All children are born selfish. They have certain needs that they expect met, and don’t care how inconvenient we may find their timing. They simply scream and holler until getting what they want.
One of our most important jobs as parents is to teach them empathy, the most crucial of all human emotion. If we are here to guide our offspring on a journey towards ultimately becoming happy, productive members of society, step one has to be making sure they don’t turn out to be little a-holes.
Several times over the past few weeks I’ve felt that those efforts were coming along pretty well. When it appeared to Alaina that she seemed to have more presents under the tree than her sister or cousins, she offered to give them some of hers so that they “wouldn’t be sad.” She insisted on making my parents a thank-you card after I told her we didn’t need to bring them a gift as appreciation for the things they had bought for her.
After somehow closing a door on myself, she spent days concerned about the boo boo on my fingernail. The slightest nick on my face from shaving brings a level of concern for my well-being that shames most of what I see from health care professionals at the hospital where I am employed.
She both surprised and made me proud when mommy’s New England Patriots played daddy’s Miami Dolphins in the last week of the NFL regular season. She wore her Patriots sweatshirt, but was much more subdued in her cheering than on most Sundays, refusing to join her mother in chants of “Squish the Fish.” Sensing the pre-game mood in the room and realizing that it was probably a foregone conclusion that the Patriots would win easily, she refused to contribute to daddy feeling any worse.
Other days, however, I’m not so sure.
This morning the television was on in the background, but neither of us was paying much attention to it. Aliana was building with Lincoln Logs and I was paying bills. Amid the usual commercials for toys, Chuck E Cheese, and other things intended to induce pre-schoolers to bother their parents, an ad for the ASPCA came on. One of those ones with Sarah McLachlan playing and close-ups of miserable looking dogs and cats.
I looked up only briefly, annoyed that they would play on the soft hearts of little children, but started paying more attention when I noticed Alaina was giggling.
“Daddy, are they trying to trick us?”
“How so, honey?”
“They are playing this sad music so that we give all our money to these doggies. Doggies don’t need money. They aren’t going to fool us, are they Dad?”
I explained to her that the money would go to help animals, and that mommy and daddy had other charities that we chose to support. I was happy to see that she wasn’t so easily emotionally manipulated, but also a little taken aback by her aloofness. Those commercials are pretty damn effective.
This post was previously published on www.thirstydaddy.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
Photo credit: Jeremy Barnes