*simultaneously posted at Blog for Cranial Gunk.
So it begins like this...
"But Daddy, It is!"
"It isn't Q! I saw it come out of the box when she dropped it."
"But it is, Daddy! It is!"
"Q, stop it. I saw it come out of the box when she dropped it."
And do you know what? It was.
It was five Christmases ago. We were with my wife's family celebrating. The kids had been given permission to open one present each. Our eldest and the cousin closest to his age chose to open a train set. His two girl cousins, an art box filled with markers, stamps, and stickers. The one girl cousin carried the box with her everywhere she went, so you could have guessed that it was only a matter of time before she dropped it and spilled its contents all over.
I asked my son to help clean up the mess. He and his girl cousin started arguing over an odd shaped piece the latter had stuck in the box. From where I sat it looked like a stamp or something that was supposed to do something on paper alongside the markers and the stamps. Did I mention there was glitter too?
So they argued. And it started to get heated as my son, who is younger than his girl cousin, started to get frustrated. I did want I was told a good 21st parent should do. I bit my tongue and allowed them the opportunity to work out the problem themselves. I bit and I bit until my son threw a marker at his cousin.
I did the parent thing and asked gently what the problem was. They told me. It seems my son believed the odd shaped piece belonged to the train set. Girl cousin was insistent that it belonged in the art box. The box had spilled away from the train set and the piece did not look like it fit anywhere on the train or its tracks. I got sleuthy and deduced that it couldn't have been a part of the train set.
My son argued with me at first but then his frustration (and possibly something else) got the best of him and he just started to cry: "Why do you believe me, Daddy? Why don't you believe?"
My wife's sister (not girl cousin's mother) came to the rescue and asked what was going on. Girl cousin retold the story. My wife's sister said gently to my son, "Q stop crying. Why don't we try putting the piece on the train? If it fits than the piece belongs to the train. If it doesn't, it belongs with the markers, stamps, stickers, and glitter in the art box."
I was immediately struck - Why didn't I think of that?
It made sense. And it was simple. And do you know what? The piece fit! My son was right all along! My wife's sister gave him the piece. He took it to the train and snapped the piece in with the cleanest, clearest snap I have ever heard.
But he didn't gloat or celebrate his "rightness." He just cried more: "My Daddy didn't believe me! Why didn't you believe me Daddy?"
What was I supposed to do? What would my father have done? All that time earning my Masters in Education and I sat incompetent as my then only son, who gives reason to those days I just want to walk away, cried and anguished over being dismissed so easily by his own father.
So I just held him.
I held him and remembered all the times I've felt hurt and dismissed by those I held close.
I held him and told him that I was sorry and that I would work at being a better listener.