Thursday, February 25, 2010

A New Era (part three)

I talked to Eli 8.6 about lying last Friday, while we were on our way home from unicycling club. We hadn't talked about it since the big "reveal" on Monday, and I thought enough time had passed where we could sort of explore the issue in an environment where punishment wasn't hanging in the air.

I also wanted to tell Eli a story about a big lie I told, when I was in first grade.

My first grade teacher was an angel, and I loved her. I was crushing every assignment she gave me, so she made extra lesson plans to make sure I was always busy and challenged. She was also incredibly kind. I stayed after class every day to help her (yes, with her I was the biggest teacher's pet in the world).

I felt 100%, totally secure.

Our classroom shared a bathroom with the adjoining classroom, and one day during class I raised my hand and went to pee. While I was there, I started playing with the toilet paper, and before I was done, I had basically put toilet paper everywhere.

I T.P.d the bathroom.

I distinctly remember not understanding why I was doing it, even while it was happening. The whole time I was doing it, my mind was telling me to stop. I didn't, though. I didn't stop until there wasn't a single square of toilet paper left on a roll.

When I was done, I came out and sat down. A few minutes later, the teacher from the adjoining classroom came and talked in low tones to Mrs. Poling. She called me up to the desk and asked me, quite nicely, if I'd noticed anything unusual in the bathroom.

Now remember, I loved this woman (I love her to this day, and Eli's even met her). I adored her. I still lied to her, though. I said I had seen nothing unusual, even when she asked me a second time. I remember feeling a little nervous, but the lie just came out of me automatically. She looked at me for a few seconds.

Then she let me go back to my seat.

She wasn't punishing me, at least not overtly, but I knew she knew what I'd done, and she knew that I knew. I felt awful, like I was hurting her. And I felt that way for a while.

That's what I told Eli. I didn't want him to think that I had never told a lie, that somehow he was defective or something.

On Sunday, we went to Krispy Kreme and saw a father absolutely berate his five-year-old son over a fight the boy was having with his younger brother. When we walked out, I asked Eli what the father had done wrong. "He just yelled," Eli said. "He didn't listen to them."

"Right," I said. "And if all he does is yell at them to stop, and doesn't help them understand how to make good decisions, they're not going to ever stop doing anything unless he yells at them."

"He's going to be yelling all the time," Eli said.

"That's right," I said. "

"Dad, you always listen to me," Eli said. "And you never yell."

"Thanks, little man," I said. He took my hand as we walked back to the car. It was a nice, warm moment, because I realized that he does listen to me most of the time.

Eli is in a complex stage of his life right now. On the way to Krispy Kreme on Sunday, we talked about the visible light spectrum, leukemia, and dyslexia--all at his request--but he still sleeps with two little stuffed bears at night.

In a bit of irony, Mrs. Poling gave him one of them, a little rainbow-colored bear that he has slept with for almost four years.

So I guess if it feels hard sometimes for me to understand what he most needs in this period of his life,
it's probably nothing compared to what he's feeling.

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