I was sitting here at my writing desk less than a week ago. I would like to say that I was writing but that wouldn’t be the truth. It was mid-morning. The family was awake. Other than this blog I had not written anything in weeks. I’m at a dull spot in the novel I started in November for National Novel Writing Month. I have not been thrilled lately to go to work on it. And the only time I really will write is early in the morning; early meaning before six. Once the kids are up I imagine the mojo is gone. This may be all in my head, but whatever is in my head controls my writing so it tends to make the rules. And the simple reason I’ve not written is that I have been too lazy to get up early. My internal clock will still get me up around 5 am. There will be an argument in my head urging, reminding of how much better I will feel all day if I get up and write. The laziness wins, I sleep another hour or so and I end up feeling cross all day. I get more depressed the more days I fail to write. As much as I enjoy my job and love my wife and family, writing is a little thing I do that I like to define myself as. When I don’t write I feel like a failure. When I do, I just feel better all day.
So that morning I was sitting at my writing desk. I like to call it my writing desk, but I could just as well call it my Yahoo!/Facebook desk for what I do most at it. From the boy’s room came a dull thud, then the voice of Harrison telling his two youngest brothers to stop throwing things. They will most of the time obey him, but I felt like I wanted to re-assure them that what he said was a good thing. I went in and found them playing a game where they were throwing stuffed friends from the floor to the top bunk. I told them to go outside if they wanted to throw things. I did not notice what had made the noise I’d heard.
Later in the morning I had finally showered and was dressed. Prajna and Jamie were sitting in the living room and she told me Jamie had something to tell me. Jamie quietly told me that when he had thrown his toy mountain lion (it was hard plastic) it had struck the window in their room and cracked it. When I had a look I saw it was actually broken, just no pieces had fallen out. I told Jamie I was very disappointed in him and went off to make some calls about fixing it.
Nathaniel had been the one to discover the break. He had emotionally apologized to Prajna right away. Characteristic of Nathaniel, he felt terrible and repentant and apologized right away. Jamie, however had not apologized, even though he had thrown the toy. I was off the phone later when Sarah came inside and asked what was wrong with Jamie. He was outside crying. I called him in and tried to talk to him but he didn’t want to talk. His face was red and puffy.
Jamie is someone who does not hide his feelings. He is also someone who, if he feels a particular way, will imagine that he has always felt like that and will continue to feel that way forever. That morning, the guilt and shame of breaking a window was all he could feel. He may not have even been thinking about the window, just the raw, painful feelings weighing on him then. I told him to come in my room at we lay down on the bed together. I pulled him close. I realized that what I told him next would have to be significant. Being a dad can mean times for gas jokes, books read in funny voices, angry words about disobedience and admiration at creations on paper or from Legos®. All of those are words that don’t need considerable thought. This was not one of those times. And it didn’t matter that I liked to think I was a writer either. When I write, no matter how fast I’m going, I try to write good sentences. This was not a time for the perfect verb. I needed to reach out to Jamie through this despair that was shrouding him from everything good that surrounded him.
I said a little prayer in my head and started. I realized that this whole window was an object lesson in God’s forgiveness. We walk in darkness from our sins. I didn’t go into all the ways most people try to deal with that though denial, self medication and other habits and hang-ups. I just told him that asking for forgiveness means that you can feel better because you really are forgiven and the sin is erased. Jamie understood all of this. He seemed unimpressed. And then I remembered some words from a video series I heard at church. In the video a dad was talking about a similar talk with his son. It didn’t matter if I had not composed the next thing I said to Jaime. Even if I had not made up the words, I still meant them.
“Jamie,” I told him. “There is nothing you can do, nothing, that will ever make me stop loving you.”
We stayed there for a little while, but our talk was done. I don’t know if the time had calmed Jamie down, or the words I spoke to him. What I do hope is that he never forgets them.
The window got fixed the same day. We had a little money set aside from some extra work I had done the previous weekend. I had worked pretty hard and was kind of hoping to use that money to maybe fix some stuff on my truck so one day I can take it camping again. At least fixing the window did not set us back. And it allowed for a priceless object lesson.
I was sharing the story with my friend and realized that it would be a good blog topic. This might be the only writing I do for another week. But I am not a full time writer. Writing just makes me feel good. Even though I put 40 hours or so in a week at work, that isn’t full time compared to the real full time job of being a dad. And that morning trying to reach Jamie through is despair didn’t take fancy words. It just took truth and love. That’s something everyone can do.