. I had become invisible to my children because I just said, “No,” enough times. When the kids wanted to stay up late, I just said no. When they wanted ice cream, I just said no. When they wanted to go to their friends’ houses, I just said no. All this time, I thought that the campaign to just say no was to help keep kids off drugs. I did not realize that it was also the secret to invisibility. And even after discovering the secret, I did not realize that the secret to invisibility was not just for parents but for everybody.


When kids say no to people offering them alcohol or drugs or other things that are bad for them, eventually they become invisible to those offering. When the people offering look for unwary takers, they see right through the invisible kids, the ones who have said no enough times. I do not believe it matters that I give away the secret to invisibility. People will still be able to just say no to become invisible. After all, my kids seem to know the secret and I still become invisible to them. The only unfortunate part is that nobody knows how many times it takes to say, “No,” before a person becomes invisible to the asker. Maybe it even happens gradually.


Even though I have found the secret to invisibility, it does not always work. There are times when my kids can not find their mother and even though they have gone by me three or four times, they finally see me and ask, “Where’s Mom?” Apparently, invisibility wears off when the need arises. But I guess that it is a good thing invisibility is not permanent. After all, I want my kids to be able to see me. Even if I do become invisible when they think I might say, “No.”

© 2007 Michael T. Miyoshi

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