And Elijah gets sad too

»  mark    17 Sep 2009 @ 23:21    

Elijah, though a typical boy who loves cars, construction equipment, and weapons of sundry kinds, can on occasion show you his tender side.

Not long ago, in an effort to encourage Elijah to use the potty more frequently, and tired of changing messy diapers, we resorted to bribery. For each time he sat down and really took it seriously, we would buy him a toy car. The program started slow, but after a couple successes, Elijah started doing better and began building his personal fleet.

About a week ago, he knew that he was due a car, and spotted a large pickup truck in Costco that he thought would suit the payment fine. This truck was easily 5 times the size of any of the cars we had purchased so far, and was in fact a scale model with working steering wheel, doors, and tailgate. I had a feeling it would be too nice for Elijah (he’s a touch on the rough side with toys), but he agreed that this truck would represent several successful ventures on the potty, so we agreed.

The truck immediately found its way to most-favored status, an honor that comes with an invitation to sleep under his blanket, to join him for all meals (on the dinner table, or at least sharing his seat), and be carried just about wherever he goes. Well, it wasn’t too long before the truck took a hard spill and one of the front wheels came off. As it couldn’t be glued back on the axle and any small piece like that was destined to end up in Anya’s mouth, we had to tell Elijah the bad news.

The truck had to go. We explained the problem to him and he listened closely. He must have sensed that we were not disposing of his toy maliciously or out of revenge, and he agreed to let it go. Then, in a way I’ve never heard from before, he slumped down and wept openly.

Kids employ a number of cries on various occasions. This wasn’t the pouting, or the complaining, or the I’m-tired, or the that’s-not-fair cry. This was the heartfelt, sorrowful, deep, loss-filled mourning, both unsettling and heart-melting at the same time. If you recall the movie Cast Away, when Chuck is on the raft and has just lost Wilson out to sea, that is similar to how Elijah sobbed at the loss of his beloved truck.

That image and sound will stick with me for some time. Our children are capable of a wide array of emotions. We don’t see them all the time, but they are there, untested beneath the surface, waiting for the appropriate time to come forth.

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