Oot is 7 years old now, if you can believe it. He is my heart’s delight. And despite my failings, he has grown up sweet and kind and loving and full of empathy.
So. A couple months ago, we were having a little shindig at our house. Except this wasn’t an event of the sort that I would organize, not a couple people coming over for games. Sarah’s family is huge, and there are roughly eleven billionty children in it. So this isn’t a cozy little gathering. It’s going to be an event. It’s going to be a happening.
The complication? We have a relatively small house. Only about 1400 square feet, and one of the two bathrooms is only accessible through a bedroom.
And here’s the thing. It’s *my* bedroom. Which means it a fucking mess. I’ve got piles of books and detritus everywhere. You can’t hardly see the floor. Plus I have a lot of stuff on my shelves is dangerous at best, and at worst just straight-up deadly. Picture it as a more cramped version of a wizard’s lab, except instead of having a stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling, there’s a mattress on the floor.
Simply said: I do not want people wandering through my bedroom. For real. I’ve mentioned this many, many times to Sarah when she has family over.
So. Anyway. We’re getting ready for the party, and I come back from an errand to discover Oot has written up some helpful signs and stuck them to my door.
(Click to Embiggen. Seriselee.)
Please, *please* click the above image and try to puzzle out what it says on your own. Oot has my genes both for penmanship and spelling, but if you click on it, you should be able to make it out with a little work. And it’s *so* much better if you read it in the original.
For those of you who can’t quite make it out, the signs say:
“Do. not. Entre.”
“i. Will. Kil. You. if. You. Trn.”
“This. Nob. (Arrow pointing to doorknob.)”
“Seriselee. Stae. The. Fukc. Out.”
Now when I see this, I am absolutely fucking delighted. I am over the moon. I could not possibly enjoy it more.
First and foremost, this is a very thoughtful thing he’s done. I ask Sarah if she put him up to it, and she said she hasn’t. All on his own, my little boy has decided to help me keep my room private because he knows it bothers me when guests wander in there. He’s heard me talk about it, and he’s trying to help.
As for the rest…. well… I’m probably reading it a little differently than you, because I know more of the backstory. (It might surprise none of you to know that I consider backstory to be pretty important.)
You see, years ago, when I discovered that here in small town Wisconsin, a mortgage is actually cheaper than renting an office. So I bought a grotty old student rental house to use as a disturbance-free writing space.
In that house, I have a writing room which nobody is allowed to enter. Because it’s my fucking writing room.
But I also use the house as a guest house where friends can stay when they’re in town. And my friends are curious people. So years and years ago I put up some signs on the door:
Oot comes to visit me at the Workhouse sometimes. And I put these signs up *years* ago. Long before he could read.
But the world keeps spinning. And things change. And our children absorb so much more than we are ever ready for. And no matter how careful we are, we are never careful enough….
So I come home from my errand to see my sweet child has carefully labeled my door. I read these signs and I laugh. And I thank Oot for being so helpful and considerate. And I tell him that I am really impressed that he has done such a good job of writing everything out. And it’s true. I am impressed.
“But I’m wondering,” I say. “We’re inviting these people over to our house for a party. Do you think it might be a little rude to threaten to kill them?” (I’m going to leave the discussion of the word ‘fuck’ for another day.)
Oot looks thoughtful, he narrows his eyes a little and nods. “You’re right,” he says, as if he’s really kind of impressed that I’d figured that out. “I’ll make a new sign.”
So I wander away, happy that I’ve so deftly fixed the problem.
Ten minutes later, I come back to see this:
I would like to point out that I’ve never heard Oot say, “Fuck.” But obviously the sign at the workhouse has made a deep and lasting impression. It occurs to me that in his mind, this might actually just be the natural way you ask people to stay out of a room. This is just a regular warning sign: “Wet Paint.” “Do not park.” “Stay the fuck out.”
So we talk again. And I tell him that he’s done a good job by getting rid of threatening to kill people… “But it’s still not really *polite* yet, is it?”
So he takes another run at it:
And these notes are still on my door to this day. I cannot think of a reason I would ever want to take them down….
(Dear Andrew, I’d like you to be the official Tak spokesmodel. And I’m not just saying that because you’re way *way* pretty. It’s because your presentation here is absolutely flawless.)
The vast majority of you who backed the kickstarter have your goodies now. And while a few of you might not yet, that’s mostly due to international shipping, or because some people never answered their Kickstarter surveys. (Imagine me giving you a disappointed-but-still-loving dad look here.)
