Two months after my daughter, Hannah, was born, I was in the living room of our house when I heard an alarming combination of sounds coming from the bedroom: my wife, Abbe, yelling, ‘Will you stop? Stop right now!” Hannah wailing, and the sound of bedsprings compressing and releasing.
I dashed into the room and surveyed the situation. My son, Aaron, four years old, was jumping on the bed, gritting his teeth, and directing mocking cries toward Hannah. My assessment: Nothing I could do about the crying baby, as she was already held by her mother. Nothing I could do about Abbe’s frustration. But I certainly could stop this little guy. I could eliminate him from this equation.
“Aaron, get in your room!” I intoned in my big daddy way, pointing a finger first at him and then in the direction I intended him to go.
Boing, boing, boing, a few more bounces and Aaron leapt off the bed and headed toward his room. I stomped in after him, my finger outstretched, ready to deliver my homily on his responsibilities towards the new addition to our family.
As I looked down at him from my height, Aaron, sitting on the floor, looked up at me and said, “Dad, I think we need the talking piece for this.”
I was stopped short. A dose of my own medicine! I sat on the carpet as Aaron brought out his talking piece, one that I had carved for him, and began. For the first time, he spoke of missing us since Hannah had come home, of wanting us to spend more time with him instead of giving all of our attention to the baby. I had to listen. He had the talking piece! I, too, had my say, but it was a completely different message than the one I had intended, and it was delivered without the anger and frustration.
We passed the piece for about twenty minutes, acknowledging how much we both wanted to be with each other and how life and our responsibilities have changed now that we were a family of four. With the intervention of a piece of whittled High Sierra pine, in this case it was the four year old who reminded the forty year old about the importance of listening and speaking respectfully.