April 1994 - I Want To Hold Your Hand
Being blessed with two wonderful and healthy daughters helped me to appreciate how fragile and precious life is. Being blessed with two daughters that actually listened to what I had to say is where the second miracle occurred. They were growing up with no problems (well, few anyway) and were always respectful of adults. It was hard to hear stories of how many issues occurred between other parents and their children. Sometimes, a bit of love and understanding can make a world of difference in the child's future. This is my simple story of how I found that to be true.
When my youngest daughter was about six years old, she and I went on a trip to the Museum of Natural History with a few of the classes from her school. Myself and the other parents were the extra staffs who were watching over the little darlings. The bus ride to the museum was happy and conversational and I felt like the world's greatest dad being able to participate in this part of my child's life. Little did I know that the party would be a bit different than expected.
Soon after we arrived at the museum, we broke up into groups of five kids, a parent and a teacher. In addition to my lovely daughter and three other adorable children, I had been selected to watch over a five-year old boy who had more energy than all the other children combined. For the sake of clarity, let’s call the little guy Charlie.
As my group walked pass the bull elephants of North America, Charlie made it clear that his curiosity was more important to him than his safety. I was helping my daughter to read the nearby plague when I realized that he was trying to see if the pachyderms were real. I lifted him back over to our side of the guardrail and explained to him why his actions were not appropriate. He looked up at me with a huge grin, shook his head and gave me a big "Okay." It was obvious that he was not taking me seriously. I was glad that he was safe and we walked on.
The well-informed teacher in our group recited amazing details about the 94-foot long, 21,000 lb. female blue whale, as we walked underneath. All of the kids were attentively listening, that is, except for Charlie who thought it would be more entertaining to run around in circles, as he made airplane noises. I found myself chasing him instead of assisting with the other kids. This time, I let him know that ice cream would be waiting for him if he settled down. The thought of it did calm him for a short while but my reminding him soon made little difference.
We made our way up to the second floor, to the South African section. My attempts to slow him down by holding his hand only made him quickly pull away in order to get loose. My smooth talking and bribery were not working. Frustration was rising. I'd hardly said two words to my own daughter. She seemed to be having fun with the other kids but this was not how I had planned to spend the day.
As we grew closer to the assortment of antelopes that seemed to raise their heads as we approached, the devil's spawn (sorry, Charlie) announced that he was going back downstairs to see the whale. I was by now fed up and I resorted to a tactic that I never had to use with my kids. I told him that I was going to hold his hand and that he was going to stay with me, like it or not. He laughed as I took his hand but stopped laughing when he realized that I wasn't letting go. For the first five minutes, he squirmed and complained but I would not release my grip. As we continued to walk with group, he slowly calmed.
After a half-hour of peace and quiet, I was feeling stunned but tried not to show it. I even let his hand go as a test and he actually took it back. This shocked the crap out of me but I was happy that my reasoning had worked. Seemed like he just needed someone to do what they said they would, meaning stricter rules, promises being kept and all that. For the rest of the afternoon, he stayed at my side and followed my directions. Charlie turned out to be a nice kid (at least, as long as he was with me, anyway).
I enjoy the mystery that writing a good story offers. Effective writing has occurred when the reader is forced to quickly look over their shoulder.