But yeah. The big news is that games have been showing up at people’s houses for months. It’s exciting for me to see people finally getting to have their own copies. And not just playing it, but really kinda loving it.
(I have to say, the companion book turned out pretty nice as well.)
If you’ve been enjoying Tak, feel free to share your pictures and stories in the comments below. You can also review the game on BoardGameGeek. It’s the biggest game review website out there, so a good rating there will do a lot to help get the word about Tak out to people.
Last Thursday, right before I launched the fundraiser, I took my son to a movie.
This is a rarity. He’s almost six, but over the years I’ve only seen two movies in the theater with him. (Three now.) But I knew this was going to be our last chance to see Shaun the Sheep on the big screen. And he’s been very good lately, patient and kind with his little brother, understanding when I haven’t been able to spend time with him. So. Movie.
As we were walking across the parking lot, he said, “Dad, what do you wish wasn’t real?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Is there anything you wish didn’t exist?” he clarified.
“Ah,” I said. Then, because the Syrian refugees had been on my mind lately, I said. “War.”
He nodded somberly. “I wish global warming didn’t exist,” he said.
I was surprised, but not too surprised. Kids are more aware than we assume, so they soak up more information than we think. And as a result, they worry far more than we ever know. And the worries of a child are huge, horrible fathomless things.
When I was a kid, I worried about nuclear war and running out of oil. The first because I was a child of the 80’s during the cold war, and the second because I learned in school that we only had 25 years of oil left, then we’d run out.
I’m guessing I wasn’t alone in those fears. Enough people were worried about nukes that these days we only have about 20% of what we had back in 1986 (Which is still way too many, but better…) Unfortunately, a bunch of people worried enough about the oil thing in the wrong way, figuring out how to get more oil, rather than how to make due with less. Now, as a result, my son is worried about global warming.
Anyway, we go watch Shaun the Sheep. It’s great, by the way. You should go watch it with your kids if you get the chance. The DVD shorts are brilliant too, if the movie isn’t playing in your area.
Then on the way back to the car, Oot asks me, “Can we play a game when we get home?”
“I’d like to,” I say, “but I’m busy tonight.”
“That’s okay,” he says quickly. Almost as if he’s embarrassed that he asked.
This is the part of my life I hate the most: constantly having to refuse my son’s polite, increasingly unhopeful requests for my time. But these days he’s old enough for me to explain why I’m busy. So that’s what I decide to do.
“Off in a different country, there is a bad war going on. There are bombs going off, and people with guns. A lot of people are scared. A lot of moms and dads have been taking their children and running away so they can keep their children safe.”
He just listens. I worry I might be doing nothing more than giving him worries for the future. But I’ve already started down this road, so I keep going.
“But when these people run away, they have to leave their houses behind. They don’t have a place to stay, so right now a lot of those families are just sleeping in tents. They don’t have clothes or food. They don’t have toys. There’s a lot of them, and they need help.”
He’s still tuned in, watching me seriously.
“I’d love to play a game with you, but tonight I’m going to try and help those people. Some of the families have tiny babies, but they had to leave everything behind when they ran away. A lot of them don’t have beds to sleep in or blankets to stay warm.”
Then Oot cocks his head and says: “Why don’t they just move in with somebody?”
This is astounding to me, given the fact that we kinda threw this together. Honestly, I was hoping that we’d manage $100,000, but even that felt like a lot to hope for…
What’s even more impressive to me is *how* the money was raised.
When y’all heard about the fundraiser, you stormed in to help. No hesitation. It was like a flood. It made me so proud, and it made me feel less alone. Amanda told me she cried four times that first day of the fundraiser because y’all were so awesome.
Me? I didn’t cry. I spent the whole day laughing. My heart was full of such joy. I laughed more on that day than I had for the whole month previous.
Worldbuilders offered to match the first $25,000 in donations, and I matched the second $25,000. Then, as many of you know, folks started contacting Worldbuilders to offer up money of their own so we could continue to match donations. By the end of our first 36 hours, four donors had given us another $55,000, enough so we could match all donations up to $105,000.
All four donors wanted to remain anonymous. But even if you don’t know their names, you know they’re awesome.
Thank you everyone. Thank you. Thank you. It sounds strange to say, but I really needed this. We’ve done some real good here.
And the fundraiser isn’t over yet.
* * *
Our fundraiser is running for a few more days until late Friday night. So if you haven’t donated yet, there’s still time.
What’s more, we’ve had two more anonymous donors come in and offer to help some matching funds for our final days: one for $5,000 dollars, and one for $3,000.
