My 4 year old, Alistair, he’s got a mind of his own. I mean, I guess all kids his age do, but we’re encountering a kind of superhuman resistance in this little person that my wife and I have not found in our older son, so this is new territory for us.
He’s a kind kid. He always shares his fries.
And he’s creative, often making up songs all on his own to sing to himself while he does puzzles or plays with his action figures.
But he’s particular. Very particular. Everything has an order, a purpose, and he’s not happy when that order meets deviation. He’s got a rigid inflexibility that we, as parents, often see as a bit of a burden.
And then yesterday happened.
Last night, after a quick dinner out before choir practice, my son was methodically and slowly separating our food containers into “trash” and “recyclable,” all while standing over the appropriate receptacles.
He was there so long that a line was forming behind him as adults were waiting to dispose of their own trash. But he just kept going, slowly, painstakingly separating, like some kind of pint-sized Captain Planet.
“Hey buddy,” I said, “these people are waiting to throw things away, too.”
“I’m going fast as I can,” he told me, not even looking up.
At this point the people in line, confusing him for being a cute, innocent eco-warrior, started to chuckle.
And he heard. And this guy, well, he doesn’t suffer fools easily. He’s like his mom in that way.
And he stopped his work, turned and looked at a line of adults, four deep, and said loudly, forcefully, “It’s not funny to laugh at people doing the right thing!”
Tears in his eyes.
They stood in silence. Most went to another trash can.
I looked down at my little guy, wondering how we would ever get that little will to bend.
But this morning I have a different feeling. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to tell him, “Good job, Al.”
Because there will be plenty of people in his future who will laugh at him for doing the right thing, especially when it’s not popular. There’ll be plenty of people who, in their impatience, will encourage him to do a rush job, cut corners, or not put his heart into something.
I hope when he’s mocked for doing the right thing in his life, he does it anyway.
Do it anyway, Al.
I’m starting to think that little will is going to work in his favor, eventually.
And when the world laughs at you for being focused and giving your all to saving what’s important to you, do it anyway.