Did you just call me a slob…again?

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?”


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 (now eleven), 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….


This is a Favorite Re-post from April, 2010.


21 responses

  1. Thanks for sharing Scott.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:52 am

    • Thank you for being here, Adrian…a constant companion….

      December 21, 2012 at 8:54 am

  2. Sometimes don’t you just wish we could roll back time………I feel for you both… Thanks for the retelling Scott.

    December 21, 2012 at 9:35 am

    • Sometimes I do, John…very much wish that…thank you for your sentiment, my friend…and you are welcome….

      December 21, 2012 at 7:18 pm

  3. That’s a great story Scott. They take things so literally don’t they. Thanks for sharing it – well written too.

    December 21, 2012 at 10:02 am

    • Thank you very much, Andy…and yes, sometimes they do take things so literally…you’re welcome, too.

      December 21, 2012 at 7:19 pm

  4. Endearing story Scott. It reminds me of times when my daughter was younger. Sometimes we as parents don’t see how every little word matters to them. Thanks for sharing your memories….very heartwarming. 🙂

    December 21, 2012 at 10:49 am

    • Thank you, Nancy…I’m glad you enjoyed it…looking from a similar vantage point…and you are welcome, too. 🙂

      December 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm

  5. What a great daddy you are to understand the enormity of learning all the nuances we take for granted. Wishing you and yours a happy holiday…. 🙂

    December 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    • Very nice words, dear Gunta…and there is so much to learn from them…still. Thank you for the holiday wishes, my friend…I wish the same for you. 🙂

      December 21, 2012 at 7:24 pm

  6. me

    I cry everytime I read this. Shared on my site.

    December 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    • I’m glad you still enjoy it, Lori Kim…and hope that “your” folks will enjoy it, too…thank you for the share. 😉

      December 21, 2012 at 7:25 pm

  7. The weight of the world in a word…
    A reminder of a need to tread lightly, on so many levels. Thank you, Scott.

    December 22, 2012 at 8:33 am

    • Very much so, Karen…and thank you.

      December 24, 2012 at 6:45 am

  8. This is a bit of a strange story for me… mostly because there were hints that he wasn’t completely sincere about his protest. Wishing you good communication, and happy days together.

    December 22, 2012 at 11:36 am

    • Maybe it was something in my telling of the story, Shimon…but he was crushed…. Thank you for your well-wishes, my friend….

      December 24, 2012 at 6:46 am

  9. Virginia Woolf once said: The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.
    It is certainly not easy to be a father, especially when facing a tender young heart.

    December 22, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    • Thank you, Tom…and you’re correct…it is not easy…especially when facing a tender young heart…. I appreciate your words…thank you, again.

      December 24, 2012 at 6:48 am

  10. Liana

    I have so many stories that come from the intersection of meaning and misunderstanding with my deaf son… I read this with deep compassion, Scott.

    December 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    • Oh, goodness…I’m sure you do…and I imagine that some of them would just be so heartbreaking…. Thank you for understanding, Liana……

      December 31, 2012 at 8:14 pm

  11. The story of popcorn,movie and slob touched my heart. I always loved children and when the time came for me to pick who i’d like to teach I picked a school to teach young kids.I had a delightful experience and am always glad I chose to teach young kids,they are so innocent and sweet.
    You must have felt bad,but he felt worse.They are very truthful,they never hesitate to speak their mind.
    It was very nice to stop by and read your blog.Thank you.
    My blog name is sabethville,do drop by,when you have time.
    I am a Bengali from Bangladesh.I live in Canada.

    November 11, 2013 at 6:19 pm

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