That means all donations up to $151,600 will be matched. And… Ah, what the hell. I’ll kick in enough to bring it up to a nice even number, and we’ll match all donations up to an even $155,000.
[Edit:Hey guys, Amanda here. Just for clarity’s sake, all donations from the $141,600 we were at when this blog was posted this morning until we hit $155,000 will be matched.]
I’m pretty confident we can hit that in the next couple days. And I’m curious to see how much further we can go….
93% of their staff live in and are from the countries where they work – giving them unique insight into the recovery and building long term effects toward resiliency
They help when an emergency occurs, but then stay beyond afterwards to help with long term recovery
Mercy Corps has earned the highest ratings for efficiency, accountability and transparency from independent charity watchdog groups
Over the last five years, 87 percent of Mercy Corps resources have gone directly to help people in need around the world
That said, there are other charities I would have happily thrown in with if Mercy Corps hadn’t been around.
For example, Neil Gaiman’s support for the UNHCR is well deserved. Neil has been out to visit the refugees. He’s been supporting this cause for ages, long before it recently became popular in the media.
Because I live under a heavy rock sometimes, I hadn’t been aware that Patrick Ness apparently got fed up with all of this in much the same way I did, and ran a fundraiser for Save the Children. Tons of YA authors jumped in to help match funds with his fundraiser too. Folks like Hank Green, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Phillip Pullman, Cressida Cowell, Holly Black, and more.
Yeah. Further proof that people are awesome.
“So what will this money be doing?”
Many things. Because I think in terms of stories rather than factoids, let me share a couple people’s stories with you.
Houda, 13, was an excellent student in Syria with lofty dreams for her future. When the conflict became too much to bear, her family fled to Lebanon — where they’ve resorted to using a cowshed as their temporary home.
“I haven’t been to school in over two years,” Houda told us. “I loved my school and I miss going to class and seeing friends.” She attends programs at one of Mercy Corps’ Child Friendly Spaces, which provide play and psychosocial support for children who have endured trauma, but she hopes to return to school one day.
“I don’t know what the future will bring, but I have not lost my dream of becoming a doctor someday…or maybe an artist. I’m not sure yet.”
25-year-old Zeena was a university student with great aspirations until violent clashes erupted around her home in Syria. She studied philosophy and law and planned to become a human rights lawyer, but those dreams were put on hold when her family was forced to flee to Arbat Transit Camp, a tent settlement in northern Iraq.
There, her studying was replaced with daily chores like cleaning the family’s living space, collecting water and taking care of her brothers.
But Zeena has since found a positive outlet for her energy in Mercy Corps’ conflict negotiation program. She underwent training to become an official negotiator in the camp, and now helps settle disputes between its growing number of residents.
In Syria, 10-year-old Omran had a fun-loving childhood: He went to school, played with friends and enjoyed helping his dad with his construction work. When the conflict uprooted his family and sent them to Jordan in search of safety — they now reside in Zaatari Refugee Camp — Omran became distraught and angry.
“I miss Syria and my home. I miss school and playing with my friends,” he says. “I miss swimming. I played soccer with my cousins and friends in the field behind our house. I miss my house and the graves of my two brothers the most.”
In Zaatari, Omran plays soccer every day through Mercy Corps’ sports therapy program, which uses sports to give refugee children the opportunity to make friends and cope with stress. “That’s the only thing that relieves me,” he says.
“What the hell is happening in Syria anyway?”
To answer this question more effectively than I ever could, I’m going to turn to John Green, who made an excellent video about the history and current implications of the crisis.
“Why don’t they just move in with someone?”
This is a good question. But the fact that there are more than 4 million refugees make it hard to answer.
But the next thing we should probably admit is that it’s a very small step toward resolving the overall crisis.
It’s a big topic. But once you strip away all the outer layers, it comes down to the fact that there are families with nowhere to stay. People who left everything behind to to keep their children safe. Families that own nothing. Kids with no beds to sleep in.
If you were in that situation, you’d want someone to help you. To give you a place to stay. Helping people who have been screwed by circumstance is the humanitarian thing to do. It’s the human thing to do.
But the fact remains that even if everyone did suddenly, magically, have places to go. It would take a long time to sort it all out, and they need help now.
So for now, we’re going to do what we can to help.
Tonight, I was playing in the living room with my girlfriend (Sarah) my oldest son (codename Oot: age 5.5) and my youngest son (codename Cutie Snoo, age 1.5)
It wasn’t anything fancy. Nothing organized. I’d just come back from recording this week’s podcast with Max Temkin, and rather than head upstairs to do more e-mail, as I am wont to do, I decided to stay downstairs and play with the kids.
