The week before last was a bear for Wyatt. Elementary school is like the rest of life: there’s sad people and fearful people – and the sad, fearful people take the meanness that’s been heaped on them and hurl it onto others. Sometimes my dad-self wants to march onto the school grounds and put the fear of God into a child or two.
After a particularly difficult day for Wyatt, I had words my son needed to hear. I got on the floor with him in his room, and we talked about the truth. We talked about words that are lies and words that are true; and we talked about how truth is something we hold tight, clinging onto for dear life while lies are the things we stare down and then, with a chuckle and a wag of the head, we say, You are just ridiculous. Wyatt liked that. He liked the word ridiculous, particularly when I repeated it, stretching it out (ri——di—–culous) while exaggerating the laughter and the roll of the eyes. These lies (the ones aimed at the soul) aren’t something to ponder and dissect; they’re something we disarm by refusing them the dignity of a conversation.
This is true for Wyatt in 4th grade. It’s true for me at 40 years. By now, the lies are predictable. I’ve heard most every one (or close cousins) a bujillion times. I can hunker down for the assault and follow that familiar cycle of self-violence. I can give that old snaggle-toothed lie my energy. Or I can stand up straight, breathe deep, and, with the lightheartedness of one who knows nothing’s at stake, I can have a laugh and say, You, old pal, are plain ridiculous.
After a couple of these conversations with Wyatt, he asked me, “Dad, when you’re a kid, is it bad to love your dad almost as much as God?”
“No,” I said, sensing tears, “not at all, Wyatt, not at all.”