March 24, 2016 8:00 am Children Teaching Parents, Part 2 (Revisited)
In case you missed, Children Teaching Parents, Part 1
Sam was excited, knowing Nick and his parents were coming over. He had been gathering little sticks since early morning so that he and Nick could add onto their houses the second he arrived. Julie was working on a small pastel of trees while Philip swept the sunny terrace.
“It will be so nice to have Nick over,” Sam said to his mother. “I hope his parents are a little happier. They can’t be mad all the time.”
Julie put her work down. “Yes, I hope they are too. I think they will feel how much we want tonight to be a happy time. I bet they wake up with a smile sometimes, Sam. Maybe even today. Ron loves chocolate chip cookies, so I’ll make some for tonight.”
“Great, Mommy,” smiled Sam. “They will make him happy!”
Philip came in and looked at his little family. “Tonight will be a good time. I just cleaned the grill and I’m thinking that Thai chicken will be perfect for dinner.”
Sam’s smile widened. “Oh goody, more food that Nick’s parents will love. Now they can’t be crabby.”
Philip was going out to do the shopping while Julie and Sam made the cookies. “Any special ice cream requests?”
“Maybe just vanilla. That would be great.”
Sam watched his father driving away, his green shirt getting smaller and smaller. “I love that you and Daddy are really nice. I don’t know what I would do if you weren’t my Mommy and Daddy.”
“Well, Sam, the good thing is you never have to think about being anyone else’s child. You are our very own dear little boy.”
Julie was setting out the cookie ingredients. The big old ceramic bowl had been her mother’s and she always felt it put a wonderful, happy spell on the cookies. Sam stirred the dough like a little baker and helped put the chips in too. In no time the cookies were in the oven. Ten minutes later, the timer went off and there the cookies were, perfectly brown.
When Philip came back, he looked at the cookies. “Wow! Gaga’s magic bowl did its thing again. It feels like a party!”
Just then, Philip got a call from Franny Malone, a neighbor. Her cat’s paw had been crushed and was bleeding. “I’ll be right there, Franny. Keeping her still will be tricky but if possible, please try to. It will help her.” Philip washed his hands and gathered his bag of first aid things. “I’ll be back soon. Tessa’s paw will be fixed in a jiffy.”
An hour went by and the house looked as good as it was ever going to. Julie and Sam put small bunches of flowers around the house, and on the table on the terrace. Sam had a quick bath and put on what he called his “party” shirt, white with navy stripes.
The sound of a car made Sam run to the window. Nick was being helped out of his car seat. Ron was carrying a pie box and holding Nick’s hand.
Sam ran out. “Hi, Nick. I collected more sticks. Let’s work on our houses.”
Nick was excited. “Oh wow, you got us so many! I have a few pine cones too.” The boys went right to the porch.
Julie greeted her friends at the door “Hi Lois, hi Ron. Welcome. Philip just had to run over to help the Malone’s cat. He’ll be back any minute. Let’s fix some drinks.”
“Your house looks great,” Lois said. “I feel as if we’re away.”
Everyone walked out to the porch with drinks in hand and joined Sam and Nick. There was a deep blue tray with guacamole, chips and some cold shrimp.
Nick had gently bent the little sticks and new windows were now in the little houses.
“Nick, I love the pinecones. They will be our tiny trees.”
“Oh cool. Good idea, Sam,” Nick said.
Julie put down two glasses of fizzy water for the boys. Reaching for a pinecone, Nick accidentally knocked over his glass.
Ron frowned. “For goodness sake, Nick, be more careful. We just got here. Now clean it up!” He turned to Julie. “Can’t take him anywhere.”
Sam got paper towels and the boys quickly wiped up the water. Julie smiled as she refilled Nick’s glass. “Thank you boys. The floor needed a little cleaning.”
Then Philip’s tires crunched on the gravel. “Sorry to not be here to greet you. Nice to see you both.”
“Daddy did you fix Tessa’s paw?”
“I did, Sam. I put a little splint on it and bandaged her up. She is going to be just fine.”
“How are you?” Philip asked Ron and Lois.
Both responded at the same time. “Not bad.”
Lois continued, “My job at the shop is a lot of fun. I love the kitchen things we sell and the people who come in are nice.”
“She spends her whole paycheck there,” Ron complained. “Not that she makes much. Sort of a lose-lose. You know, why work at all?”
Lois sighed. Embarrassed, Julie looked at the boys, who were tinkering with their houses.
“You boys work so well together.”
“What are you building with, sticks?” asked Ron. “Why do we buy toys? Make sure you wash your hands before dinner, Nick.”
Philip stood up. “Ron, want to keep me company at the grill?”
“Sounds like a plan. Nick, try not to wreck the place while I’m gone, okay?”
No one said a thing.
Julie and Lois went into the kitchen to make salad dressing and put the pasta salad in a bowl.
“I’ve missed you Lois.”
“Thank you, Julie. It’s so nice to be here.”
“Our boys are such good friends. I’m happy that Sam has Nick,” Julie said as she was mincing garlic.
“Sometimes I forget how dear Nick is. I am in my head a lot lately. Ron working for a smaller firm has been a big adjustment. He is constantly worried and I fall into his irritability too often.”
Philip walked in from the grill. “Chicken looks good. Whenever you’re ready to bring out the rest, I’ll get the boys to the table.”
Out on the porch in semi-darkness, the boys were doing the finishing touches to their houses. The mothers heard Sam say, “Nick, you are an amazing house maker. I wish we could really live in these.”
“Your houses are so beautiful boys,” Julie told them. “Maybe when you are big men, you will work together. Now it’s time to wash up.”
The boys sat together at the table. They all raised their glasses and said, “Cheers!”
“This is so nice. Thank you, Julie and Philip,” Ron said with a new and surprisingly genuine tone.
Nick looked up at his father. Sam was surprised too.
This chicken is delicious,” Lois said enthusiastically.
“It really is,” Ron echoed.
Ron reached to serve himself more sauce for the chicken and accidentally knocked over Nick’s glass of water. Nick scrambled to get paper towels and helped dry off the table.
As Ron got up to throw out the paper towels, he bent over and kissed Nick’s head. “I‘m sorry, sweetheart. Thanks for the help.”
Nick’s little tense back relaxed. Sam wondered if the chicken was making Ron get nice. He was happy to know the magic cookies would follow shortly. He knew his best friend on earth was going to continue to be treated gently.
Philip and Julie looked at each other and smiled. Blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream appeared, and then, on a big white plate came the chocolate chip cookies.
Ron looked at his friends and his wife and the little boys. He took a deep breath and began. “This is a beautiful time. It has helped me realize how negative and crabby I have been. I let my work change my whole disposition. I’ve been so unfair to you, Nick.”
He turned to Sam. “Thank you for being such a good friend to Nick.”
In the silence that followed, Nick hugged his dad, and Lois patted his arm. Julie and Philip looked at each other and thought, “Hooray!”
Holding the plate in front of Ron, Sam said, “Please have a chocolate chip cookie. They are yummy!
When surrounded by happiness, a negative person stands out so clearly. Sometimes he can begin to hear himself and realize the need to change. Being consistently positive around children always has a powerful effect.
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 40+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
We welcome your comments and questions.
Originally published on 6/6/2013*