A large part of this is because my Cutie is at a magical age. 18 months is pretty awesome. After a bit of a hiatus, he’s saying da-da again, and it pulls at my heart.
Those of you without kids might have trouble understanding how enthusiastic an 18 month-old can be. Let me explain.
You know how excited a dog can get when you’ve been away for a couple hours? (Or let’s be honest, when you’ve just left the room for a couple minutes). At 18 months, my little boy has that level of enthusiasm. He runs up to me, his face all lit up, grinning, his legs doing that straight up-and-down stomping walk that’s the closest he can get to a run.
And all the time he’s saying “da-da-da-da-da-da!”
So yeah. It’s pretty fucking amazing. I’m not going to lie.
Anyway, I’m hanging out with my family, and Oot walks up to Sarah and says, “I’m so… thirsty! Can you please… get me… a drink of water?”
His performance makes it clear that he is about to die from thirst. People in the desert don’t have it this bad. He’s really going full Shatner in his performance.
Sarah starts to get up to get him a drink of water. She does this because she loves him.
“You know where the water is,” I say to Oot. “You can get yourself a drink. You’re a very grown-up child.”
I say this because I love him too. Sarah and exhibit our love in different ways. She wants him to be happy now. I want him to be happy in the future, and part of that is making sure he’s self-reliant.
Plus he’s five. If we were living in the wild, he’d be hunting and cooking birds on his own. So yeah. He can get his own drink of water.
But here’s the thing, it’s a little late at night. The kitchen is on the other side of the house. It’s a whole, like, 50 feet away. And it’s late in the evening, so that part of the house is kinda dim.
And he’s five, so he’s a little scared of being alone, and of the dark.
“Will you come with me?” he asks.
This is a familiar dance. We want him to do things for himself. He wants company. We want him to be brave. He wants to feel safe.
Nobody’s wrong here. We all want good things. But they’re in conflict.
“You can do it,” I say. “I know you can.” (Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not some muy mas macho monster. If it was fully dark in there, I’d work with him. But it’s not. He can handle it. He has before. It’s good practice for him.
“I’ll tell you a story,” Sarah says.
This is a compromise we use sometimes. If he hears our voices, he knows he’s not alone. So one of us will tell him a story, and it will help him go somewhere in the house when he’s a little spooked.
“I’ll tell you a story,” I say.
“I want mom to do it,” he says, moving toward the baby gate that leads into the dining room.
He’s on to me.
“Once there was a little boy who really liked candy,” Sarah says. “So he decided to go exploring.”
I’m going to be honest here, Sarah’s narrative structure isn’t the best. Her themes can be kinda muddy sometimes, and, truthfully, her stories are often really lacking in terms of the Aristotelian unities. But even so, I know she’s up for this. Two minutes of story will get Oot into the kitchen and back. I watch as he opens the gate then turns on the light to the dining room. Out of our line of sight. Out of his line of sight. He’s gone.
“So one day he walked out into the the backyard and he found–”
“A Thousand Angry Ghosts!” I say. I don’t yell it. But I say it in a really loud voice. My phantom of the opera voice. I project from my diaphragm.
And from the other room, comes a high, piercing scream. It lasts for a full two seconds.
Then Oot comes running back into the living room.
You’re going to have to trust me on this, it was *super* funny. Sarah will back me up on this.
You see, most days, I’m a good dad.
Other days, I’m an AWESOME dad.
Stay tuned, everyone. Soon we’ll have bedtime stories.
Every night I’m at home, I read to my little boy before he goes to sleep.
“Little” I say, but he’s creeping up on six now. It doesn’t matter. He will always be my little boy.
Every night we read. Usually at least 10 minutes. Usually not more than an hour. A couple short chapters. A dozen pages. Maybe just a picture book if I’m exhausted. Maybe just a page or two. But I always try to read him something.
We worked our way through all the Little House on the Prairie books this way. We read the Hobbit together. I hope to do Narnia soon.
I may not be the best dad all the time. I travel too much. I work too much. I have a short temper. I’m overly critical. But in this one thing I know I’m doing something right. Reading at night like my mother read to me.
Right now we’re between books. We took a run at Treasure Island, and he seemed to be enjoying it fairly well. But it was requiring a lot of explanation and on-the-fly editing….
And let’s be honest here: *I* wasn’t that into it. Besides, the further we kept reading, the more concerned I was going to have to explain what sodomy was.
