January 1, 2016 by Dadinator
I learnt a valuable lesson on New Year’s Eve just past. I had a valuable parenting moment during which time seemed to freeze. You know the kind of moment I mean.
Let me set the scene.
It was New Year’s Eve and we were at a friend’s place celebrating, there were a pack of kids around, about 20% of them were naked. My son was firmly in the nudist camp but it was entirely appropriate as it was a warm night, there were kiddie pools and a sprinkler. There was also a giant mulberry tree, which explained the red war-paint a number of the children were streaked in by 7pm.
Before long, it was time to do a children’s new year’s eve. As not all the kids present could count, and some of those that could certainly couldn’t count backwards, we didn’t do a countdown, just brought out a cake, popped balloons and had sparklers. Every child looked forward to waving around a sparkler because fire is fun, apparently. Sparklers are magical, pretty and sparkly, so are always a hit. Unfortunately they are only temporary…
The Lad finally got his sparkler lit and he was overjoyed. He brandished it in my face, almost in my beard. I told him to hold it out from his body so that didn’t happen again. So, he waved it around gleefully and nearly set another gentleman’s pants on fire. Anyway, he was having a great time and the look of glee on his face was everything a celebration should be. What a beautiful moment.
Then, about 15 seconds after it started, it went out.
And he just bawled. Completely lost it, rationality out the window and any ability to communicate. It happens some time, even at age 4, and all you can do in the face of it is wait. This storm, like the sparkler, passed quickly and he went from angry to upset.
So I did what a father does, and tried to console him with words, with cuddles and with reassurances, and a furious mental whirring as you try to work out what will work to comfort your distraught child.
“Look, it’s alright. Sparklers finish eventually”. The Lad responded by crying more loudly.
Okay, that didn’t work try this…
“Wow, weren’t you lucky to get a sparkler! Wasn’t it fun to watch it sparkle!”, as his crying continued unabated
Attempting to reframe it as a positive, are we? Okay, nice try…. But try again.
“Oh, it’s alright, I know you want the sparkler to keep going, but it can’t. It’s upsetting, isn’t it?”. This has no effect on The Lad’s level of internal discord.
Ah, the old acknowledge their emotion and encourage them to reflect on it trick, ey? Maybe you should have prepped him for it before he lit it, dumbass. Tell him that they burn out before he lit it.
“See, it’s like a candle….”
Too late now
“… it goes out. All light’s go out.” Again the sobbing continued.
Grasping at straws. I mean trying to explain things have an end to a 4-year-old, good one…
“Yes, all light’s go out. We have to enjoy them while we have them”
Did someone order a cliché with their parenting? Dimwit.
“You know, even the sun will go out one day.” He suddenly stopped crying and looked at me. Puzzled and slightly shocked.
WHAT THE HELL????????? Okay, hang on stop. You just told your upset child who is 4 that THE SUN WILL GO OUT? Great work. The perfect metaphor for a sparkler, and it will in no way at all give him a complex, will it? Just tell him that he’s going to die one day while you’re at it.
“The sun will go out?” He asked, looking for confirmation
“I mean. I mean… uhhhh… Look, it won’t happen for billions of years.” I stammered.
Yep. He know’s what a billion is at age 4. Keep going, I’m enjoying this.
“Yes, the sun will keep going for a long long long time. It’ll keep burning long after you and I are….”
Here it comes!
I paused, searching for a way not to say the word ‘dead’….
“I mean it’s not going out any time soon.”
Look, I’m feeling sorry for you. I’ll help you out. There is a whole box of sparklers on the table. Just grab another. Go on, take it, and be enthusiastic.
“Oh look, you’ve got another sparkler! YAAAAAAAAY! We forget everything dad was saying right now? Right? RIGHT? YAAAAY!!!” he grabbed it gleefully from my hands and before long it was sparkling again. The same joy in his eyes washed away the curiosity.
For 15 seconds.
This time, however, I got lucky. He took hold of the burnt end of his sparklers, and almost burned himself, meaning I didn’t have to go back to explaining sparklers, the temporary nature of life or astronomy to a 4-year-old. For the rest of the night I let him eat ice cream, cake and whatever the hell he wanted, just so long as he doesn’t ask me about when the sun is going to die…
So, I anticipate spending the next few weeks wondering when he’s going to ask me about the sun going out. Of course he won’t. He’ll ask me on about 6 months time when I’ve forgotten all about it. Just like he randomly started asking me about chickens we had that died 2 years ago yesterday as well.
I love kids. Especially on New Year’s Eve.