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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Legos, Anger and Bad Examples...

A mess waiting to happen...
"If dad thinks I don't care about legos, I don't care about him."

The words of an angry 8-year-old boy, written in crayon underneath his blanket one night, after being chastised by his father, who, in his own frustration and anger at the mess in the boy's room, stomped on his Legos a couple of times, hurting his heel in the process and causing a major commotion in the household.

"If you don't care about your Legos," the father was heard yelling, "Then, I don't either!"

I was limping for several days afterwards, which my wife says serves me right!

I hate Legos!  Well, maybe, hate is too strong a word but I never had them as a kid, which might explain my substandard prowess in anything that's handy, and like them even less as an adult.  It drives me crazy to see the disarray my son makes in his room, which sometimes takes days to cleanup. (The "cleanup, everybody do your part" song doesn't work like it used to!)

Then again, I played with army soldiers, knights, cowboys and Indians figurines and baseball cards, which were often found spread all over our family room and drove my mom crazy.  Maybe, it's a right of passage!

In any case, after throwing a tantrum, chewing out my son (alienating my wife in the process) and putting him and the girls to bed (they share the same room), I went to bed myself (Obviously, the mood was a bit tense).

A little while later, as I started drifting off, I began hearing ruffling in the kids' room and got up to see what was happening.

"What's going on?" I asked in a firm whisper.

Our oldest daughter quickly gave him away.

"He was coloring under his blanket."

My son got up in a huff, stomping off (literally, his feet pounding on the wood floor) into the bathroom, turned on the light, and challenged me like Doc Holiday challenged Johnny Ringo, when he said, "I'm your huckleberry," in movie Tombstone.

He showed me his note, sort of like saying, "What are you going to do about it?"

In fact, when I couldn't make out what it stated, because, since it was written under the covers, his lines ran into each other, he helped me read it.

From the depths of his heart...
"If dad thinks I don't care about Legos, I don't care about him," he said defiantly.

When he finished, he glared at me with his head slightly tilted downward and his pupils piercing me from the upper half of his eyes. It was very menacing, if it weren't so funny.

I controlled my laughter and glared back at him. We had a short stare down; a contest of male testosterone between a 52-year-old man and an 8-year-old boy.

After about a minute, he couldn't hold it any longer and cracked a smile.  But, quickly wiped the smirk off and kept glaring at me with the same scowl on his face.

I kept a straight face, while thinking; wow, if this is when he's eight, what's going to happen when he's sixteen or seventeen?  I'll be in my 60's!  I should start getting in better shape!

He cracked another smile and, just as quickly, shook it off again.

I was a bit perplexed by this lion king encounter so I decided to break the silence, "Do you really care about your Legos?"

He nodded without saying a word.

"Then why have they been all over the room for a couple of days, where the dogs can eat them?"  He just kept staring at me.

"If you care about something," I continued, "Do you take care of it?"

"Yes," he answered.

"Does leaving your Legos on the floor, where the dogs can eat them, and, you know, they have eaten them many times, seem like you're taking care of them?"

"No," he admitted with a hint of shame in his voice.

"If you don't care about them, why should I?"

He just looked at me silently.  His countenance slightly changing from anger to dejection, as he thought about what I said.

Unfortunately, he probably gets his fiery temper from me.

In fact, even when I'm not angry, I'm very passionate, animated and loud when moved by a topic or when I know I'm right (which is not often with my wife but a little more common with my kids), making even my wife think that I am angry.

Although, most people would describe me as quiet and reserved (and dare I say, patient, which my wife would disagree with!), I have a tendency to lose it on occasions; whether with my kids, my friends, my co-workers or, to a lesser extent, my wife (Let's just say, I rather not share a pillow with the dogs, if given a choice!).

A few days after the Legos incident, I had a melt down at work, ripping into another manager during a heated meeting.  It's my natural response, especially when I think someone is trying to intimidate me.  I've been battling the instinct since my youth.

There have been many times in my life, many that, frankly speaking, I'm embarrassed about, including my cousin's wedding, which ended in a fracas that I started, or the night I spent in jail, which I have written about in the past, where my hothead nature has gotten the best of me.

I realize it comes down to pride, since, as I heard a psychologist say once, the only reason people get angry is because other people don't do what they want!

Apparently, my son has inherited the same ornery disposition.  It's not something I'm proud of, especially when I see him snapping at his sisters.  He even yells at the dogs at times!

They say kids learn more from watching their parents then listening to them and I know I need to set a better example.

On the bright side, heaven is replete with saints who once had short tempers.

The most notorious being St. Peter, the first among the Apostles, who cut off a man's ear when he went to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Also, St. Jerome, a fourth century priest and historian, who single handedly translated the Bible into Latin from the original Greek and Hebrew, was notorious for his bad temper.  However, he used his wit and pen to destroy his rivals.

Then, there was St. Louis de Montfort, who once decked a couple of drunks who wouldn't stop heckling him while he preached!

I can only hope and pray that, in spite of myself, I can help lead my son to heaven.

Now, getting back to the my son's note story.

"Do you really care about your Legos?" I asked him.

"Yes," he answered.

"So, are you going to pick them up tomorrow?"

"Yes," he replied, as he nodded.

"Then let's go to bed,"  I said and kissed him on the head, as he walked back into his room.

After reflecting on it and praying for more patience, as I usually do (And, you can just imagine if I didn't!), the next day, on the way to drop them off, I apologized for my behavior.  

"Daddy flies off the handle sometimes," I offered.

My oldest daughter said, "We know."

"I need to do better.  I'm sorry," and they all looked at me forgivingly.

Alexander Pope once wrote, "To err is human, to forgive, divine."

Thank God for putting these three forgiving souls in my life and for inspiring the invention of Legos to teach me a lesson on kids and bad examples...


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