Did you just call me a slob?

We were sitting on the couch, my little one and I, with his mom on the love-seat across from us, watching a movie.  We had a bowl of popcorn between us, and as my little one reclined into one of the pillows, he took handfuls of the popcorn and not so delicately or accurately plied the fluffy stuff into his mouth.  When the majority of the bowl was gone, he started playing with the pieces of popcorn, alternately flicking them into his mouth or smashing them in his palm and then licking-up the pieces like a dog.  We paused the movie occasionally to ask or answer a question, to run to the bathroom, get a refill of one of our drinks or the other…and then continued watching and eating and enjoying the movie and each other’s company.  The further into the bowl we got, the more broken pieces of popcorn there were on the little one’s blanket, pillow, pajamas, and surrounding couch area.

I reached over to pick-up some of the crumbs and broken pieces to put them back in the bowl…and made a mistake….

“Do you think you’re making a big enough mess, you little slob?”

Quiet.

Did you just…call me a slob?

My little one asked this with a quivering chin and downcast eyes as he picked a piece of popcorn off of the blanket beneath his chin and placed it anxiously into his mouth.

“Well yeah, look at the mess…hey….”

There were big alligator tears and an immediately running nose and the sobbing of words and half words that I couldn’t understand between his crying and the movie and his mom and my questioning and….

“Hey there…I was just playing….”

Why…did you…call…me that?  What was…why are you….

And more tears…and my heart was breaking at his breaking heart and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and oh….

“Hey, Buddy, look at me,” as I patted his foot, “I was only playing…you’re making such a mess here…hey…look…I was only playing.”  I reached over and dragged him to me….  “Hey…I call your mom a slob too, sometimes…when she makes a mess…I wasn’t trying to be mean….”

And his chest was shaking and he was wiping tears across his face and his mom brought over a Kleenex to blow his nose…and I was holding back a smile in my amazement and tears in my sadness at how I had just crushed his little heart…his daddy calling him a slob.

“Hey there…why are you crying?  I was only playing….”

I…don’t like…being…called names.

“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry, Buddy.  I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings or upset you…I was just playing with you.”

I accept your…apology.  Sniff….

An important aspect of my little one’s life and existence, at this point in his eight years, and possibly for many more years as he learns to decipher and remember the various meanings of our vast array of socially constructed and freighted expressions and intentions and nuanced meanings, is his acceptance of things as they are presented to him.  He doesn’t see the gray or shading in many of our words and intentions.  The idiosyncrasies of our speech and the subtle and not-so-subtle meanings of our paired words sometimes escape him, even when we’re joking around…they mean, to him, what they literally mean.  In my playing, I forgot about the concreteness of his brilliant little mind…and the tenderness of his easily broken heart.

Oh…how it hurts sometimes….

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6 responses

  1. me

    That made me cry in the re-living of it. Who would have thought? It is your love for him, your tenderness toward him, your understanding of him that makes me love you so. He humbles me every day.

    April 3, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    • Thank you, Lori Kim, for your beautiful words…and your love…and our little one.

      April 4, 2010 at 6:29 am

  2. Kaleeb

    i don’t think anyone can call themselves a parent without the occasional unintended insult. i wonder if before your next popcorn consumption event, if your little one will lay down the ground rules, and ensure that all rules are known and followed 🙂

    April 4, 2010 at 9:34 am

    • Yes, Kaleeb, the unintended insults and breaking of little hearts are sometimes part of being a parent…little examples of the sad part…hopefully little. We’ll definitely cover the ground-rules for the next popcorn session. 🙂

      April 4, 2010 at 10:33 am

  3. karen

    It is amazing the things that we remember.
    After a particularly long trip to Texas to care for a sister in law who had had a stroke at 35, I was delayed & delayed coming home.
    When I finally found my way back to LAX & my family, exhausted, jet lagged & overwhelmed, I watched my baby girl with 4 feet of long red hair run off down the terminal to the baggage claim.
    Out of pure instinct & quite honestly panic, thinking I could lose her in the dark creepy recesses of LAX I reached out & grabbed her by the back of the pony tail to curtail her run to nowhere. I did not mean to hurt her or scare her, I just wanted to protect her.
    At the instant I did this, I regretted it & have never forgotten.
    I am forgiven, but have never failed to think twice about a knee jerk reaction again.
    In the end, I think we are all better parents, friends & family for these little transgressions.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:51 am

    • Indeed, Karen, it is amazing the things we remember after all the passing years…the things that touched our hearts and turned us into different people in that instant…people who remember, who regret, who love…and still remember. Thank you…. 🙂

      May 18, 2010 at 8:03 am

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