So tonight we were looking for something to read, and I wasn’t quite ready to start Narnia yet… so I pulled a couple books off the shelf and let him pick.
He picked this:
The Velveteen Rabbit. It’s a book I’m terribly fond of, though I haven’t read in ages. In fact, the only piece of art I have on my wall here in my home office is a piece of art based off a quote from the book.
(Witness the unspeakable glamor of my office.)
Yeah. I could take a better picture, but that would mean standing up. Trust me, it’s art based on a quote from the book. My mom gave it to me.
And just to be clear, it’s not that I don’t *have* any other art. It’s just that I’ve only lived here, like, six years, and I haven’t got around to decorating yet.
Anyway, I didn’t know we had a copy of this book until I pulled it off the shelf. But I was delighted when Oot picked it, because, as I’ve said, the book has a special place in my heart. I was eager to read it after a decade or two away from it.
So I start reading, and in about three pages I’m crying so hard I can’t actually make words.
This is the passage that did it to me. It’s the same quote that’s on my wall:
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Even just cutting and pasting that into the blog made me all teary again.
So there I am, sitting on the couch, crying too hard to keep reading, and Oot looks over at me and says, “Are you all right, Dad?”
Luckily, this sort of behavior isn’t something out of the blue for him. Sarah is a Olympic-caliber crier. She cries when she’s happy. When she’s sad. When she’s ambivalent. Because she loves me. Because she’s mad at me. Because she’s mad about the fact that she loves me. Pretty much any emotion, action, situation, or change in temperature can lead to weeping.
And I’m only being slightly hyperbolic here. Ten years back, I asked Sarah how much she thought she had cried in her life. Something quantifiable: volume of tears shed. She guessed it at somewhere over seven gallons. And honestly, I think she might have been conservative in her estimation.
So. Oot is no stranger to out-of-the-blue crying. He gets up off the couch, gets me a tissue, and brings it back. He’s a good boy.
As I sit there, trying to pull myself back together, I try to think of how I can explain why I’m crying. The truth is, I’m not entirely sure myself. Sometimes a story just hits me a certain way and it destroys me. The Last Unicorn Does it all through the book. Gaiman’s Sandman in places.
But while Oot is a pretty perspicacious little guy, he doesn’t have the vocabulary I’d need to explain this. Or the experience base. Or the emotional wherewithal.
Still, I feel like I owe him an explanation. There’s nothing obviously sad in this part of the story. Not even a little. That’s got to be confusing.
“Some things are hard to explain,” I said. “Because some people know things that other people don’t.”
He’s listening to me. He nods.
“You know how you’re scared of going into the basement?” I ask him.
He nods again, his little face serious.
“That’s something you know,” I say to him. “You know that the basement is scary when it’s dark.” I pointed to myself. “I don’t know that. It’s hard for me to understand because I’m a grown-up. That means if you tell me that the basement is scary, I have to get you to explain it to me. Or I just have to trust you when you tell me it’s scary to you.”
He nods a third time. This makes sense to him. He knows that I don’t have a problem with the basement, but at the same time he knows it’s scary.
“There are some things only I know,” I tell him. “When I read this part of the book, I get happy and sad and I can’t help crying. You don’t feel that way, and it might not make sense to you, but it’s still the way I feel.”
He reached out then and patted my arm. “That’s okay, dad,” he said gently, “I believe you.”
Okay, so everyone’s been talking about it for ages. Everyone’s reading these books. There’s a movie out. Articles are being written all over the place…
I tend to have a irrational aversion to things that are really popular. But at the same time, I feel its my job to be aware what the general populous is reading.
So I’ve decided to start reading 50 Shades of Grey:
It might take me a little while….
I’ve heard that there’s some racy stuff in there, so I’ve been careful to keep Oot away, lest his innocence be irreparably harmed….
God. He’s such a little ham. I can’t imagine where he gets it from….
Now right now I can hear you thinking, “Pat, did you just spend 500 dollars on books just so you can make a joke on the internet?”
To which I reply: You bet your ass I did. What’s more, I don’t feel even the slightest bit bad about it.
The main reason for this is the fact that Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde is an amazingly good book. And I never feel bad about spending money on books I love. (You can see my gushy review of it over here on Goodreads.)
What’s more, I’m sure I’ll find something else fun to do with these books. Maybe I’ll go and hand them out at the movie theatre to people standing in line to see Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe I’ll just give them away to friends. Maybe we’ll include them in something we’re doing in the future for Worldbuilders.
