Parenting by the seat of my pants

When I called Elise this afternoon to let her know I was coming home, she let me know that Andrew had, in the course of running around the house, knocked over one of the stereo speakers and broken it. I wasn’t terribly surprised, since kid-proofing the A/V rack has languished low on the “to do” list for quite a while now. Elise had addressed the situation in real time (she’s not exactly the “wait until your dad gets home” type), but I still felt obligated to Say Something.


I took some mental notes for my dad speech as I dodged cars and the odd pedestrian on the bike ride home. He’s just three, he has only the vaguest notion of money and other people’s feelings, let alone other people’s stuff. What will he understand? What does he need to hear?
At home, I hopped off the bike and went inside to change. Andrew was eating dinner and Elise was busy with Maggie. As I breezed through our extremely humid living room, I noticed the speaker’s grille was in pieces.
I came back downstairs and sat with Andrew.
“What did you do today?”
“We went to Matthewshouse.”
“Anything else happen?”
“The speaker fell. And it broke.”
“How did that happen?”
A shrug.
“Andrew, put down the knife and talk to me.” He was busily applying a finish coat of orange squash to his cornbread. “No matter what happens, you should tell me the truth. Even if you did something wrong. You need to recognize that you made a mistake, and it’s OK to admit it.” Did that go over his head?
Andrew paused for a few seconds, looking around the room. At last, in a tiny voice, he said, “I was running around and I knocked the speaker over and it broke. I wasn’t looking where I was going.”
“Is that a good thing?” I guess he got it.
“No.”
“Do you understand now why we tell you to watch where you’re going?”
“Yes.”
“Are you going to be more careful from now on?”
“Yes.”
“OK.”
In retrospect, the only thing I would have done differently would be to tell him that I love him no matter what. But I suspect I will have at least one more chance to refine this speech.

One thought on “Parenting by the seat of my pants

  1. That’s great… Matthew has also learned to deny and deflect blame. Just this morning we had “I wanted Gracie to go back to the kitchen, and Mama made me sit on the couch.” Omitting the middle part, where he gave her a big yank on the leg. It took several retellings before we got that crucial element into the history.

    Another time he was being punished for attacking his sister, he kept saying, “But she tried to poke me in the eye!” That happened half an hour later, so I guess he was making a pre-emptive self defense. Not to mention, she wasn’t trying to poke him in the eye at all. She was trying to stick her thumb in his nostril.

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