Children Humble Us
"Hit it harder," Johnny, 5, said, as he pounded his side of the tree with a red lightsaber. Then he went to get a drink of his water, eyeballing me to make sure I didn't stop using the force.
Meanwhile, carpool cars inched by along our street: parents picking their kids up from the school we live across the street from. And I was alone, killing a tree with a plastic sword.
Children humble us.
Teenagers say their parents embarrass them. That's because parents lower their threshold for being humiliated for the 12 years prior to the teenage years.
Nothing embarasses me anymore. When I get left alone at the tomato stand my sons are having, so that it looks like I am so broke that I'm selling vegetables for 25 cents a piece in our front yard (which I am,) I don't hide my face. I just pocket the profits. Hey, my sons might be content to run their business into the ground while they play dinosaurs, but I for one know the value of a dollar.
But the most important lesson my children have taught me is that I'm always wrong. And I don't know what I'm doing. And I can't win. It's sort of a three-in-one lesson.
Just one second ago, Richie, 3, was crying in his room, screaming, "Oww. Oww."
I went in to see what was wrong and he said, "My nose...I can't put my finger in it."
His nose was stuffy and he didn't want to blow it. If you're not going to fix it, don't complain about it, I said. Now he's crying because he can't stop crying. He's going through this phase where mommy and daddy can't do anything right.
It's working because just last Sunday, I lay on our bed crying to Justin, "I can't do anything right."
Justin didn't say, if you're not going to fix it, don't complain about it. Thank you, honey.
Ironically, since I stumbled upon this new-found humility, I've acquired self-confidence. I e-mail editors to pitch my column. I call people out of the blue. A few weeks ago, I threatened to sue someone when I learned that he hadn't paid my husband and wasn't taking his phone calls. I realize that this wasn't very polite, but you know what? He paid us.
I think that when you stop worrying about how things look, you focus on how things are. By threatening to sue my husband's customer, I gave him an opportunity to do the right thing. By refusing to clear his nasal passages without the use of his finger, Richie took a strong stand against the Kleenex companies, who have tried to convince us for years that nosepicking is bad.
While attacking the tree, Johnny and I found a bird's nest tucked away inside the branches. The outside was made of twigs, the inside, soft brown grass, lint and hair woven together. It was perfect. And empty. Was it hard for them to leave the home they built so carefully behind? I wondered.
We filled a bird feeder with sunflower seeds to try to bring the birds back. Then we went on the opposite side of the tree and continued beating it with our lightsabers, my son because he had no ego to protect yet and me because I no longer cared about protecting mine. But we left the bird's nest alone. There are some things you shouldn't be humble about. I know that birds don't feel pride, so I felt proud for them of that nest, even though they ended up leaving it behind.
Happy birthday to Justin, the humblest guy I know, who is 33 years old today, and doesn't look a day over fast cars and freedom.
I haven't thanked you all in a while for reading, so thank you. Thank you Mary, Lexi, Jeanne and Peggy for leaving comments, and everyone who left them in the past, and of course, my mom, the MVP of comments. I'm sure I never embarrassed her in my youth. But mostly, thank you all for reading.