Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Blue Meanie, 3.9 Style

Gloria was going to go with Eli to get the mail. “I don’t want to go with you anymore, Mommy,” Eli 3.9 said. “I want to go with Daddy.”

"I thought we were going to go,” Gloria said.

“I want to go with Daddy instead,” he said. His voice had a dismissive tone to it—somehow the words sounded uglier the way he said them.

"Eli, it makes me feel sad when you tell me you don’t want to do something with me.”

This is one of the differences between men and women. If he looked at me and said that, I’d go “Woo hoo! I’ll be in my study!” and I’d be off to play Jade Empire or write something for your alleged amusement. I’ve got so many things I like to do that if one doesn’t pan out, I just cue up what’s next and off I go. I have the emotional attention span of an ant, and not a sensitive one.

“Do you understand?” Gloria asked him softly.

”I guess,” Eli said. “Let’s go, Daddy,” he muttered. Yes, 3.9 year olds can mutter. And grumble. Especially boys. It’s almost impossible for them to empathize with anyone’s feelings, which means my boy is well on his way to becoming a man.

“Little man,” I said, “That was not a nice way to talk to your Mommy. Can you think of something to say that would make her feel better?”

“Hmm, let’s see,” he said. I can tell from the tone of his voice that he’s already back to normal. Little kids just have these fractional moments where they want to be mean. It’s like they’re experimenting with how they can make other people feel. “Hold on, I’m thinking…I know! Mommy, I’m sorry. I won’t talk that way again.” He ran over to Gloria and gave her a hug. The model boy returns.

We started walking toward the mailboxes, which are about half a block away. Then he had a revelation.

“Daddy, it makes me feel bad when I say something mean to Mommy.”

”I know, little man. Saying mean things to people makes them feel bad, but it makes you feel bad, too. That’s why you shouldn’t say them.”

“I know what!” he said. “The NEXT time I say something mean to her, I’m going to say sorry RIGHT AWAY.” Okay, I know it's not exactly the right hill, but I was still proud that he planted a flag.

Later, when we come back, I stop to talk to Gloria.

“You know he didn’t mean that,” I said. “He just doesn’t understand how to say things.”

“I know,” she said. “It just made me feel like the only things I’m good for are cooking and finding things.”

“Actually, you kind of suck at finding things now,” I said. It’s true. Two months ago, I couldn’t find an elephant in a wading pool, while Gloria could find a flea on a football field. Suddenly, though, Gloria’s lost her locating mojo. I’ve found three things in the last two weeks, in seconds, that she couldn’t find after an extended search. Two more weeks of this and I’ll be buying a cape and a squarer jaw.

She hit me. She does that. Unless I duck.

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