Bending the Rules

We never allowed our kids to hit us-except this once.

In her earliest years, Addie was known around our house as The Bulldozer. Not because of the way she looked: a beautiful, round-faced urchin in a smock dress and a baseball hat, with a doll in one hand and a ratty ball in the other, and, oh, those dimples. She was called this because of the way she seemed to bulldoze her way through the family world.

In fact, on her first report card, the kindergarten teacher ended a wonderfully positive evaluation with the following caveat: “When frustrated, Addie tends to hit and tease. We need to help her with that.”

And so we tried to teach Addie the several axioms of family life:
1. Frustration is unavoidable
2. It is never OK for children to hit, no matter how frustrated they are.
3. Never say never. It’s very frustrating.

And, as long as I’m tossing out axioms like they’re hot dogs on the family grill, there is one axiom of family life that we didn’t share with The Bulldozer: The last kids to be picked up from Little League practice or play rehearsal or Brownies are the seedlings from large family trees. (Our seedling's number seven.)

Addie learned about the vicissitudes of late-arriving parents early in life. I was due to pick her up from kindergarten at 3:05 p.m. No problem. My classes at Dutchess Community College were over at 2:30, and it was exactly a 35-minute drive to Campus School. Perfect.

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Unfortunately, at 3:04 p.m., when all the good and prompt parents of regular-size families were waiting expectantly in their cars, I was stuck in traffic on the Mid-Hudson Bridge, at least 20 minutes from my soon-to-be-waiting 5-year-old. I was late for a variety of reasons. I won’t drive you down that road; there are always good reasons for parents’ being late, and none of them ever really add up. Suffice it to say that I arrived at the school promptly at 3:30 terribly embarrassed, afraid that the teacher was going to yell at me (a fear that doesn’t seem to ebb with age!), but mostly very worried that little Addie would feel abandoned.

There she was, in her pink smock dress, way, way, way down at the other end of the hall. I waved and breathlessly called my apologies down to the teacher who was standing by Addie’s side.

Ah, I thought as she raced my way, she’s not heartbroken; she’s not crushed; she’s not angry. She’s just glad to see her daddy. I decided then and there that I’d atone for my lateness by getting her an ice cream at JD’s.

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Steven Lewis
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