To ease the pain of my Lovely Bride’s departure on a four-day business trip – to sunny Florida – on a federal holiday – when schools are closed, I decided to wipe out half the day with a museum trip. (Tonight’s forecast calls for an inch of snow plus sleet, freezing rain and a coating of ice. Shall we just cancel school right now?). It only seems appropriate to visit the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.
The kids and I were moving slowly this morning, and Eddie, who turns 8 in April, got deeply engrossed in playing legos instead of doing pretty much anything else. Getting dressed. Eating. Answering when I ask him something. The usual. But then as I pack lunches for the trip, there comes a wail and cry from upstairs.
“OOOhhhhhhooooo!!!!” Then loud sobs.
It’s just not sinking into Eddie’s brain that legos are not the most structurally sound building material. If you make a staircase of 2×4 pieces, overlapping on just one row, it will buckle under the slightest touch. And if you attach said structurally unsound staircase to a large flat piece held up by 2×2 pieces – by sticking it to the underside – it just might not hold up so well.
So Eddie was having a meltdown because his legos were giving him fits.
I’ve tried to explain patiently that if you press really hard on lego creations that aren’t well-supported, they will come apart. I’ve tried to convey that the road to avoiding frustration is to build it another way.
Realizing that this was no time for a lecture, I carefully constructed what was driving him nuts. (Come to think of it, did I just set him up for future failure? Is he now thinking: Dad just built what he said I can’t, so (a) why shouldn’t I keep trying? or (b) Dad is a total liar and a fraud.) I wanted to get it done and get to the museum. Crisis averted.
We had a fine time at the museum – aside from the challenge of trying to explain the civil rights movement to my 5-year-old daughter. In less than 30 seconds. In earshot of African-Americans. Except as we were hurrying to leave and make it on time to haircuts scheduled at noon, Eddie notices he’s missing his 3-inch plastic toy football. I didn’t even realize he brought it in the car, much less in the museum.
“Well, Eddie, you should take better care of your things,” I say.
“But Daaaaaaad! It’s my football!” he answers. “Can we go back and look for it?”
“No, Eddie, you shouldn’t have brought a toy into a museum, anyway. Now come on, we’re going to be late for your haircut.”
We leave the museum and walk toward the car. Then the histrionics begin.
“But Daaaaaaaadddddddd! Puh-leeeeeeeease! I want my football back! It was my faaaaaaaaavorite!”
What? Before this morning, I’d never seen it before.
“No, Eddie, now come on, you’re going to make us late.”
For the next few minutes as we walk to the car, the conversation repeats ad nauseum. I almost snap. I almost spank him and tell him to quit it. I almost stomp back to the museum and look for the darn thing. I almost call the haircut lady and ask to swap for a later appointment. I tell myself that if I lose my patience in a big way on the first day of my Lovely Bride’s business trip, it’s going to be a looooooong week.
“Maybe,” I say, “we can call the museum this afternoon and see if anybody found it.”
A tiny toy football that some kid probably pocketed the minute he found it in the “Freedom Sisters” exhibit.
So we get to the haircut, get home, get Carla down for a rest and I get some bread mixed up to rise for supper.
What does Eddie do? He starts with the legos again. This time in complete peace and harmony. Go figure.
I really don’t want to call the museum to ask about this silly toy. Especially now that he seems to have forgotten about it. And especially because I’ll sound like an idiot. But the guy who answers the phone there will never see me again, so who cares? And my son will eventually remember that I said I would call, and I didn’t.
Guess I better call.