I peak in and see them, both, drawing at the Little People Coloring Table. You see, we draw a lot in our family and tell stories with our pictures. In this moment, I'm very proud of both of them, sitting there and drawing on the paper - and not on themselves or each other.
When they're done, we'll look at the pictures together. We'll talk about them. We'll give them names. And then, I'll ask if I can put it into the computer. They'll say "Yes, Daddy!" and we'll go on with Whatever's Next.
I collect all their artwork and their homework and their pictures (so what if they're only in PreSchool and First Grade). I look through everything for The Good Stuff. I scan The Good Stuff into the computer; back them up on dvds, cds, and remote hard drives; and put them online - so they each have their own Online Art Gallery. I figure, Someday, it's these little things we do that (when I'm gone) will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I love them and always have loved them with all my heart. It's a Very Important Thing - making sure that they know how much I love them, now and forever.
As I walk into the Drawing Room, I see my daughter putting away some of the markers. She has her back to me - and doesn't see me or hear me come near.
And at that moment, my six year-old daughter looks at her little brother (who idolizes her) and says: "It was so much better before you came along, Edison. Before you came along, Mommy and Daddy and me used to play together all the time..Now, we don't do fun things together anymore because of you..."
She stopped mid-sentence as she looked up and saw me standing there.
I was absolutely stunned. My stomach dropped. My eyes swelled with tears. I couldn't yell. I couldn't get mad. All I could bring myself to say to her, slowly and quietly, was "How could you ever say something like that to your little brother - who loves you so much - no matter how mean you are to him...how could you make something up like that? Why would you say something just to try and hurt him? I'm disappointed that you'd ever even think such thoughts about someone, anyone, but especially your brother. (long long long pause looking right into her eyes). Now, you tell him you're sorry, give him a hug, and tell him you love him...and I don't ever EVER want to hear you say something like that again. When you say mean things, people don't want to be your friends and in this life, your brother will be your best friend, because no matter what, he'll always love you and that's a rare thing"
(Ok, I know, I go on a bit and she's only 6, but we're responsible for teaching consequences as parents...and that's really how I talk to her)
This was the first time that my daughter brought me Sadness.
As a Father, I wonder where I've failed. I protect and I give - a dozen kisses and two-dozen "I love yous" every day. I spoil her with "Just Because I Love You" presents and trips to the store or Random Places together. But most importantly, I try to teach her to be a better person.
She apologized. She drew him a picture. She wrote him a note that said " My b (best buddy) is Edson I Love Hem". They played all day and all night like every day and every night. But, still I wonder, what else is said when I'm not around - in those moments when I'm not There to guide them.
Sadness is a world where we can give so much as parents - and, still, that love can fail to teach something so simple as how to love your brother.