Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Magic Simile

Tonight Jim and Jamie and I were sitting at Nho Trang, our favorite Vietnamese joint on Baxter Street, when a little girl and her family walked into the restaurant. Said little girl promptly approached a gumball machine at the cashier's bar and cranked the dispenser, taking the candy that it deposited into her hand over to the table where the rest of her family had been seated.

Jamie observed this injustice and stood up to do the same thing, but I stopped him and told him he had to eat his dinner first. We told him that he would probably have a chance to take a piece of candy at the end of the meal, like when he gets a lollipop at the end of a haircut. "I hate that stupid girl," he said in a stage whisper. Since I was apparently already feeling preachy, I launched into some diatribe about how Hate is such a strong word, and it's such a terrible emotion that it can make people sick after they decide to cling to those feelings, so maybe let's not toss around the word Hate about the girl who took the candy before she ate her dinner. I was on a roll. "Let's come up with ten things you could say besides Hate, like maybe she annoyed you, or it didn't seem fair, or" .... Like I said... a real diatribe. And to pile it on, something I'm quite good at, "People have the choice of whether to live out their lives as negative people or positive people" and yada yada yada; could I shut up, already?

Later, when we'd found our way back into the car, despite the three pieces of candy he'd managed to snag after his second crank of the dispenser, he began to complain once again about "the stupid" girl. I fell into my half of our bickering cycle. Then, out of his mouth came this:

"I'm not trying be filled with negativity, but it's really hard. I can't stop thinking about things sometimes. Like when I got punched in the stomach two years ago on the playground and I still think about it. It's like a magician's trick when they pull the everlasting scarf from their mouth and it never stops.... But then I tell myself to look at something else, like that beautiful stoplight, and it can go away for a second, but then it comes back."

These moments have the effect of instantaneously shifting something inside of me. Often, what shifts is simply my perspective, realizing that there's a fully formed creature in front of me with his own thoughts and ideas and opinions and we're quite separate and it's changing so quickly and I can't stop the train. Or, in this case, the thing that shifted was my understanding of the depth of his feelings, and the insight that it's important to give him space to discuss his magic scarf similes without being overbearing. Finally, the "magician's everlasting scarf" simile struck me as such an adult way to understand the process of rehashing things, but it was stated with such a child like image. I love this age of eight years old. We're perched on a ledge that drops over into God knows where, but I'm happy to straddle the Child to Tween time as long as we can. I only hope that I can shut my own mouth long enough so that I can hear the other things he's saying to me every day.


  1. What a beautifully expressed boy you are raising. I loved this, your perspective is one I tooootally get- and something I have to keep relearning.

  2. Man, I know what you mean when you talk about launching into some long-winded speech to your kid; I do it, too. Well said.