That’s all I’ve got for today, folks. Sorry to pun and run….
P.S. And just to head off people who will doubtless be asking in the comments. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey or seen the movie, so I don’t have much of an opinion on them.
That said, I have heard that they’re not a good depiction of proper BDSM behavior. Which is a shame, because tying people up (or being tied up) can be a ton of fun with the right partner if you do it in the right way. Alternately, it can be a supremely bad scene when you do it in the wrong way. Do your homework before jumping into something like this, folks.
I was just laying in bed with Sarah and our youngest child. He’s just a little bit over one year old.
Codename: Cutie Snoo. (Because I don’t like using my kid’s real names online.)
I don’t know how it works in other households, but in ours, a lot of the day-to-day kid activities end up happening on the bed. Sarah has a huge king-sized mattress that just rests on the floor. Partly because she likes it that way, and partly because low-to-the ground beds are easier and safer for kids.
Anyway, I’m laying in bed with Cutie. I’d come in to hang play with him when I heard him wake up from his nap. A little later, mom joined us, because she has the boobs, and boobs make everything better.
Cutie was laying between us, nursing (on Sarah) while she and I were talking.
Then, unexpectedly, Cutie rolled over and pushed a little baby spoon he carries around with him at my mouth.
It surprised me. It bounced off my lip a little bit, and hit my teeth. It hurt just a little, about as much as it would if you poked me in the mouth with your fingernail. We’re talking… like… half a newton of force, tops. Not enough to crack an egg.
Still, it surprised me. And it hurt just a little.
So I looked at him, and I said, “Ow.”
Didn’t shout it, didn’t bark it. Didn’t even do my disappointed dad voice.
I mention this because over the years I’ve learned my voice is a powerful thing. Where my kids are concerned, I’m one of the Bene Gesserit. I’m the Kwisatz Paterach. I’m Black Bolt.
I’m not sure why this is, exactly. I’ve got a pretty good baritone, but it’s not earthshaking by itself. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been a teacher. That I’ve been a singer. That I was a performer who never really liked using a mic until the crowds started topping 100 people and I was forced to go electric.
Maybe it’s all of those things together. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I discovered early on in my parenting career that if I wasn’t careful with my voice, I would terrify my children. Once, back when he was about 16 months old, I barked Oot’s name at him from the top of a stairway and he went into fetal crouch, trembling with animal fear.
I felt like king asshole of the universe at the time. I still do. As a parent, you slowly build a portfolio of memories. Things your children will never remember, things that you will never forget.
Standing at the top of the stairs, looking down at my terrified boy, I thought to myself, “You need to get this shit under control right now, Rothfuss…”
So I did. Slowly. Over many years.
All of this is to say that I’m very careful with my voice these days. I don’t bark. I rarely even snap or get a little sharp in my tone. There’s no need, just a little disapproval in my voice is like iron to these tiny little faen creatures I have flitting around in my life.
So. Remember where we were? Bed. Cutie. Spoon.
I looked at him and said, “Ow.” Not because he hurt me, but because I want him to know that he *can* hurt someone. He needs to learn to be careful.
“Ow,” I said. Softly.
Hearing me, Cutie turned away, facing back toward mom.
“He was trying to give you a bite,” she explained to me.
I nodded, only understanding then what he’d been trying to do with the spoon. It’s a game I’d seen Cutie play with her, but he’d never done it with me before.
Looking down at him, Sarah’s face goes concerned, then she looks up at me. “He feels bad,” she says.
Then Cutie gave a little sob. It was tiny, but it was one of those deep ones. One of the ones that comes out of you in a lump: “Uh-huh.”
When you’re a parent, you learn the different types of crying. You learn to recognize the panicked cry of a baby that’s hurt. There’s the “I can’t believe you took that away from me” cry. There’s the “I’m tired and can’t hold my shit together” cry. There’s the rare, furious red-faced rage rage rage cry. There’s the “Where’s Mom?” cry.
This wasn’t any of those. It went, “Ah-huh” and it was nothing but sadness. One sob. Pause. Then another. Then he was really crying.
He felt bad. He was sad that he’d hurt me.
I read something somewhere that said children start to develop empathy when they’re 3 years old.
I’d like to officially go on the record as saying that is bullshit.
Cutie is 13 months old. He can speak about 10 words, and those he speaks badly. He can’t run, or jump, or eat with a spoon.
But he feels bad when he hurts someone. This is something some adults have yet to learn.
He’s is my boy. My sweet boy. I am so proud of him.